Protected consumers act up


By: Cindy Payle

Businesses that have yet to comply with the legislation provided in the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) will find themselves in a pickle as more consumers become aware of their rights and begin to exercise them.

According to media reports the Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector has logged more than a thousand calls from the public since the inception of the new Consumer Protection Act on 1 April 2011.

This is indicative of the degree of communication and interaction that business will be expected to manage once the CPA and its guidelines become familiar to the average consumer.

The purpose of the CPA is to protect consumers across all industries from exploitation of any kind while providing recourse for consumers whose rights have been violated.

"Non-compliant business will face two consequences, firstly the possibility of the National Consumer Tribunal imposing a fine of up to 10% of the turnover of the business, and secondly consumers will now be able to pursue non-compliant companies without the need to resort to expensive lawyers, by laying complaints at the offices of the National Consumer Commission.' says Janusz F Luterek one of South Africa?s principle advisors on the impact of the CPA.

But are the CPA policies really that severe? More than one report has claimed that South African citizens previously recognised as some of the most exploited consumers in the world now rank amongst the best protected consumers globally.

"The CPA is a paradigm shift in how business is being done in South Africa with consumers and from 1 April 2011 South African consumers are amongst the best protected in the world and now have rights, not only expectations, to receive good quality service and safe good quality goods, as well as to truthful information in all spheres of business.' says Luterek.

The enormous shift in consumer policy means that business must now adapt and become equipped to interact with a new consumer model.

According to Luterek "These rights (CPA) place an obligation on businesses to ensure that their procurement processes change as do their consumer complaint handling procedures.'

The only way to satisfy this new and improved power-consumer is by possessing a thorough knowledge and understanding of consumer rights and business responsibilities as set out by the CPA.

Attorney Janusz Luterek has been involved in Consumer Protection Bill processes for more than 5 years and has worked in the chemical, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical industries.

Luterek in association with Entecom will conduct a workshop focusing on the impact of the CPA within the food industry. The workshop will address:

? consumers rights to safety and quality food
? the importance of correct labelling and advertising
? how food companies can improve their due diligence
? the need for robust food safety management systems
? the importance of record keeping traceability and product recall programmes
? the importance of supply contracts

Experts agree that "the Consumer Protection Act will fundamentally change the way business is done in South Africa. It requires businesses to transform the way in which they interact with consumers and to ensure that all their dealings with consumers are fair, reasonable and honest.'

For more information about this workshop or to book contact [email protected] or phone Sarah on (041) 366 1970/80.