The Consumer Protection Act is predominantly focused on affording consumers the right to fair, just and reasonable terms and conditions (e.g. fair contract terms) and the right to fair value, good quality and safety (e.g. product liability). Suppliers will have to evaluate whether their business practices comply with the Act and make the necessary changes to their standard terms and conditions.
One of the primary objectives behind section 51 is to unequivocally outline the fact that any contract, term or condition, which ultimately defeats the purposes, provisions, policy, consumer rights and suppliers’ obligations set out in the Act, is prohibited. Accordingly, terms and conditions of a party cannot result in contracting out of the provisions set out in the Act.
In addition, in terms of section 4 of the Act, any standard form contract or other document prepared or published by or on behalf of a supplier can be subject to scrutiny in terms of the Act. It is therefore crucial for the terms and conditions of such a document to be drafted in accordance with the Act. If not, penalties will follow and those provisions on which the business may be reliant to reach its objectives can be unenforceable.
Best practice for business in light of the requirements of the Act dictates that all terms and conditions of service (as well as conditions for any promotions or competitions) are set out in clear and uncomplicated language.
Update and revision of standard terms and conditions, which often remain unchecked for many years, and following best practices, as suggested above, should be considered a necessity in order to avoid any negative repercussions in the conduct of business in the era of the Act.