IN SEARCH OF PERFECTA: THE CONUNDRUM OF INCORRECTLY PRICED GOODS UNDER THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT 68 OF 2008
Keywords:contract regarded as perfecta, consumer protection, Consumer Protection Act
In spite of the sea change over the past sixty-odd years in the way we shop, from a personal interaction with the local shopkeeper to a cashierless self-checkout, and the billions of transactions that take place daily in stores and supermarkets around the world, there is a dearth of legal precedent regarding the legal mechanics of these transactions. This is particularly so as far as determining the very important practical issue of at what point the sale is perfecta (irrevocably concluded) is concerned. For example, a consumer receives a catalogue from a well-known store in which a flat screen television is advertized on special for R599. Well knowing that such television sets are normally sold for over R6000 the consumer rushes off to purchase a set only to be faced with a large sign which reads as follows: “Unfortunately the advertised price was incorrect, the correct price is R5 999. We apologise for the inconvenience.”
A slightly different scenario is where the consumer is only informed of this mistake after she has removed the television set from the shelf and taken it to the cashier who proceeds to ring up the price of R5 999. When the consumer points out that this is not the advertised price the cashier informs her that a mistake was made and that in fact R5 999 is the correct price. Is there a point in time when the supplier, despite a mistake, may be bound by the advertised price? (The purpose of this article is to consider the point in time when the contract is regarded as perfecta. The scenario set out above may also constitute bait-advertising. This is an issue which we intend to consider in our next article.) It is against this backdrop that we attempt to provide some guidance to those who are obliged to comply with the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, relating to displayed prices.
In doing so, we shall consider the extent to which the Roman-Dutch-based common law has been influenced by English Law in this area of consumer protection. Reference will be made to the principles of the common law regarding the formation of a contract (particularly the point at which the contract comes into effect), quasi consent and mistake as well as relevant foreign precedent. We shall then deal with the changes brought about by the CPA.
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