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What are my consumer rights?

Consumers have rights and as an employee or customer, it is your responsibility to ensure that these rights are adhered to at all times. But what exactly is Consumer Rights?
Consumer rights can be defined as being in agreement with what is just, good or proper when dealing with consumers as well as ensuring that the consumer is protected from harm or wrong doing when dealing with a provider of a service or a distributor of a product.

The South African National Consumer Union (SANCU) has documented eight key rights and they are as follows:
  1. The right to be heard - The retailer, supplier or anyone else involved must listen to the consumer when they complain. The compliant should be addressed with the person at the top or a manager of a particular store.
  2. The right to safety - Consumers must be protected against flaws or hidden dangers in products or services that they buy. They also have the right to physical safety while they are buying.
  3. The right to redress - When you are sold an inferior product or service, you have the right to go back to the seller and demand a replacement or a refund. In some instances this right is protected by law and consumers can take their cases to the courts to exercise their right to redress.
  4. The right to a healthy environment - Consumers have the right to a physical environment that will enhance the quality of life.
  5. The right to be informed - Consumers has the right to be given all the information they require about a product or service. For example they have the right to request a list of ingredients that go into making a particular product that is being sold, detailed information of a contract that they might sign, etc.
  6. The right to choose - Consumers must insist on a variety of products and goods to choose from based on personal taste, quality or price. Competition in the market place allows you to buy what suits your particular circumstances.
  7. The right to consumer education - Consumers have the right to demand education in consumer affairs. Both the state and private sector have a role to play in this.
  8. The right to satisfaction of basic needs - Consumers have the right to basic goods and services which guarantee survival. This includes adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education and sanitation.

Principles of Consumer Rights

  • Protects the consumer
  • Service ethics
  • Products / services are fit for use
  • Rights violations

Protects the consumer

South Africa has eight key consumer rights that have been developed based on the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection 1985. These eight key rights will be discussed in greater deal under the section titled consumer rights in South Africa. These rights were developed and implemented in order to ensure that consumers around the world are treated fairly when dealing with a provider of a product or service.

Service ethics

Most companies around the world today have based their current customer care practices around consumer rights. For example establishing customer satisfaction surveys and customer relationship managers to deal with failures in service, ensuring that their products or services are quality assured, ensuring that customer can shop within a safe environment and also educating their customers about the products or services that they purchase. These are just a few of the key services that companies have developed in order to make the experience of the customer with the company, an enjoyable one. If there is a failure in anyone of the abovementioned services, then there is a failure in service ethics.

Products/Services are fit for use

As mentioned in point's number two and three in the section related to consumer rights in South Africa, the consumer has the right to purchase a product that is fit for use and if there are any defects, they can return it to the supplier. All products that are manufactured should have a quality assurance sign off on every product to ensure that it is in working order prior to leaving the manufacturing facility. Service on offer should be quality checked by a quality management function by means of conducting satisfaction surveys, auditing data captured by employees, conducting call assessments, etc.

Rights violations

Any consumer rights that have been violated by a provider of a product or service should be brought to the attention of the relevant authority that governs that particular type of supplier. For example there are a number of medial and consumer journalists that are happy to act on behalf of the consumer, National government consumer affairs departments, provincial government affairs offices, and industry specific councils that govern each specific industry types, medical, dental Ombudsman, The South African National Consumer Union, etc. consumers must do the necessary research to find out who they should approach with respect to a consumer rights violation.

International Consumer Rights

There are 260 consumer organisations in over 100 countries around the world striving to promote a fairer society through defending the rights of all consumers, including the poor and the marginalised, by supporting and strengthening member organisations and the consumer movement in general; campaigning for consumer rights' to be placed at the heart of policy-making to encourage sustainable development. There are eight key international consumer rights as defined by the United Nations Guideline for Consumer Protection 1985. They can be simplified into the following:
  • The right to access to basic needs
  • To safety
  • To information
  • To choice
  • To representation
  • To consumer education
  • To redress
  • Healthy environment

As you can see from the above, the South African consumer rights have been developed and implemented based on international standards.

Consumer rights forum

Most companies have a direct contact through organisations such as the South African National Consumer Union for consumer related issues which can be used to report consumer rights related issues. There are various forums that can be used by the consumer to report consumer rights issues. For example as mentioned on the previous page, most business sectors have a representing Ombudsman who will investigate the matter further. There are government bodies at national and provincial levels that also investigate cases of consumer rights failures. There are also several media based consumer advice contacts available to the consumer. It is the responsibility of the consumer to find out what organizations govern what industries and record this information for future use.

What must you do as an employee of your company to ensure that these rights are adhered to?
  • Ensure that all staff is trained to deal with customer care inquiries effectively.
  • Listen to what your customer has to say and ensure that they are satisfied with the result of their query.
  • Offer a money back guarantee on all products sold.
  • Inform the client of warranties or guarantees and explain them to the client if need be.
  • Ensure that your customers shop within a security managed environment.
  • Just about every consumable product today already displays their ingredients. Any products that do not display ingredients must be addressed with the supplier.
  • Provide copies of the consumer rights booklet which is obtainable from the SA National Consumer Union and display them in your store.
  • If you are a member of the SA National Consumer Union, make your customers aware of this by means of putting up a notice that states this.
  • Ensure that you have processes and procedures in place for dealing with returned goods and ensure that action is taken to source the reason why this occurred.
  • Ensure that you have an elevated query management system in place.

About Howard Badler

Howard Badler has trained and consulted to the Justice Department of the Northwest Province and a variety of companies in a number of industries. He can be contacted at {{}}.
Carmen Julies
I upgraded my cellphone in June and received a new Nokia E7 handset. I was experiencing problems with my USB port and finally the phone stop working as a result of the USB port. I took the phone to Nokia Care centre and they gave me a report that my handset is beyond economical repair and if I don't have insurance there is nothing they can do? What can I do in this case?
Posted on 28 Nov 2011 09:42
johan kruger
I bought a new borehole pump and motor on behalf of a client. I installed the unit according to requirements. A month later the pump was not working, and I could not find fault with the starter. I send the motor back to the supplier, who send it back to the manufacturer. Because the client and his farm labourers is dependant on the pumpmotor for water, and I sensed that this is gonna take time,I ordered a new motor, assuming that the pumpmotor will be replaced, since it is still under guarantee. I had to pay for the new pumpmotor. A week ago I was informed that the motor will only be "repaired", as the motorwindings was burned . According to the client, it seems to be caused by an "electrical surge " . The motor is protected by an electronic protection relay and very good quality surge protectors. However, my problem is that neither the supplier nor the manufacturer is willing to honour their commitment to me/my client. It is a very expensive piece of equipment, but not something you purchase on a regular basis. I can't do anything with a repaired piece of equipment, and the manufacturer told me the motor has a warranty, not a guarantee. What exactly is the difference? I was under the impression that a faulty unit , which I believed was a manufacturing fault, was to be replaced immediately, unless they could prove that the installation was done wrongly or the product was misused. Their is no evidence of any kind to suggest the client can claim it from his insurance, and I am the one loosing money. What can I do to resolve the situation.?
Posted on 7 Mar 2012 06:36
johan kruger
Posted on 7 Mar 2012 06:46
Timothy De Lange
My 2 yr old son has joined a creche on 01 June 2012. Ever since he had a dramatic change in behavior and is a different child in a negative way, he is also very scared to go back to that creche so we decided over this weekend not to take him back. They do not supervise the kids probably as my child got bitten on his cheek by a younger child and had 2 bumps on his head. We also believe that one of the care takers are ill treating the children. We have signed a contract which stated that if we want to remove our child from the daycare we must give 2 calender months notice and the notice must be on the 1st of a month. I want to know if this is still valid if we are not happy about the service or are we going to be liable to still pay the creche for the month of July and August if we remove him now?
Posted on 10 Jun 2012 18:59
I am not sure what the situation is with regard to your rights and obligations regarding notice etc - I suggest you contact your nearest Consumer Advice Bureau. However, if you feel that your child or any other might have been ill-treated by one or more of the caregivers, I suggest you contact social welfare as soon as possible.
Posted on 11 Jun 2012 05:36
Riaan Engelbrecht
Riaan,They did the same with me,the consultant also told me that it was a top-up account,I only used R75 talk time for one month and for 2 months they told me that the reason for cutting my service is that I did not pay.I complained for more than 2 months that my internet is slow,or it just does not even want to load my basic gmail page,sometimes it took 2 hours,they send someone out after more than 60-70 days and installed an areal,then it worked,but they insised that I pay my account,my total should have been R450,per month,now they tell me that it was not capped like I asked the consultant to be,nothing in the brochure it said it was an open account,it stated a 2gb contract.What to do now?The manager told me to get a data starter pack for R99...................after I bought the second one it has not been working for 10 days yet,go back all the time and today again I waited 2 hours,manager was apparently on lunch,Tygervaley branch.How can I cancel my contract,after only using it for not more than 2 months and after that they cut off my cell no I had with them for more than 10 years?Nobody can contact me,and what to do now?not even the technical specialist can help me in the shop,say that there is something wrong with my Sim card?Eventually he was also gone........................ worst service ever,I cannot spend 2 days every week standing in the shop and keep on calling for help,and nothing happend.And I was still waiting for the manager to get from lunch,after the previous one left just after 4..........and I left 5h30,.............. no manager,and to technical person in the shop left anymore.So the want me to pay off their mistake,2 gig was R119 and the account is for R1500,Someting similar hapened to my mom,chose her contract,next day when she wanted to fetch her new mobile phone,there was no stock and no contract that she signed the previous day,she had to sign a new contract and they also did not mad it caped?????????????? Luckely she did not use her phone for internet,She was with me when I asked another consultant the next day,because the previous day's consultant was off the next day so the call contract is for R300+R119 for the 2gig internet,and he said yes,with my marked notes showing him on the pamphlet I got from that consultant the previous day written the amounts circled around the amounts on those choices.Riaan
Posted on 13 May 2013 20:04
Is it safe or legal to use EDMARK INTERNATIONAL products and perhaps go into business with them?
Posted on 19 Sep 2013 00:16