Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Your rights as a consumer when it comes to information about goods and services

Nobody should be spending their money without information about exactly what you're buying and how much you will pay for it.

As a consumer you have the right to get enough information to enable you to make informed choices about how you spend your money.

This means that you must be able to get information in plain, understandable language, that products must be labelled, have trade descriptions and prices, and that you must get proof of purchase when you buy something.

The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) dedicates one whole part to your right to disclosure and information that protects your right to information in plain, understandable language, disclosure of goods or services, product labelling and trade descriptions, disclosure of reconditioned or grey market goods, sales records or receipts, disclosure by intermediaries and identification of people who deliver or install something for you.

ALSO READ: Everything you need to know about your rights with false advertising

Plain and understandable language

Article 22 of the CPA provides that any notice, document or visual representation aimed at consumers must conform to prescribed form if applicable, or otherwise in plain language.

No form has been prescribed so far and therefore any communication with consumers must be written in plain language that corresponds to the average literacy levels and minimum experience with a product or service of an ordinary consumer in the group it is aimed at.

You must be able to understand the contents and importance of the communication without any effort, as well as the context, comprehensiveness, consistency, organisation, form, style, vocabulary, usage, sentence structure, illustrations, examples, headings or other aids to reading and understanding.

ALSO READ: What to do when the price on the shelf is different to what they’re charging at the till

Disclosure of prices

According to article 23 of the CPA, retailers must display prices on goods for sale, but does not have to when the goods displayed are predominantly for advertising in an area of a shop where the public cannot go, such as a shop window.

Prices are adequately displayed when a written indication of the price in the currency of the Republic is affixed to, written, printed, stamped or located on or otherwise applied to the goods or to any band, ticket, covering, label, package, reel or shelf.

Prices must also be clear in catalogues and brochures and if the price is only valid for a specific time, the expiry date must also be indicated. This section also regulates instances when the price on the product and the price at the till are not the same.

ALSO READ: Everything you need to know about expiry dates on food

Product labelling and trade descriptions

Article 24 of the CPA stipulates that a trade description is applied to goods if it is applied to the goods or any packaging or fixed to the goods or displayed near the goods so that consumers will believe the description is about them.

The product description can also be contained in any sign, advertisement, catalogue, brochure, circular, wine list, invoice, business letter, business paper or other commercial communication that you can use to buy or order the goods.

Nobody is allowed to knowingly apply a trade description that is likely to mislead the consumer or alter, deface, cover, remove or obscure a trade description or trade mark to mislead consumers. According to the CPA retailers must specifically adhere to this and ensure that nobody does this either.

Producers and importers must also apply a trade description to goods disclosing the country of origin and any other prescribed information.

ALSO READ: Wedding cancelled? It’s possible to get a refund on your bookings

Prescribed trade descriptions

According to regulation 6 made in terms of the CPA, textiles such as wool and cotton, clothes and leather goods, such as shoes, must have a trade description that indicates the country of origin, whether the textile or material were imported to make clothes in South Africa and if the product was made entirely in South Africa.

If the entire product was made in South Africa, the label must indicate ’Made in South Africa’ and it must adhere to local standards for fibre content and care guidelines. However, this regulation does not apply to textiles that are so small that a label cannot be added, second hand clothes imported for charity or goods that individual consumers bring into the country, as long as it does not exceed 1 000 items per month.

Genetically modified organisms

Regulation 7 provides that the labels on products containing genetically modified organisms must indicate it. This regulation applies to genetically modified organisms approved for commercial use by the Executive Council for Genetically Manipulated Organisms that was established in term of the Genetically Manipulated Organisms Act. So far it must only be indicated on the labels of genetically manipulated mealies, cotton and soy beans.

ALSO READ: Educate your children about money – here’s how

Disclosure of reconditioned or grey market goods

Article 25 provides that anyone who supplies any goods that were reconditioned, rebuilt or remade and bear the trademark of the original producer or supplier, must apply a conspicuous notice to those goods stating clearly that they have been reconditioned, rebuilt or remade.

Someone who imports goods that bear a trademark but have been imported without the approval or licence of the registered owner of that trademark, must apply a conspicuous notice to those goods in the prescribed manner and form.

Receipts or sales records

According to article 26, your receipt has to contain certain information.

It must be in writing, and contain the supplier’s full name or registered business name, VAT registration number, if any, address of the premises at which the goods or services were supplied, the date of the transaction, a name or description of the goods or services, the unit price, the quantity of goods or services supplied, the total price of the transaction, before any applicable taxes, the amount of any applicable taxes, such as VAT and the total price of the transaction, including any applicable taxes.

Read more on these topics

Consumer protection Act

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits