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The Common Law and the Consumer Protection Act: No 68 of 2008 (CPA): Refunds:

At The Legal Advice Office, we often get asked about refunds due to consumers in terms of either the common law or in terms of the CPA.

As a result of yet another two enquiries today regarding firstly, the recent purchase of motor vehicle which was previously involved in a collision (which fact was not disclosed to our client) and secondly, with regard to a vehicle that was bought last month and which quite clearly has numerous material defects which have now become apparent to the purchaser since the date of sale; we thought that we need to explain this issue of when you are entitled to a refund one again today.

Two other clients of ours have raised queries yesterday about warranties for goods purchased and the effects of both the common law and the Consumer Protection Act which piece of legislation has been around now for more than 6 years as it came into force at midnight on the 31st March 2011 and yet confusion still abounds both with consumers and suppliers.

The Common law allows a consumer to cancel a contract of purchase and sale if the supplier is in substantial breach of the contract.

The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) also has specific provisions dealing with warranties from retailers for purchased items. Sections 55 and 56 of the CPA are the most important in this regard.

  1. The date of the warranty runs from the date of the original purchase. It does not run from the replacement date; if you chose to replace a defective item.
  2. There is an automatic CPA statutory warranty on all items purchased and this consumer warranty entitles a consumer, as the purchaser, to choose a repair, a replacement or a refund in the instance of a damaged or defective item. It is the consumer’s choice not the suppliers.
  3. If the consumer chooses a repair and the item breaks within three months after that repair, the consumer is again entitled to a replacement or a refund.
  4. The CPA therefore can provide a warranty for a maximum effective period of nine months after/from the date of the original purchase.
  5. If a defective item is brought in after six months, the CPA does not protect you and does not apply. In this case only the balance of the Store warranty, if any, applies or the consumer may have the protection of the common law up to 3 years after the date of sale.
  6. In the case of the Store warranty only applying; it is likely that the terms of that warranty would cover only further repairs necessary for the defined period of the warranty itself and only during that period.

We believe it is important to know your consumer rights as laid down in the CPA or the common law; if you are going to be able to enforce those rights vis a vis the supplier.

It is also important to note that suppliers are not obliged to have a returns policy and they cannot be forced to accept a return even if you do have the original proof of payment and purchase and can provide the original packaging.

As a service to consumers most of the larger retail stores (and even some of the smaller ones) do however have a formal returns policy and if they do; you can insist that they abide by it or you may take the matter up with their Head Offices and lodge a formal complaint.

Your best protection is however in terms of the CPA; so our advice is to act immediately you are aware of a problem with the item and; as it is a formal legal process; you will need our help in all likelihood should you wish to enforce your consumer rights or else the service provider is entitled to simply ignore you.

Please visit our website at or send us an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will respond within 48 hours.

The Legal Advice Office Team.


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Legal Advice Office

South Africa

Kandelaar Street, Vermont, Hermanus
Phone: +27 (0) 82 093 2304