Although the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) has been in force for several months, the jury is still out as to the impact it will have on the South African economy and on manufacturers and suppliers of goods and services generally.
For manufacturers of precast concrete products, director of the Concrete Manufacturers Association (CMA), Hamish Laing, observes that companies which adhere or manufacture to a certifiable standard are in a far better position to face any purchase disputes which may arise from the Act.
“Standards, especially those which originate from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), will play a far more meaningful role than has previously been the case, not only for precast concrete products but for any product or service. In fact the CPA makes it almost mandatory for any supplier of any product to carry an SABS mark or some other recognised quality certification, as those that don’t lay themselves open to the full force of the law in the event of a dispute.”
Laing says the CPA doesn’t only apply to the manufacturing process because, in addition to inherent product quality, the act also covers correct application.
“The onus is on the manufacturer to inform the customer on proper product application. In other words, manufacturers must inform their customers about the capabilities and limitations of their products.
“For example, if a concrete retaining block manufacturer sells to a nursery, he must inform the nursery management that blocks can only be used for walls up to 1.4m high; for higher walls an engineer must design the structure. And the nursery in turn must inform its customers. The same applies to other precast concrete products such as pipes, culverts, hollow-core slabs, concrete block pavers, concrete masonry and concrete roof tiles. In each instance the buyer must be informed about correct application.
“The CPA places considerable onus on the supplier to offer fair value in an honest and even-handed manner and it provides the consumer with a powerful mechanism to challenge those suppliers who don’t comply.
“The CMA welcomes the act because it weaves the whole process of standards into the country’s economic fabric and justifies the expense of carrying the SABS mark. One thing is certain, standards are going to play an increasingly important role in the years ahead and that can only be to the benefit of all consumers,” Laing concludes.