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Human Rights Month: Your rights and responsibilities as a consumer

Written by Staff Writer

March 28, 2023

By Jessie Taylor 


Consumers are protected by the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (CPA), and this piece of legislation governs, among other things, how shoppers can access refunds or return items.

The CPA applies to any business that is marketing, distributing, manufacturing, or selling goods and services in South Africa, irrespective of size or if it operates in the formal or informal sector. It regulates the transaction between consumers and businesses, ensuring that consumers’ rights are protected.

The Consumer Protection Act recognises eight fundamental consumer rights, in line with the Constitution, which every consumer of goods and services is entitled to, regardless of the monetary value of a transaction or the significance of the commodity.

These rights consumers are entitled to are:

  • The right to equality:
  • The right to privacy
  • The right to choose
  • The right to disclosure of information
  • The right to fair and responsible marketing
  • The right to a fair and honest dealing
  • The right to fair, just and reasonable terms and conditions; and
  • The right to safe and good quality goods

As part of the protection the CPA offers, consumers are protected against defective items. However, the CPA does not allow consumers to simply change their minds about a purchase and expect a refund. 

The CPA ensures that consumers have the right to receive goods that are reasonably suitable for the purposes for which they are generally intended, are of good quality, in good working order, free of defects, and will be usable and durable for a reasonable period of time.

If the goods do not meet these specifications, consumers may return them to the supplier or manufacturer within six months after the date they were delivered or purchased. They may return these goods for a refund, replacement or repair.

However, if a consumer changes his or her mind about a purchase and wishes to return it, the terms and conditions of that return will depend on what the retailer has set out and are not prescribed in the Act. The product will have to be returned with a receipt, in the original packaging, with the tags attached to it. Enquiring about a store’s Refund Policy before making any purchases is always a good idea.


This article was first published in the 25th edition of Public Sector Magazine. Read it and more here

Consumers should be aware of the following:

  • Online transactions

When something is bought online, the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act takes preference over the CPA. This legislation allows the consumer seven days to return a ‘change of heart’ product for a full refund. However, the consumer will have to return the items at their own cost.

The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act states that a consumer is “entitled to cancel without reason and without penalty any transaction and any related credit agreement for the supply of goods within seven days after the date of the receipt of the goods; and of services within seven days after the date of the conclusion of the agreement.

  • Direct marketing

If a consumer purchases goods or services as a result of direct marketing, the CPA allows for a five-day cooling-off period. The consumer may then cancel an agreement made through an unsolicited phone call in writing or return the goods for a refund. The retailer has 15 business days to process the refund.

  • Advertised products

According to the CPA, all suppliers and retailers must have goods available a the advertised price and quantity. If the stock is limited, this much be disclosed in the advert. The supplier may offer to procure another supplier for the consumer with the same or equivalent goods as advertised, within a reasonable time, at the advertised price.

  • Deliveries

Consumers have the right to timely performance and completion of services, as well as a timely notice of any unavoidable delays in delivery. The CPA also ensures consumers have the right to the use, delivery or installation of goods that are free of defects and of good quality.

If a consumer did not have the opportunity to examine the goods delivered before the purchase, the consumer is entitled to inspect the goods upon delivery. If the consumer finds that the goods do not meet their reasonable expectations during this inspection, they may refuse delivery and receive a full refund.


The National Consumer Commissioner

Consumers may direct complaints that they have regarding suppliers or refund policies to the National Consumer Commissioner (NCC). The NCC is the primary regulator of consumer-business interaction in South Africa.

The NCC exists to promote a fair, accessible, and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services, establish norms and standards relating to consumer protection, prohibit unfair marketing and business practices, and promote responsible consumer behaviour.

The NCC registers and assesses complaints, investigates alleged misconduct by businesses, refers individual complaints for resolution, and represents consumers in the Consumer Tribunal amongst other things.

A consumer may approach the NCC for guidance or assistance with a dispute that cannot be amicably resolved. The NCC provides its services free of charge to all consumers.

For more information, visit https://www.thencc.gov.za/


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