CONSUMER RIGHTS: New Free Online Guide to Navigating the CPA
Recent Gauteng Business News
The National Consumer Commission (NCC), the body charged with the responsibility of enforcing and carrying out the functions assigned to it in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, has dealt with and resolved many cases since its inception. However, at end January 2013, it was still saddled with a backlog of 9 965 unresolved complaints. A large number of these cases have arisen out of the confusion that exists around what the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which came into effect in April 2011, covers and how it can be enforced.
In response to the need for a simple language version of the CPA, www.madeasy.mobihas been launched by specialist liability insurance underwriter, Camargue Underwriting Managers and Madeasy Business Consultants. The mobi site also directs users, both business and consumers, to valuable resources and further information. In the second phase of development, it will be a portal for formal complaints.
Advocate Neville Melville, author of the bestselling Consumer Protection Act Made Easy, of Madeasy explains, The CPA requires that any supplier of services or goods in South Africa conform to a number of qualitative standards and both the private sector, as well as some spheres of government are subject to it.
Effectively consumers enjoy protection and assurance of recourse should products and services offered to them not meet accepted requirements. The consumer also no longer has to prove negligence to succeed in a legal claim where injury or damage has been caused by a defective product. It also places the onus on businesses and organisations to meet accepted standards and norms as outlined in the Act.
Simon Colman, general liability director at Camargue, joint partner in the www.madeasy.mobiconsumer education initiative explains, For the Act to be truly effective in improving standards and protecting consumers and businesses alike, rights and obligations need to be properly understood.
What we have found though, says Advocate Melville, is that both consumers and businesses are finding it hard to navigate the legalese of the Act. We launched www.madeasy.mobi to give individuals and organisations a plain-language view, as well as very practical, real life examples, of when rights may have been infringed upon and what can be done to resolve the issue/s.
The South African mobi site is a web application and essentially an electronic pocket guide to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA); a guide that enables, educates and protects consumers and businesses alike. Colman says he believes the site will be the cursor to better customer service in South Africa.
A practical step-by-step approach has been adopted on the mobi site, which can be accessed through the web, on smart phones and other handheld devices such as tablets, making it readily available to a wider audience.
Users of the easy-to-navigate site are directed through a number of key portals: rights, scenarios, complaints and business help. The aim is to: give visitors an idea of their rights in various circumstances according to the Act; provide typical scenarios they may identify with; offer places to seek advice or resolution, and to educate businesses of their obligations.
Each category where the Act might typically be applied is addressed through five initial portals:
o Retail shopping
o Dining out
o Advertising and marketing
Helpfully, an entire portal is dedicated to typical scenarios customers and consumers may face. If for example you are buying a pair of sunglasses but two different prices are displayed for the same sunglasses, which price are you obliged to pay by law‘ The mobi site, under Scenarios, may offer a similar situation and the legal standpoint to answer the question.
PRICES - MORE THAN ONE PRICE IS DISPLAYED
Scenario: You are shopping for a computer stand. Two different prices are displayed for the same product. The first price reads R349.99 and the second R399.99. The cashier rings up the higher price of the two.
The Act says: Section 23(6): If two prices are displayed or advertised, a supplier cannot require a consumer to pay the higher of the two prices.
What to do: You can insist on paying the lower of the displayed prices.
Help: If this does not bring about the desired result, you can report the matter to the Consumer Commission.
Information on the site is provided free, but additional information for a specific query or topic can be accessed as a paid-for option for a period of an hour, a month or a year - either by topic or for full access to the site.
Information and links are in place for advice in implementing the Act as a business or making a legal claim as a consumer. An extensive list of relevant consumer bodies is also provided if additional information, advice or action is required.
Colman concludes, Wed like to think that this free service will provide a valuable, accessible tool for all users and help to demystify the Act. The site should serve as an easy-to-use guide, but does not replace legal advice, nor liability cover for a business; both these services should be sought out and purchased should the requirement exist.
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