The CPA sets out the rules that service providers need to follow, explains Jana Van Zyl of consumer law experts Robertson Teuteberg Kirk.
The Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (CPA) defines service to mean “any work or undertaking performed by one person for the direct or indirect benefit of another … irrespective of whether the person promoting, offering or providing the services participates in, supervises or engages directly or indirectly in the service”.For the purposes of the CPA, a service provider is a person who promotes, supplies or offers to supply any service.
In terms of section 54 of the CPA, a consumer has the right to demand and receive quality service. The CPA sets out the rules that the service provider needs to follow when providing a service, for example the repair of a motor vehicle. Firstly, the service centre must perform and complete the work on time, i.e. within the time frame agreed with the consumer. If there is an unavoidable delay that will result in it being completed later than originally anticipated, the service provider must notify the consumer of the delay timeously.
Secondly, the CPA stipulates that a service provider needs to perform the work in a manner and to a quality that a consumer is generally entitled to expect. The CPA goes further to say that if the service provider makes use of goods (for example, new parts being fitted into the vehicle) then the goods must be free of defects and of a quality persons would generally be entitled to expect. The property (meaning the vehicle) must also be returned in at least the same condition as it was when the vehicle was delivered – considering any specific criteria or conditions agreed between the service provider and consumer.
The CPA aims to ensure that when a consumer has an item repaired, or when maintenance is being carried out on a vehicle, it is done with care. The CPA accordingly creates a warranty on the parts used in the repair or maintenance of goods belonging to the consumer. The CPA also goes further and extends the warranty to the actual installation of the part.
So what is the warranty period? In terms of the CPA an automatic minimum three-month warranty period runs concurrently with any other warranty and covers all parts installed by the service provider as well as all labour relating to the installation of the parts. Consumers must note that there are instances when the three-month warranty will not apply. These include fair wear and tear, consumer misuse or abuse of the item repaired, and if the goods have been altered contrary to instructions.
The CPA also stipulates that if a service provider removes any parts or material from any goods when performing a service, they must store the removed parts and materials separately from that of other peoples’ and return the removed parts and materials to the consumer in a reasonably clean container. This does not apply where the consumer has specified that they do not want the parts or materials, or where the parts were replaced as part of an insurance claim or in terms of a warranty claim.
In conclusion, the CPA makes it clear that if the service provider does not adhere to the requirements as dealt with above, then the consumer may request that the defect be remedied in terms of the quality of services, or goods supplied, or both. Alternatively, the consumer may demand that the service provider pays a reasonable portion of the price for the goods and services. It is also important to understand that the usual common law rights of consumers have not fallen away. A consumer can still sue a service provider for any damages suffered as a result of a defective service in terms of South Africa’s law of delict. An example of this may include towing costs where the consumer had a breakdown as a result of a defective service.
Contact Jana van Zyl on 021-671-5423 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.