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Navigating Consumer Rights and Protections in Zimbabwe.



By Rutendo Sarah Gukwa


As a consumer in Zimbabwe, understanding your rights is crucial for navigating the complex world of business transactions. Consumers are often exposed to exploitive tendencies by manufacturers and service providers because of the general ignorance of their inherent rights.[1] This article aims to simply equip you with essential knowledge regarding your rights when dealing with businesses, specifically focusing on returns, warranties as well as data privacy.


Understanding Your Rights

The primary legislation governing consumer rights in Zimbabwe is the Consumer Protection Act [Chapter 14:44] (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”). This Act outlines various rights and responsibilities for both consumers and suppliers, seeking to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive practices. Additionally, specific regulations and guidelines issued by various regulatory bodies such as the Competition and Tariff Commission (CTC) - which safeguards fair competition, prevents monopolies and promotes local businesses in Zimbabwe's economy - plus the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), further address specific industry practices.

 

Know Your Options

i.                    Returns and Refunds

Returning unwanted or faulty goods can be a frustrating experience. However, the Act empowers you with the right to return unwanted goods within seven days of delivery. This applies to most goods, except for goods threatening public health policy or those permanently altered. A return ought to be met with a reciprocal refund in cases where the product is fully intact.[2] Additionally, as a consumer, you have the right to receive a replacement for faulty goods. If the goods are defective within the return period, you have the right to a repair, replacement or refund.[3]

In quest for your return and refund, it is of utmost importance to remember to always keep your receipt or any other proof of purchase to facilitate returns and claims. Additionally, be wary of inspection periods. Businesses may have a reasonable inspection period to assess the condition of returned goods before accepting them. And as common sense suggests, handle the goods carefully and avoid permanent modifications in order to return them.

 

ii.                  Warranties and Guarantees

Warranties provide a guarantee of product quality and performance for a specific period. The Act provides an implied warranty period of six months which every supplier ought to abide by.  Suppliers and service providers are also granted leave to provide and specify the warranty period on their products.[4] It now becomes the consumer’s responsibility to read the warranty carefully and understand the terms and conditions, including limitations. Just as required upon a return, keep your warranty documents. These documents are crucial for claiming warranty benefits. Lastly, notify the supplier of any defects within a reasonable timeframe.


iii.                Data Privacy and Protecting Your Personal Information

With the increasing digitization of businesses, protecting your personal information is critical. The Act as read with the Data Protection and Privacy Act, grants numerous rights. These include; the right to access your personal data, meaning that you have the right to request and obtain a copy of your personal data held by a business. Additionally, if your personal data is incorrect or incomplete, you can request its correction. The Act provides further right to object to the processing of your personal data in certain circumstances. Finally, the right to withdraw your consent to the processing of your personal data at any time is also embedded within the Acts.[5]


It is imperative to note that businesses should obtain your informed consent before collecting and processing your personal data. Your data should never be leaked as businesses have a responsibility to ensure the security of your personal data.


Seeking Help and Redress

If you encounter any challenges enforcing your consumer rights, several avenues are available for assistance, starting with The Consumer Protection Commission (CPC). The CPC is the primary body established under the Consumer Protection Act to champion consumer rights. This Commission investigates complaints and can take action against businesses violating consumer rights.[6] You can lodge a complaint online via their website[7] or physically at their offices[8], detailing the specific violation and desired outcome. The CPC can investigate your complaint, mediate between you and the business and take legal action if necessary. It is crucial to emphasise that the CPC’s capacity and timelines for resolving complaints can vary depending on the complexity of the case, that is why other options are available for redress.


Another avenue would be civil litigation. This involves taking the business to court through a lawyer to seek compensation or other legal remedies. It is by far the quickest way of resolving any issue. Civil litigation is one of the easier routes in seeking relief as hiring a qualified lawyer takes the burden of legal complexities off your shoulders. Consider Gambe Law Group, whose lawyers specialise in protecting consumer rights.


Consumer protection in Zimbabwe is an ongoing journey. While laws and regulations provide a strong foundation, continued awareness and advocacy is essential. Consumers ought to remain vigilant in building a consumer culture where fairness and respect for the individual remain at the forefront. It is worth remembering that consumer protection rights do not enforce themselves. If you believe your rights have been violated, do not hesitate to speak up and seek assistance from the relevant authorities. By taking action, you contribute to a fairer and more transparent market for all Zimbabweans.

 

Written by Rutendo Sarah Gukwa

-Intern at Gambe Law Group

LLB Candidate


 


[1] Manase, A. J., & Madhuku, L. A Handbook on Commercial Law in Zimbabwe. (1996)

[2] Section 18(3) as read with Section 34 of the Consumer Protection Act

[3] Section 11 of the Consumer Protection Act

[4] Section 51 of the Act

[5] Section 48 of the Act

[6] Part II of the Act

[8]MIPF Building, 17 J. Chinamano Ave, Harare

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