Legally Smart Shopping Will Reap Rewards

Legally Smart Shopping Will Reap Rewards
Legal&Tax’s guide to smart spending (and hopefully a little bit of saving too!)

Holiday time often means shopping time! However, before the bargain-hunting bug hits, read Legal&Tax’s guide to smart spending (and hopefully a little bit of saving too!)

Chantel Cronje
Chantel Cronje - Head of Legal Services
10 December 2019 | 6 minute read
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The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) is the law designed to help protect your social and economic rights as a consumer.

A consumer is defined as someone who is buying goods or services from a particular business or supplier.

The law protects you by making sure of the following:

  • The way businesses run is fair.
  • Consumers are protected from unfair or misleading business actions and behaviour.
  • Consumers are made aware of their rights.

The Act applies to every purchase made in South Africa, unless there is a specific exemption. This would mean the law states that there is a specific reason for why this buy is not included in the CPA.

Item Availability

When it comes to advertising, a business is not allowed to advertise goods and services that are not available. 

They also have to notify customers when goods and services are sold out.

They also cannot accept payment for items that are not available or are sold out.

If a business has not followed these rules when it comes to your purchase, then you have the right to apply for legal protection based on the CPA.


If a business makes a mistake with the price that they advertise as the cost for an item or service, then the law is there to protect the consumer.

Shopping IRL (in real life)

If an item is being put on display in a shop and the supplier labels it with the wrong price, then the shop has to inform the person wanting to buy the item, of the correct price before they buy it.

If the shop has displayed two different prices for the same item, then the consumer has the right to pay the lower cost.

However, if the price label for the higher price has completely covered the label for the original lower price, then the higher price applies.

Online Shopping

When it comes to online shopping, the business has to display the full price (including taxes, delivery fees etc) of the item on their website.

If they have made an error in the pricing displayed on the website, you as the consumer need to be informed immediately.

Return/ Replace / Refund

Sometimes, after having bought an item, you might change your mind about the purchase or not be happy with some aspect of the goods that you bought.

In most cases, the law does offer you the right to return the item; however whether you can get a refund or a replacement depends on whether or not there was actual damage or a problem with the item; or whether you just did not want it.

You must always present the receipt or tag attached to the item.

Unwanted goods

Perhaps you purchased a pair of jeans whose quality is fine, they just do not fit you.

In this case, where the item is not defective but unwanted, then you have the right to ask for an exchange, for example, for a bigger size. If this is not available, then you can ask to take another item for the same value or be given credit from the store.

However, the store is not legally forced to give you a refund.

Defective Goods

If there is an actual problem whereby the item does not work properly, such as perhaps a washing machine that does not perform its function, then you are allowed to ask for a refund. It is important to bear in mind that the fault may not have been caused by you. It must be a manufacturer or supplier fault.

Packaging of returned items

You are expected to return items in a reasonable condition, particularly in terms of still being in their original packaging.

When it comes to online purchases, a business can ask you to return the item in the correct packaging and with an identifying barcode

However, if these are the conditions of return, you do need to have been notified about them, before you buy the goods. The conditions are often shown in 'fine print' on the back of the receipt so be sure to read these.

‘Cooling off’ period 

Direct marketing is when an item is sold straight to you, not through a shop or other supplier. This would include items such as cellphone or gym contracts.

If you bought an item through a process of direct marketing, then you are given a special period of time during which you can cancel this purchase.

You are given five business days during which you have the right to cancel this buy. However, if you want to cancel, you must inform whoever sold you the item of you decision in writing.

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