What is the Consumer Protection Act about?
- In the past, consumers were not always given sufficient protection against suppliers that offered misleading goods or services, or offered goods or services on unreasonable terms and conditions.
- From 1 April 2011, the Consumer Protection Act (“CPA”) provides protection to consumers against such suppliers.
- The CPA applies to an agreement concluded by a consumer and supplier in the ordinary course of business.
- A consumer buys goods and/or receives services from a supplier. The supplier sells goods, renders services, and/or advertises his/her goods and services to the consumer.
- Goods include, food, drinks, toiletries and so on. Services include, accommodation, transport, fixing things and so on.
- For example, John owns a Spar and Kathy visits John’s Spar to buy groceries. John is the supplier of groceries and Kathy the consumer. An agreement was entered into between John and Kathy in the ordinary course of John’s business, selling groceries. Kathy gave John money for these groceries. As a result, the CPA applies to their agreement.
What type of protection does a consumer get from the Consumer Protection Act (“CPA”)?
The CPA provides a consumer with rights and the supplier with obligations; such as:
- The consumer must receive a quote or breakdown of his/her financial obligations before entering into an agreement with the supplier, for example, before the supplier starts repairing his/her car or before the supplier installs replacement parts. Do not sign a blank agreement consenting to any unknown repairs or replacements.
- The agreement between a consumer and a supplier must be in plain language that is easy to understand. A consumer is entitled to a copy of the agreement.
- A supplier must inform the consumer of any assumptions of risks, acknowledgement of facts or indemnities contained in an agreement. Always read an agreement before signing.
- An agreement between the consumer and supplier may not be longer than 24 months, unless the consumer agrees to a longer period and the agreement benefits him/her financially. The consumer must be notified in advance, before the period of the agreement ends.
- A consumer may cancel his/her agreement with the supplier on 20 business days’ notice.
- When a consumer buys from a supplier that approached him/her by mail, in person, e-mail or SMS, s/he has the right to a cooling-off period. This means that the consumer can return the goods bought within 5 days after the date s/he ordered or received it. The supplier must inform the consumer of his/her right to a cooling-off period.
- A consumer may examine anything before s/he pays for it.
- Suppliers must show the price, label and trade description of the goods on their packaging. The content may not be misleading. A consumer has the right to a receipt after paying the supplier for goods or services.
- The representation or marketing of goods or services may not be misleading or false, for example, a supplier may not sell a Honda, 1996 model, as a 1999 model.
- A supplier may not use force or manipulate a consumer to enter into an agreement, or pay for goods or services.
- Advance bookings or reservations may be cancelled by a consumer. However, such a consumer may be required to pay a reasonable cancellation fee.
- If the services rendered by the supplier are of poor quality, the consumer may request that the supplier correct his/her mistakes or request a refund. A refund will depend on the extent of the supplier’s mistake.
- If the goods bought from a supplier are defective (not working properly or is not suitable for the purpose it was bought), a consumer has 6 months from the date of delivery to return the goods to the supplier, at the supplier’s risk and expense. At the consumer’s choice, the supplier must fix the goods, replace the goods or repay the consumer for the price paid for the goods. The voetstoots clause, in other words, take the goods as they are, no longer applies.
- A supplier may not discriminate against a consumer based on his/her race, gender and so on.
- A consumer may choose whether or not s/he wants to receive marketing material from a supplier, for example, a consumer may opt-out from receiving marketing SMSes; or put a notice in his/her post box to avoid pamphlets.
- A consumer may not be contacted by a supplier to market his/her good or services during the week, before 08:00 in the morning and after 20:00 in the evening; or during the weekend, before 09:00 in the morning or 13:00 in the afternoon.