South Africa


  • Service: Tax, Corporate Law Advisory
  • Type: Business and industry issue
  • Date: 2010/09/13

Corporate Law Advisory Services

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KPMG’s corporate law practice offers services in all areas of corporate law, including mergers and acquisitions, cross-border transactions, structuring of business entities, joint ventures and group rationalisations.

The Consumer Protection Act - Aspects of the Right to Choose 

This article highlights some of the practical implications of the customer’s right to return goods which forms part of the consumer’s broader right to choose.

The consumer’s right to return goods


The consumer has the right to return goods to a supplier and receive a full refund (less any permitted charge), within 10 business days after delivery of the goods, in the following circumstances:

  1. Where the supplier has delivered goods to a consumer arising from direct marketing and the consumer has cancelled the agreement during the cooling-off period
  2. Where the consumer has not had an opportunity to examine the goods as they were purchased solely on the basis of a description and/or sample, and the consumer has rejected the goods because the goods did not correspond with the description and/or sample (for example, mail-order products)
  3. Where the supplier has, in addition, to the goods purchased by the consumer also delivered goods that the consumer did not ask for and the consumer has rejected the unwanted goods or both
  4. Where the goods delivered are found by the consumer to be unsuitable for a particular purpose.

A supplier is entitled to refuse to accept the return of goods, in the following circumstances:


  • if the return of those goods is prohibited by public regulation for reasons of public health
  • the consumer has, in relation to the goods, partially or entirely disassembled, physically altered, permanently installed, affixed, attached, joined or added to, blended or combined with, or embedded within, other goods or property.


If the goods are in their original condition and repackaged in their original packaging (i.e. but have been opened for example), the supplier may charge the consumer a reasonable amount for:


  • use of the goods during the time they were in the consumer’s possession
  • any consumption or depletion of the goods
  • necessary restoration costs to render the goods fit for re-stocking. The supplier will not be able to charge the consumer for restoration costs if it was necessary for the consumer to destroy the packaging to determine whether the goods:
    • conform to the description or sample provided (where the consumer has not had an opportunity to examine the goods)
    • were fit for the intended purpose.


Examples of practical implications


  1. This right of the consumer to return goods under the abovementioned circumstances is in addition to the consumer’s right to return goods that are unsafe or defective.
  2. As the consumer can return the goods within 10 business days after delivery, suppliers will need to ensure that their return policies are aligned with this requirement. For example, currently certain suppliers will only exchange electronic products if they are found to be defective and returned within a seven day period. If a fault is discovered after seven days of purchase, the consumer has no right to return the product and the product is sent in for repairs.