The Running Commentary


Consumer Protection Act….redressing the imbalance

I was given a great view of the reason for the Consumer Protection Act the other day.  The image used to illustrate the point was that of the scales of justice. The illustration went as follows:

When commercial interaction first came about, the scales were balanced and you traded your skill for somebody else’s skill. Both parties walked away from the transaction feeling equally satisfied.  We then introduced currency and the ability for those with skills that were deemed to worth more than yours started to get paid.  This transaction though still had the balance in that both parties walked away felling satisfied.

What happened next was Capitalism 101, people with the skills formed collectives and within those people of dominance took control. Now with all the skill “under one roof” the consumer was left to deal with the terms dictated by the collective. And so the scales began to tip in favour of the collective or people with the skills.

As we all know the collective became corporate entities and we introduced stock markets to share in the wealth of these businesses.  We also did something even more important. We introduced legal requirements, which completely shifted the balance from the consumer in favour of big business. You see these businesses ensured that their rights were protected ahead of the consumer.

I believe that the Consumer Protection Act as well as the other legislation, like POPI (Protection of Private Information) came about as a result of the consumers attempting to take back some control.

The consumer has decided that enough is enough.  Why should they have to beg to get service they deserve.  Why should they be forced into agreements that only benefit or protect the corporate.  Why should business be able to treat the consumer’s confidential information as if it belonged to the corporate.

The new legislation will come into effect soon and corporate South Africa is going to be held to task by their customers.  This does not mean the end to marketing or communication with the consumer, it does though bode well for a redress in the balance of power.  Some may argue that the balance has shifted to the consumer, my belief is that properly embraced the CPA will allow actually empower the corporate alongside the consumer.  This will ultimately lead to a better experience for all.

consumer protection actconsumerscorporateJusticelawprotection of private information bill

Mike • August 27, 2010

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