The New Consumer Protection Act No. 68 of 2008 as signed in 2009, known by many as the CPA, has changed the business to client relationship considerably. In the past the consumer had to prove wrongdoing or lack of service on the part of the service provider, but with the New Consumer Protection Act it is now the responsibility of the business to prove that the service has been as advertised and that goods supplied are up to standard.
For the business owner, and then of course, also the website owner the Consumer Protection Act has a lot of implications. You should know that when selling a product online or in your store that the consumer will have up to six months to return goods which have been deemed unsafe or faulty. Guarantees will thus be for a minimum period of six months. You, as the supplier, will not have the choice anymore. The consumer can demand replacement, repairs or a full refund. As supplier you are still protected against negligence by the consumer.
Be careful with delivery promises. If you advertise a delivery date when selling online, you must keep to that date. If a consumer purchases a report online, and the website stipulates delivery within 48 hours, the website owner or company will have to keep to that date because the user can reject the product if the product is not as expected and can cancel the purchase agreement if the delivery doesn’t take place within 48 hours. As such online sellers need to ensure that they stipulate delivery times that they can keep.
Consumers, according to the Consumer Protection Act, now also have the right to demand an estimated cost for repairs of a product or a service and the service company must keep to that estimate. The consumer must approve of the estimate and should the work needed be more than originally estimated, the company must inform the consumer and get approval before going ahead.
Selling online seems to be safer for the company than selling through the mail or via telemarketing since the consumer has the right not to be harassed through telephone calls and mailings on specific days of the year and time of day. If a person has placed their name on the marketing blocking list, telemarketers may not contact or solicit them with any advertising or options according to the CPA. If you send out electronic mail with direct marketing messages, you need to take note that consumers have up to five business days to cool off after they have bought a product as the result of your direct marketing efforts. You will have 15 days to refund them provided they return the goods first.
According to the Consumer Protection Act, there will no longer be automatic renewals of service contracts. In the past cellphone companies simply kept on billing the consumer if the consumer did not cancel the cellphone contract after the contract expiring date. It is no longer the case. The company must contact the user and give the user the option of keeping with the contract, cancelling it or changing the terms of the contract. The month-to-month basis used by many cellphone companies stays in place until the consumer chooses not to have the contract.
Any consumer can now end a contract, such as a cellphone contract, before the expiry date if the consumer is unhappy with the service as long as the consumer, according to the terms of the Consumer Protection Act, gives the company written notice of a period of twenty days. It should be noted as a service provider, the company must contact the consumer before the expiration date of the contract to offer the consumer a choice. The consumer is still responsible for payment of amounts up to cancellation date.
With the New Consumer Protection Act in place from 31 March 2011, consumers have the right to get products in good working order. Should there be any defects even on second hand products, one must inform the buyer of such and the buyer must consent to purchasing the product in such a condition. In the online world you can thus not place a classified ad or sell a product “voetstoots” at Bid or Buy without informing the potential buyer of all the defects and the exact condition of the item.
According to the CPA, suppliers may not discriminate against consumers in the sense that they limit products or services to a specific group of consumers. Free market doesn’t mean setting prices as you want. The consumer has the right to fair priced goods. This means that a company cannot buy up all the stock such as for instance, energy savers, and then set a high price for the goods. The products must be reasonably priced. One cannot for instance, sell a report online that consists of only a few pages for an exuberant price. The price must be in line with the value of the item.
Online marketers and website owners need to take note of the privacy rights of consumers. Unsolicited email, thus spam, has always been a no-no, but website owners bypassed the ethical rules by having an opt-out option. The consumer, according to the privacy rights stipulated in the Consumer Protection Act, has the right not to receive unsolicited emails. If you want to introduce your website to a consumer, then search engine optimisation and pay per click advertising will be the best route ensuring that the consumer finds you and then opts in to receive electronic mail. Once a consumer has opted out on a newsletter, the website owner must ensure that the user doesn’t receive emails from them after such.
Goods and services delivered in an unsolicited manner may be refused by the consumer and the consumer can also retain such goods or services after 20 business days have passed. Online marketing is thus also affected by the Consumer Protection Act. Although the terms may seem a bit harsh for suppliers of goods and services, we are all consumers in one way or another. As such the protection is to the benefit of all; it will mean careful consideration of online marketing techniques and wording of sales letters, but at the end of the day, the marketplace should be fairer because of the Consumer Protection Act. Contact us at iLead to help you reach consumers in an ethical manner through sound SEO and online marketing techniques.