Sections 22 to 28 of the Act deal with the consumer’s rights as follows:
Information in plain and understandable language:
- Section 22: Any notice, document or visual representation (hereinafter referred to as ‘information’) that a supplier is required to produce or provide to a consumer must be in plain and understandable language;
- The Act states that the requirement of ‘plain and understandable language’ will be fulfilled if it is reasonable to conclude that an ordinary consumer of the class of persons for whom the information is intended, with average literacy skills and minimal experience as a consumer, could be expected to understand the content, significance and import of the information without due effort, having regard to its: context, comprehensiveness and consistency, the organisation of the document, the vocabulary usage and sentence structure, the use of illustrations, examples and headings or other aids to reading and understanding;
- The Commission may publish guidelines for methods of assessing the use of plain and understandable language, which may be published for public comment.
Disclosure of price of goods or services:
- Section 23: This section does not apply if Section 43 of the Electronic Communications and Transaction Act applies to the transaction. Section 43 applies to the situation where a supplier offers goods or services for sale, for hire or for exchange by way of an electronic transaction – the Section then sets out what information must be made available to consumers on the website where such goods or services are offered.
- This right links in with the consumers’ right to choose and particularly the pre-authorisation for repairs and maintenance. Where a consumer has pre-approved an estimate, then this section 23 will not apply to that transaction.
- Otherwise a supplier is required to display the price (can be a unit price) when he or she displays the goods for sale – by attaching it to the item in some way or representing it in a way that the consumer is able to understand what it was. The price must be in writing and in local currency. The requirement for disclosure of price does not apply to goods in advertising displays, or if goods are kept in an area where the public does not have access.
- A supplier is bound by a display price or reduction in price and may not charge a price higher than the displayed price or the lowest displayed price, if more than one price is displayed, however will not be bound if an unauthorised person has tampered with the price displayed or authorised by the supplier, or if the incorrect price was displayed in error inadvertently and the supplier has corrected the error or taken reasonable steps to inform consumers of the error and the correct price.
Product labelling and trade descriptions:
- Section 24: These must not be misleading to the consumer when attached to the goods as a label or trade description, or displayed alongside them or contained in advertising material from which a consumer can place an order.
- The Minister may prescribe categories of goods that are required to have trade descriptions attached to them.
- Regulation 6 relates to product labelling and trade descriptions for textiles, clothing, shoes and leather goods, and Regulation 7 to genetically modified organisms – where goods that contain at least 5% of genetically modified organisms are required to have a notice in plain and understandable language attached to them, stating that the good, ingredient or component “contains Genetically Modified Organisms”.
- A producer or importer of any goods that have been prescribed to have trade descriptions attached to them (as per paragraph above) must apply the trade description disclosing the country of origin of the goods and any other prescribed information (see the Regulations).
- It is an offence for a supplier to use a misleading trade description or to alter or remove one applier to goods.
Disclosure of re-conditioned or grey market goods
- Section 25: Suppliers are required to warn consumers that goods are re-conditioned or that they have been imported without the approval or license of the registered owner of the trade market, being “grey market goods”. Regulation 8 sets out the detail of information to be disclosed.
Disclosure of Sales Records:
- Section 26: A supplier will be required to keep a written record of the transaction or a “sales record”, unless exempt by the Act, which information includes, inter alia: suppliers full name, registered business name, VAT registration number (if applicable), address, date of transaction, name and description of goods or services supplied, unit price, quantity, total price of the transaction before any taxes, amount of applicable taxes, total price including taxes;
- The Minister may provide an exemption for certain categories of goods or services, or circumstances of trade from providing sales record, for example, where the consumer expressly doesn’t require a sales record, a person trading as a hawker, and a transaction made in terms of Section 43 of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act.
Disclosure by Intermediaries (e.g estate agents):
- Section 27: Intermediaries or agents must disclose information relating to the parties to a transaction. Regulation 9 sets out in detail the information required to be disclosed by different categories of intermediaries. This requirement does not extend to intermediaries who are the Executors or administrators of a deceased estate in regard to the estate’s property, nor to trustees of a trust in regard to the trust property. Refer to page 45 for a list of information required to be disclosed by intermediaries.
Identification of deliverers, installers and others:
- Section 28: Whenever a person is, at the consumer’s premises, engaged in direct marketing, or performing a service, or delivering or installing goods at the consumer’s premises, he or she is required to visibly wear or display a badge or identification device, or provide suitable identification on request by the consumer.
Other Sections in the Act which require disclosure:
- Section 33(1): Catalogue marketing – certain information is required to be disclosed to the consumer where he or she has not had an opportunity to inspect the goods before concluding the agreement, for example where he or she orders the goods or he or she saw in a catalogue by telephone, post or fax;
- Sections 49(1) and 58(1): where there involves a risk to the consumer or a weakening of his or her position, the supplier is required to warn the consumer.