Consumer Protection

Consumers are ordinary members of the public who purchase goods, services and property for private purposes. It is often stated that consumers are the real drivers of the economy. Yet consumers are regularly exploited by suppliers who provide shoddy products and services in order to maximise profits. Those who complain are fobbed off with platitudes or downright aggression instead of receiving the redress they desire. Should they dare to exercise their legal rights, they invariably find themselves up against well-resourced and formidable corporate legal defences. Most countries have therefore introduced legislative and administrative measures in order to compensate for this fundamental imbalance of power favouring suppliers. Here are some of the measures that apply in South Africa


The Consumer Protection Act (Act 68 of 2008) known colloquially as “the CPA” brought together many consumer rights previously fragmented under a variety of legislation. It permitted the establishment of dedicated consumers protection bodies, such as the National Consumer Commission (NCC), the National Consumer Tribunal (NCT), the Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman, and the Motor Industry Ombudsman. It also recognises the role of Provincial Consumer Protection offices where they exist.

The CPA defines and implements the following fundamental consumer rights:

  • The right of equality
  • The right to privacy
  • The right to choose
  • The right to disclosure and information
  • The right to fair and responsible marketing
  • The right to fair and honest dealing
  • The right to fair, just and reasonable terms and conditions
  • The right to fair value, good quality and safety

These aspects are all expanded in considerable depth in the CPA


The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (Act 25 of 2002), also known as “the ECTA” provides specific requirements relating to goods and services purchased “electronically”, i.e. over the Internet and its derivatives (Smartphones, WhatsApp Facebook, etc). It also covers certain aspects of telecommunications services, including cellphone and related services. These requirements are over and above those of the CPA and in some cases “trump” the equivalent CPA requirements) i.e. the ECTA requirements take precedence over similar ones in the CPA. It is often difficult to decide where to direct complaints in such cases.