Respect for Staff Still Required as Act Protects Customers BILLS AND RIGHTS

Cape Times (South Africa), June 28, 2011 | Go to article overview

Respect for Staff Still Required as Act Protects Customers BILLS AND RIGHTS


Three years ago Joe of Sandton was unhappy when the warranty on his car failed to cover an expensive repair due to faulty workmanship carried out before he bought the car.

The garage refused to cover the cost of the repairs. The finance company that provided his loan would not help either.

So all the advice pointed one way - he should take the garage to court for the cost of the repair. But because his claim was more than what could be covered by the small claims court or consumer council, his case could not be entertained.

Therefore, he would need a lawyer. If Joe were to lose his case, he would have to pay the other side's expenses, including travel to court and expert witness fees.

If Joe won, his court fee would be refunded and the garage would have to pay his expenses, loss of earnings and witness fees.

Customer protection

Now thanks to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), Joe has the right to expect goods and services to be safe and honestly sold to him. He should also be able to claim compensation if those goods or services are not up to standard.

The CPA is here. Customers and business owners need to know their rights. The act is a bill of rights for consumers, a form of compliance code for business, an improved tool for the enforcement of rights. Although these rights have existed in the past they have never been properly enforced due to limited redress and weak enforcement capacity, and a codification of the common law.

It sets out the minimum requirements to ensure adequate consumer protection. It constitutes an overarching framework for consumer protection, and all other laws that provide for consumer protection (usually within a particular sector) must be read with the CPA to ensure a common standard of protection.

Joe would benefit from section 61 of the act. It provides that consumers are entitled to receive goods that will be useable and durable for a reasonable period of time and that are free of any product failure, defect or hazard that would render the utility, practicability or safety of the goods less than persons are generally entitled to expect, regardless as to whether a product failure, defect or hazard is patent or latent.

Eight World Rights

South Africa is not the only country to promulgate such legislation. In 1962 US president John F Kennedy enacted consumer rights legislation and 23 years later the UN endorsed what is known as the Eight World Rights.

The eight are: satisfaction of basic needs (adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education and sanitation); safety; information (including protection against dishonest or misleading advertising and labelling); choice; representation; redress (fair settlement of just claims against those who mislead or provide shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services); consumer education; and a healthy and sustainable environment.

The UN guidelines for consumer protection were broadened in 1999, requiring that governments develop and maintain strict consumer protection policy and protect consumers from contractual abuses such as one-sided contracts and unconscionable conditions of credit.

Training

After the enactment of the legislation two months ago, what is required now is the training of everyone who deals with customers on the ins and outs of the CPA and customer relations management.

For businesses to be in a position to take advantage of, and power, future growth, they must invest wisely in human capital. …

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Respect for Staff Still Required as Act Protects Customers BILLS AND RIGHTS
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