A new Code of Conduct (Code) for the Consumer Goods and Services (CGS) industry has been released and takes effect on 30 April. This final Code is substantially similar to the draft Code published by the Department of Trade and Industry in October 2014 for public comment.    

The Code, published under the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (CPA), has been established to guide the CGS industry on the minimum standards of conduct expected when engaging with consumers and to assist in resolving disputes that arise between consumers and the CGS industry under the CPA. 

The Code applies to all parties involved in the supply chain who directly or indirectly provide, market and/or offer to supply goods and services to consumers, unless they are specifically excluded. The Code therefore applies to, among others, producers, importers, distributors and retailers of goods, and to service providers.  Importantly, this means that adherence to the Code is mandatory, unless the limited exceptions apply.

The Code does not apply to participants in the CGS industry that are regulated by other public regulation, or another code prescribed under the CPA, or where a complaint falls under the jurisdiction of certain other ombuds. The Code also doesn't apply to transactions that are excluded from the CPA and/or that are governed by other public regulation; the automotive industry; electronic communications service as defined in section 1 the Electronic Communications Act 36 of 2005 and transactions with organs of state or financial institutions. 

The Code provides for the establishment and powers of a Consumer Goods and Services Ombud whose functions include resolving disputes arising from complaints about non-compliance with the Code and the CPA by participants in the CGS industry.

The Ombud will be funded by the CGS industry. Participants in the CGS industry may have to pay joining fees, and annual and special levies which will be determined with regard to the relevant market share of each participant.

Importantly, a failure to comply with the Code constitutes a contravention of section 82(8) of the CPA.

Click here for more detailed information on the Code and here for a copy of the Code. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.