The National Consumer Commission (NCC) is the primary regulator of consumer-business interaction in South Africa, and was created by government under the auspices of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), to ensure economic welfare of consumers. Consumers play a vital role in the growth of the economy and thus contribute to the national fiscus and the development of the country.

The NCC’s mere existence in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, Act 68 of 2008 which it administers, is to promote a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services, establish norms and standards relating to consumer protection, to provide for improved standards of consumer information, prohibit unfair marketing and business practices, promote responsible consumer behaviour, and to promote a consistent legislative and enforcement framework relating to consumer transactions and agreements. This simply means that the NCC registers and assesses complaints, investigates alleged misconduct by businesses, refers individual complaints to Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) agencies (ie, Provincial Consumer Affairs Authorities and relevant ombudsman schemes) for resolution, and represent consumers in the Consumer Tribunal amongst other things.

The Consumer Protection Act recognizes 8 fundamental consumer rights, in line with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, and United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection, which every consumer of goods and services is entitled to, regardless of the monetary value of a transaction or the significance of the commodity a consumer buys, even if it’s just a loaf of bread for daily use. Consumers have rights, any infringement of these rights is an act of non-compliance with the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act.

These rights in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, Act 68 of 2008 are:

  1. The right to equality:
  2. The right to privacy
  3. The right to choose
  4. The right to disclosure of information
  5. The right to fair and responsible marketing
  6. The right to a fair and honest dealing
  7. The right to fair, just and reasonable terms and conditions; and
  8. The right to safe and good quality goods

A consumer may approach the NCC for guidance or assistance with a dispute that cannot be amicably resolved. In the interests of getting quick and cost free redress, it is advisable to first raise a complaint with the business or provider of goods and services. The NCC provides its services free of charge to all consumers.