Can the Consumer Protection Act help you to get a refund? – by Galia Bloch

You have booked plane tickets, accommodation and events and now find yourself on lockdown, unable to travel anywhere but to your lounge.

Are you entitled to a refund in terms of the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2009 (“the Act”)?

When the Act was promulgated, it was not contemplated that we would find ourselves in the current situation involving Covid-19 virus and it does not take into account legislative confinement to one’s residence.

The section that deals with a Consumers right to cancel an advance reservation, booking  or order for any goods or services to be supplied, is Section 17 of the Act.

Section 17 of the Act provides that a supplier may impose a reasonable charge for cancellation subject to what is stated below.

A cancelation fee is unreasonable if it exceeds a fair amount in the circumstances, having regard to:-

  • the nature of the goods or services that were reserved or booked;
  • the length of the notice of cancellation provided by the consumer;
  • the reasonable potential for the service provider acting diligently to find an alternative consumer between the time of receiving the cancellation notice and the time of the cancellation of the reservation;  and
  • the general practice of the industry.

The only circumstances in which a supplier is not permitted to impose a cancellation fee in respect of a booking, reservation or order is if the consumer is unable to honour the booking, reservation or order because of the death or hospitalization of the person for whom or for whose benefit the booking, reservation or order was made.

If one has regard to the purpose of the Act which is to protect the consumer and the circumstances in which the consumer is excused from any penalty (“death or hospitalization”) it is my opinion that in the present circumstances a consumer would be entitled to a full refund.

I have not dealt with common law rights which may afford further protection.