We’ve all heard the phrase, “The customer is always right”, which is used by disgruntled shoppers to embolden themselves when returning goods.  However, being right and having the right to take back that vacuum cleaner that sucks in all the wrong ways are two very different things.  This is where the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) comes in, and we will break down and eliminate most of the jarring jargon to give you some insights on when you will have a better chance of getting refunded because there is no general right of return. 

For instance, if you get a serious case of buyer’s remorse and can’t believe that you spent so much of your well-earned cash on an unnecessary appliance you can’t really return it simply because you regret it.  Sure, some retailers, for the sake of good customer service, usually allow the return or an exchange of sorts, but it’s not within your legal right to do so.

And ’tis the season to fill the trolley, so you might want to take note of the following:


  1. There is a “cooling-off” time after a purchase was made through direct marketing.
    If you bought an item online or through a tele-sale, you are legally entitled to a no-questions-asked return for a period of 5 days after receiving it.  You won’t be penalised for breaking the “contract” and you will get all of your cash back. There is a slight catch though; you are usually responsible for the actual cost of returning the product.
  2. If you haven’t actually seen nor had the chance to inspect the item before you clicked “Buy” and checked out, then it is within your rights to give the appliance a closer squiz on delivery. If the product does not reflect the quality that was advertised or if a special custom order was not adhered to, then you can refuse delivery and expect a full refund.  What’s more, the supplier is responsible for the cost to return the product.
  3. If a supplier informs you that the product is more than capable of fulfilling a particular purpose that you enquired about, and it subsequently does not live up to this, then the Consumer Protection Act is your friend. Basically, if the supplier tells you that, for example, an appliance do can exactly what has been advertised in a particular time as per your particular purpose, and the machine simply can’t do this, then you can get your bucks back.  You have 10 days after receiving the goods to secure your refund, and, once again, the supplier has to foot the return bill.  DO NOTE: if you’ve tampered with or altered the product in any way, the CPA won’t be on your side.
  4. You have the right to receive a defect-free, effective product that is usable for a substantial period of time. If your item doesn’t pass of any these above-mentioned requirements, then you have up to 6 months after receiving the appliance to return or replace it.   The supplier is also responsible for any repairs.

At the end of the day, also remember to spend wisely over the festive season.  South Africa is the most indebted country in the world, so don’t start the new year on the wrong foot.

For more details, feel free get stuck into the full Consumer Protection Act of South Africa.