South Africa?s major staff skills training and development company, AstroTech, has called on business owners and staff to undergo training on the aspects of the new Consumer Protection Act.
Leigh Allardyce, a senior trainer at the Parktown based company said while the CPA would help consumer rights, business owners and front-line staff need intensive training to be comfortable with what their rights and obligations are.
"Everyone in the supply chain now has to pay closer attention to their procedures and policies regarding product quality, product warnings, product labelling and the general safety of products,' said Allardyce.
AstroTech has received enquiries on the CPA. Allardyce said both consumers and sellers should know and understand all aspects of the CPA.
The CPA deals extensively with three areas, product liability, design and defects. It deals with a supplier's liability to consumers as a result of defects in the nature of the products it sells. Amongst others, the CPA says goods must meet a level of quality and performance that would be reasonable to expect, given their price and specifications.
The Act says goods must be suitable for the purpose that the seller conveys to the consumer, and match the description given to the consumer. It adds that services must be carried out with due care and skill and materials used in connection with a service should meet customer requirements.
The Act says consumers have rights to remedies in the case that there are problems with goods or services provided repairs, replacements and refunds depending on the nature of the goods.
AstroTech CEO, Liza van Wyk said although the majority of customers are nice people and a pleasure to talk to, there?s a minority who are very unpleasant and ignorant.
"Sometimes the old adage 'the customer is always right? sometimes encourages people to be rude and abusive. While it is justifiable to protect the rights of consumers, the right of sales staff and business owners must be protected too,' said van Wyk.
"It is a pity that on a daily basis some customers think they can swear, be aggressive and be threatening. Some customers seem to assume, wrongly, that because someone works behind a counter, they are stupid and a target for rudeness and arrogance,' she said.
The CPA draws on a number of pieces of existing legislation (the Business Names Act, the Sale and Services Matters Act, the Price Control Act, the Trade Practices Act, the Consumer Affairs Act and the Businesses Act), forming a consumer matrix ultimately policed by a national consumer regulator.
Section 61 of the CPA provides that consumers are entitled to receive goods which will be useable and durable for a reasonable period of time and that are free of any product failure, defect or hazard that would render the utility, practicability or safety of the goods to be less than persons are generally entitled to expect, regardless as to whether a product failure, defect or hazard is patent or latent.
The Act makes it possible to jail company directors and managers for contraventions, and may also block guilty companies from benefiting from state tenders.