Shoddy service, bad quality products, broken promises and contract foul-ups are just some of the problems consumers face. But South African consumers’ rights are protected by law, which means they can demand redress.
There are various pieces of powerful legislation in place to protect consumers, the most important being the Consumer Protection Act (Act 68 of 2008) and the National Credit Act (Act 34 of 2005). Consumers also have the right to information and education.
- National Consumer Commission
- National Consumer Tribunal
- National Credit Regulator
- SA Consumer Complaints
The Consumer Protection Act outlines key consumer rights, including the right to:
- Be heard: Consumers have the right to be heard on issues, policies, plans, programmes and decisions which affect them.
- Safety: Consumers must be protected against flaws or hidden dangers in products or services.
- Redress: When you are sold an inferior product or service, you have the right to demand a replacement or a refund.
- Be informed: Consumers have the right to be given all the information they need about a product or service.
- Choice: Consumers have the right to a variety of products and goods that are competitively priced.
- Consumer education: Consumers have the right to education that will empower them to make informed choices.
- Satisfaction of basic needs: Consumers have the right to basic goods and services for survival, such as food, water, education and sanitation.
- A healthy environment: Consumers have the right to a physical environment that will enhance the quality of life.
There is no need to accept faulty products or shoddy service. First try to settle your complaint directly with the business or service provider. If that fails, you can take it up with your Provincial Consumer Affairs Offices. These offices, in all nine provinces, offer advice, education, information, and protection.
There is also a range of statutory, industry and other consumer bodies.
Provincial Consumer Affairs Offices
There are Consumer Affairs Offices, run at provincial level, to provide consumers with protection, information and advice. You can approach a Consumers Affairs Office to intervene in disputes over contracts, quality of products or services.
You should first complain to the branch manager or customer care office of the business concerned before asking the Consumer Affairs Office to intervene. These offices have trained staff to advise you on your rights as consumers. You may also want to contact them to find out if a company you intend doing business with has a previous history of complaints against it.
Other consumer organisations
National Consumer Commission
Set up to administer the Consumer Protection Act which came into effect in April 2011, the National Consumer Commission is an agency of the Department of Trade and Industry. Responsible for publishing consumer alerts (which warn consumers of scams or unfair business practices) and prohibition notices (business practices declared unfair in terms of the Unfair Business Practices Act, and therefore prohibited by the Minister).
- Website: www.nccsa.org.za
South African National Consumer Union
Sancu is a voluntary independent body that represents millions of consumers. Its membership extends from the grassroots organisations, such as the Women’s Agricultural Unions and the National Council of Women of South Africa, to influential bodies such as Democratic Nursing Organisation and the Association of Retired Persons and Pensioners.
As an independent consumer organisation, Sancu works with manufacturers, retailers, the agricultural sector, the South African Bureau of Standards and government.
The union recommends that consumers make a genuine attempt to solve complaints themselves. If the problem remains, take it up with the relevant Provincial Consumer Affairs office.
- Website: www.sancu.co.za
Association for Savings and Investment South Africa
ASISA represents the majority of South Africa’s asset managers, collective investment scheme management companies, linked investment service providers, multi-managers, and life insurance companies.
The association aims to promote a culture of savings and investment in South Africa by working with regulators, government and its members. It has a consumer focus, and works to ensure the sustainability of the industries it represents.
- Website: www.asisa.co.za
Financial Services Board
The Financial Services Board (FSB) is an independent institution established by statute to oversee the South African non-banking financial services industry in the public interest.
The FSB is committed to promoting and maintaining a sound financial investment environment in South Africa. It regulates insurers, intermediaries, retirement funds, friendly societies, unit trust schemes, management companies, and financial markets.
Note that complaints against service providers are primarily dealt with by bodies set up specifically for this purpose, and not by the FSB.
- Website: www.fsb.co.za
- Download a guide to handling consumer complaints through Provincial Consumer Affairs Offices [PDF]
Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration
The CCMA is a dispute resolution body established in terms of the Labour Relations Act (Act 66 of 1995).
It is an independent body and is not controlled by any political party, trade union or business. It works to conciliate and arbitrate workplace disputes, as well as facilitate the establishment of workplace forums and statutory councils.
- Website: www.ccma.org.za
The Public Protector
If you have any complaints about government services or conduct, you might find help from the Public Protector.
- Website: www.pprotect.org
- Toll-free number: 0800 11 20 40
Brand South Africa reporter
Reviewed: 10 July 2012
Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material.