November 11, 2021

There is so much information available about Covid-19, yet we all still have so many questions left unanswered. The below will answer some you may have.

Question: Is the cancellation of an advanced booking allowed and can the supplier charge a cancellation fee?

Answer: > Section 17 of the Consumer Protection Act (“CPA”) enables a consumer to cancel an advanced booking or reservation for any services as defined in terms of the CPA.  It further gives the supplier the right to impose a reasonable charge for cancellation of the advanced booking or reservation.

>     However, the supplier may not charge a cancellation fee if the reservation or booking is cancelled because of the death or hospitalisation of the person for whom or for whose benefit the booking or reservation was made.

>     This means, for example, that if a consumer is hospitalised due to Covid-19 and must cancel an advance booking or reservation, no cancellation fee may be charged by the supplier.

Question: What about cancellation of bookings or reservations due to travel bans and restrictions on gatherings?

Answer: >  Although the CPA must still be followed in respect of a cancellation fee, the Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman (“CGSO”) has said in a media statement in March 2020, that it is their opinion that consumers cannot be charged a cancellation fee and be refused a refund for cancellation due to the travel bans and restrictions on gatherings.

>     It is advisable that suppliers and consumers try and negotiate alternative options, such as the option to postpone the bookings or reservations to a future date instead of a refund.  The CGSO encourages consumers to consider postponement as opposed to cancellation and a full refund. However, they raised their views that suppliers cannot impose a no refund or voucher policy.

Question: Is there a duty on suppliers to warn consumers if services or goods may impose a risk as a result of the long-term effects or complications from Covid-19?

Answer: > Section 49 of the CPA provides that a supplier of any activity or facility that exposes the consumer to a risk that could result in serious injury or death, must alert the consumer to the fact, nature and potential effect of that risk.

>     This is usually done in the form of an indemnity clause, which must comply with the following requirements:

-      it must be in plain language;

-      it must be drawn to the attention of the consumer in an easy to see manner; and

-      the consumer must be given adequate opportunity to receive and comprehend the indemnity clause, which usually involves an opportunity for the consumer to ask questions to clarify anything s/he does not understand.

>     Since the long-term effects of Covid-19 are not known with absolute certainty, it might be unfair to require suppliers to indicate whether the services or goods they provide might impose specific risks that may occur to consumers who have had Covid-19.

>     However, suppliers must still provide the general risks that can occur through making use of their services or goods. For example, the use of humidifiers and nebulizers have been encouraged during the Covid-19 pandemic. Suppliers of such devices should provide warnings and information about the use of such devices. 

Question: Can I travel out of South Africa this festive season?

Answer: >  Planning a holiday out of South Africa this festive season may prove difficult due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. There are some foreign countries that are now accepting South African tourists, for example, South Africans may travel to Germany provided that they can show a negative Covid-19 test result, proof of being fully vaccinated or proof that they have fully recovered from Covid-19.

>     Every country might have their own restrictions and requirements in place and it advisable to check with the respective health authorities before making plans to travel.

How can you get your digital vaccination certificate?

>     If you have been vaccinated, you can obtain your digital vaccination certificate by going to the following link: http://vaccine.certificate.health.gov.za.

>     You will need your vaccination code and your identity number/foreign passport number.

>     You can contact the Covid-19 Call Centre for assistance on 0800 029 999.