South Africans haven’t been allowed out much lately. Citizens are spending more time at home and limiting social interactions to curb the spread of COVID-19. Since the national lockdown started, consumers have been avoiding physical stores and shopping online, more than ever before. In an interview, Kevin Tucker, the CEO of PriceCheck, said online sales are booming, and clicks to their merchants are “up over 50% since the coronavirus restrictions hit South Africa”. Researchers expect this market to grow, and the pandemic could fast track a change in shopping behaviour. A pre-pandemic Santander feature that delves into consumer habits found that there were already more than 18 million e-commerce users in the country in 2018, with an additional 6 million users expected to be cyber shopping by 2021. Yes, amidst all the uncertainty of lockdown living, consumers have found shopping on the internet convenient and safe. Still, there have been several complaints from customers about delayed deliveries and poor service. But, consumer laws are clear and offer protection when it comes to online shopping and late deliveries in South Africa.
How the law protects South African consumers against late deliveries when shopping online.
The Consumer Protection Act, 68 of 2008 (CPA), is not the only law that protects consumers but lays a solid foundation by promoting a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for products and services. The CPA entitles consumers to the delivery of goods and performance of services as agreed and in an acceptable manner, also when shopping online. This means that late deliveries in South Africa are unacceptable. Suppliers must deliver goods on the agreed date, time and place. If the specifics haven’t been agreed, the supplier must provide the products within a reasonable time. Any delays must be communicated with the consumer, and if delivery is late, the consumer is allowed to cancel the transaction without penalty. The consumer has the right to claim a refund, interest (at the prescribed rate), as well as any costs incurred due to the supplier breaching the terms and conditions of the agreement.
Enforcing your consumer rights.
As Allsale CEO Michelle Lehrer points out, consumers shopping online increasingly want goods that are of immediate importance and urgency. Understandably, late deliveries in South Africa cause online shoppers to fume as is evident from retailers’ HelloPeter pages. Suppliers face unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19 lockdown regulations, and some circumstances are beyond their control. Maintaining trust by complying with consumer laws is essential, and suppliers who fail to do so could face legal challenges to discontinue their misconduct, refund customers and pay damages.
According to Advocate Jackie Nagtegaal, Managing Director at LAW FOR ALL, court challenges aren’t always the best approach, especially when smaller amounts are involved. But that doesn’t mean that consumers should leave the matter there. “Start by complaining in writing to the supplier. It’s always a good idea to have a paper trail. Remember, to include your order details, when your expected delivery and what went wrong. Inform the company about the outcome you desire, such as cancellation of the order and a refund.” explains Nagtegaal.
Consumers who wish to seek redress and enforce their rights can approach:
- an ombudsman with jurisdiction;
- an alternative dispute resolution agent;
- the National Consumer commission
- the National Consumer Tribunal;
- a Consumer Court, Small Claims Court or another court of law with jurisdiction.
We’ve Got Your Back!
If you have questions about your consumer rights when shopping online, or need assistance to seek redress against a supplier, get in touch. LAW FOR ALL’s legal professionals can give you sound legal advice and guidance. Our caring legal experts are ready to help you. If you don’t have legal insurance cover, sign up today!