Judicial Guidance on the Application of Section 49 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2008 – Van Wyk t/a Skydive Mossel Bay v UPS SCS South Africa (Pty) Ltd  1 All SA 857 (WCC)
Keywords:Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (CPA), disclaimers, consumer contracts, exemption clause
In South Africa, the legislature’s response to the negative consequences resulting from the pervasive use of disclaimers by suppliers has been to regulate the use of these terms through the enactment of a number of provisions in the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (CPA), including sections 48, 49 and 51. A number of publications have considered the meaning of these provisions and the impact they may have on the use of disclaimers in consumer contracts. As a consequence of the widespread use of disclaimers and the adverse consequences they may hold for consumers, any judicial pronouncement on the impact of the CPA on these clauses is significant. In Van Wyk t/a Skydive Mossel Bay v UPS SCS South Africa ( 1 All SA 857 (WCC) (Skydive v UPS)), the Western Cape High Court was afforded the opportunity to consider the impact of aspects of section 49 specifically on the use of a clause in a consumer agreement excluding the risk or liability of suppliers (referred to as an “exemption clause” in this note).
Section 49 of the CPA applies to four distinct types of clause enumerated in section 49(1) – namely, clauses limiting the risk or liability of suppliers in respect of any other person; clauses constituting an assumption of risk or liability by the consumer; clauses imposing an obligation on the consumer to indemnify the supplier for any cause; and clauses requiring a consumer to acknowledge a particular fact. As indicated, in Skydive v UPS, the contentious clause was one excluding the risk or liability of the supplier. The focus of this note then is on the interpretation and application by the court in Skydive v UPS of the relevant provisions of section 49 of the CPA to an exemption clause.