The Running Commentary


Consumer Protection Act…..Anyone see the change yet?

Now some people may have a go at me for this title, but after a couple months of this legislation being in effect one cannot help but think that this may be yet another well intentioned but toothless piece of legislation.

I mean have we all noticed the ease with which we can understand contracts now and the sudden drop in email SPAM?  Clearly this is working well.  Have you seen that marketers are following all of the rules? Sure many large corporate companies have tightened up on some of their marketing efforts and clearly some training has taken place, but for the most part there has been little or no change.

I put this down to the fact that the consumer actually is not even aware of what the legislation contains.  We heard many things before the legislation came into effect, about how it was going to protect consumers, but most consumers still do not even know that it is in effect.  They know even less about the rights that they are afforded under the Act.

I, along with many proactive marketers spent hours in workshops preparing ourselves around the legislation. We devised many strategies to counteract some of the communication hurdles that were set down.  We devised and we schemed and the alarming thing is that many, many organisations are continuing with an “as you were” attitude.

When the first set of litigation takes place, we are going to see a rush on message changes and options disclosures.  We are going to see clients hurtling back to the drawing board because they will then realise that their messages are wrong.  This will be the day when the masses of consumers realise just what they have the right too.

I fear though that we are also going to see many people remain victims of not knowing what their rights are.  They are going to enter contracts blindly and they are going to face issues later, they are going to be the victims of unscrupulous marketers and they will have little or no recourse.  I for one would support a mass education campaign from government, helping them to prepare the consumer about what rights they have.  This will help force the pace of change and we will see more and more empowered consumers.

To the businesses out there that have taken this legislation on in heart and not only based on the fact that they don’t want to be the first one sued, well done.  You will reap the rewards of having clients who know and understand why they do business with you.

Consumerconsumer protection actCPADirect MarketinglawMarketingsocial mediaSouth Africa

Mike • July 19, 2011

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  1. @MrMothaCity July 19, 2011 - 3:42 pm

    The most recent experience I had related to the CPA was a revised contract form I was given when taking my wife’s car in for a service.

    While the client liaison officer understood that she had to present me with the form, she didn’t do much to explain exactly what it outlined. There were about 5 main points which required my signature and instead of going through these sections individually, all she gave was a general ‘this just means we can’t do extra work without your permission’

    I feel I must mention that their customer service is fantastic though and I have no problem with them at all.

    I agree with a broad government driven education program, perhaps similar to what Eskom is doing with their TV ads.

    At ground level, it will be up to the consumer to enforce the CPA as business will do only what they absolutely have to and not much more.

  2. Mike July 19, 2011 - 4:56 pm

    Hi Barry,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment….

    I would say that your experience is exactly what is happening throughout SA. People with suppliers know that they have to get a piece of paper signed. They know that if they don’t that they are going to get in trouble. They also know that the less the say, the more likely it is that the person will sign.

    They also know that South African consumers are really lazy when it comes to agreements and they simply do not read them. They are normally so excited by the thought of their purchase that they simply sign.

    What we should be doing as consumers is making ourselves aware of the legislation so that we can hold our suppliers to account. This will ensure good product at good prices, with piece of mind around the purchase.

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