THE DIFFICULTIES IN RELOCATING A CHILD OF DIVORCED PARENTS

I have divorced my husband and I am now the primary caregiver of our minor child. I received a job offer in another country and I would really like to accept it. My ex-husband and father of my minor child won’t consent to the relocation of our minor child. Will I get permission from the court to relocate?

In the case of relocation disputes where the primary caregiver wants to relocate, there are certain factors the court considers before granting the relocation. These factors are listed in Section 7 of the Children’s Act.

As one can imagine, family law and divorces are difficult topics; especially when minor children are involved. In the event the parties separate, the minor children will need to be in the primary care of one parent and the other parent will have rights and responsibilities in respect of the minor child but does not necessarily have to live with the child.

The issue that arises in situations as outlined above is where the primary care-giver wants to relocate to another country and the other parent won’t give consent (hereafter “the disputing party”). The difficult part of disputes relating to relocation is that there are numerous competing rights. The Children’s Act (“the Act”) regulates and makes provision for those rights.

In order to have a full understanding of the issues that arise here, a breakdown of the various rights should be discussed. Firstly, the right to freedom of movement and association of the primary caregiver may become a problem. Secondly, the rights of the opposing parent to be in contact with the minor child. Lastly, the rights of the minor child are restricted, i.e. the right of the child to maintain personal relations and direct contact with his parents.  The infringement of these rights can, by their very nature, turn into a dispute.

Where the dispute cannot be resolved between the parties through negotiation, the parties would rather opt for mediation than litigation. The reason for choosing the former is because of the nature of the dispute – it is a family matter and there are minor children involved. Litigation is a more strenuous route of dispute resolution, thus not the most suitable given the circumstances.

Where the court is tasked with making a ruling in a relocation dispute, there are certain factors the court considers. Section 7 of the Act sets out a list of these factors.

If the parties are divorced, the court will consider whether there is a court order in existence prohibiting the removal of the child from the court’s jurisdiction. In some case, the parties agree in their settlement agreement to never remove the minor children from the Republic of South Africa.

In the event the court has to consider the right to contact with the minor child, the court looks at the meaning of the word “contact” as used in the Children’s Act. It is important to keep in mind that “contact” does not only mean the physical seeing of each other in flesh, but also communications via laptop and/or cell phone. This form of contact is easier to make use of in our era.

The court will consider the reason for the relocation as a factor in these matters. The reason for this consideration is because the best interest of the child is of utmost importance. If the reason for relocation is, for example, to contribute to the child’s education or safety (something that would be considered positive), the court is likely to be more pleased.

The court will also consider the relationship the child has with the parents. If the opposing parent has a great relationship with the minor child and sees the child every alternate weekend or holiday and will now only be able to email the child- the court will have to consider this and the possible influence the absence of the opposing party would have on the minor child, if relocation is granted.

This will also become clearer when the court considers the choice of the minor to relocate or not.

The court also considers the stability factor. This includes the court considering the life outside the home of the minor. It is important to know whether the child is happy where he/she is, how well the child does at school, whether he/she has family members living nearby and whether he/she visits on a regular basis.

As with the conflicting rights of the parties, the court kept the best interest of the child in mind, whilst considering the abovementioned factors. The court in the AC v KC case also applied the “reasonable person’s test” and the court held that “one must think oneself into the shoes of the proverbial bonus paterfamilias or the reasonable man”. Even though the reasonable person test was used in AC v KC, the best interest of the child is the most important factor.

Reference list:

  • Children’s Act 38 of 2005
  • A.C. v K.C. (A 389/08) [2008] ZAGPHC 369
  • Jackson v Jackson (18/2001) [2001] ZASCA 139

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

CAN TRUSTEES BAN YOUR PET IN A SECTIONAL TITLE SCHEME?

Problems around the ownership of pets are common amongst owners of sectional title properties, but while laws may be imposed by the trustees of the homeowners’ associations, the requirement for a reasonable approach is entrenched in the very laws which govern how a sectional title scheme should be managed.

Where the trustees have reasonably, after following due process and considering all relevant factors, withdrawn their consent to keep a pet, the owner concerned is then not entitled to continue keeping that pet in the scheme.

This is according to the Prescribed conduct rule 1 in Annexure 9 of the Sectional Titles Regulations which deals with the keeping of pets, including reptiles or birds.

It states:

“1. (1) An owner or occupier of a section shall not, without the consent in writing of the trustees, which approval may not unreasonably be withheld, keep any animal, reptile or bird in a section or on the common property.

(2) When granting such approval, the trustees may prescribe any reasonable condition.”

The phrases, “may not unreasonably” and “may prescribe any reasonable”, clearly seek to assist in the creation of harmony amongst a community living side by side in a sectional title development.

These regulations exist to protect the pet owner from unreasonably strict rules, and equally, they must confer on the other owners the right to a nuisance-free and peaceful environment. This means that both parties need to consider each other’s needs.

This consideration, in granting or refusing consent, will be central to inquiry: will it unreasonably interfere with other’s rights to use and enjoy their units; and which conditions would be appropriate in these circumstances to ensure that the risk of nuisance is reduced to a reasonable level?

For this reason, owners or occupiers can only keep pets in a section or on any part of the common property with the written consent of the trustees. However, the trustees cannot unreasonably withhold that permission. An absolute prohibition to keep a pet could be considered unreasonable and if consent to keep a pet is unreasonably withheld, the owner can take the matter to court.

The trustees must furthermore, base their decision on the facts and circumstances of the particular case. The decision to either grant or refuse consent should be recorded in the minutes of the trustee’s meeting, giving reasons that illustrate they have applied their minds to the particular set of facts.

An example of a court case which arose from a dispute regarding permission to keep a pet in a sectional title development was Body Corporate of The Laguna Ridge Scheme No 152/1987 v Dorse 1999 (2) SA 512 (D), in which it was held that the trustees are obliged to individually consider each request for permission to keep a pet, and to base their decision on the facts and circumstances of each particular case.

A further extract from this case pointed out that trustees are not entitled to refuse an application on the basis that they are afraid of creating a precedent. The trustees were, in this case, found to have been grossly unreasonable and have failed to apply their minds when they refused the Applicant permission to keep a small dog.

The question of the reasonableness of the actions of the trustees, in granting or withholding permission and setting conditions, will turn on the nature of the pet concerned and the circumstances of the scheme. In dealing with any application for permission to keep a pet, the trustees should consider what type of pet it is, and whether there are already other similar pets at the scheme.

It is unlikely that any action by the trustees to remove a ‘companion animal’ or ‘service animal’, such as a guide dog owned by a blind or partially sighted owner, would be held to be reasonable in the absence of a clear nuisance caused by the animal. The fact that a person sometimes forms an extremely strong emotional tie with their pet could also be an important consideration when the trustees decide whether or not to grant permission.

The trustees are not, however, powerless in situations where the conditions of permission to keep a pet are not being met. The trustees can withdraw permission if it is reasonable to do so. Examples include if the pet is causing a nuisance to other owners or occupiers (e.g. barking persistently), or the pet is considered dangerous to other owners or occupiers.

Where the trustees have reasonably, after following due process, withdrawn their consent to keep a pet, the owner concerned is then not entitled to continue keeping that pet in the scheme. However, the enforcement of this could be tricky for the trustees. The body corporate is not entitled to forcibly remove a pet from an owner’s possession. This can only be achieved by a court order, if – for example – there are too many dogs being kept in an inadequate space, the trustees can get the assistance from the local SPCA who can be contacted to come to the scheme to do an inspection in loco. If it is justified, they will implement the necessary legal steps to have the dogs removed.

Careful consideration and the application of the principles as set out in the rules of the scheme and the above-mentioned regulations will lead not only to peaceful co-existence, but also healthy growth in property values for the developments implementing such approach. A harmonious board of trustees results in a happy community, which in turn will ensure a good name for any development.

Reference List:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

GEARING UP FOR POPI COMPLIANCE

The Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act will soon be tabled in parliament. The POPI Act outlines how companies may collect, handle, store and discard the personal information of others. The new regulations come with heavy penalties for those that fail to comply. POPI can only commence once the Information Regulator is operational. Once the commencement date of the Act is announced, which could be later this year, organisations will have 12 months to comply with the Act.

Who is the Information Regulator?

The Information Regulator is a new regulator that was created by the POPI Act. POPI gives the Information Regulator the power to investigate and fine responsible parties. The Information Regulator will also be able to accept complaints and act on those complaints.

Does POPI apply to me or my business?

POPI applies to every South African based public and/or private body who, either alone, or in conjunction with others, determines the purpose of or means for processing personal information in South Africa.

There are cases where POPI does not apply. Exclusions include:

  1. purely household or personal activities.
  2. sufficiently de-identified information.
  3. some state functions including criminal prosecutions, national security etc.
  4. journalism under a code of ethics.
  5. judiciary functions etc.

What is Personal Information?

Personal Information means any information relating to an identifiable, living natural person or juristic person (companies, CC’s etc.) and includes, but is not limited to:

  1. contact details: email, telephone, address etc.
  2. demographic information: age, sex, race, birth date, ethnicity etc.
  3. history: employment, financial, educational, criminal, medical history
  4. biometric information: blood type etc.
  5. opinions of and about the person
  6. private correspondence etc.

How to comply with POPI

Non-compliance with the Act could expose you to a penalty of a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months. In certain cases, the penalty for non-compliance could be a fine and/or imprisonment of up 10 years.

  1. Only collect information that you need for a specific purpose.
  2. Apply reasonable security measures to protect it.
  3. Ensure it is relevant and up to date.
  4. Only hold as much as you need, and only for as long as you need it.
  5. Allow the subject of the information to see it upon request.

Conclusion

While the purpose of the POPI Act is to ensure that all South African institutions conduct themselves in a responsible manner when collecting, processing, storing and sharing another person’s personal information, one could argue that this should be seen as complementary to digital ethics’ practices companies should already have started putting in place. Either way, POPI is coming and companies should start gearing themselves up before being caught out.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

BAIL IN SOUTH AFRICA

In any court case when a person is arrested, the accused person remains to be presumed not guilty until the court finds such person guilty.  In our law no one may be detained without trial. If an accused is arrested, he or she is normally kept in prison or the police cells till the trial is finalised to ensure the presence of the accused at court.

If the person wishes not to be imprisoned pending the finalisation of the trial, he or she may apply to the court to be released on warning or on warning with some conditions attached or on bail (with or without conditions).  Bail is the sum of money paid to the court or to the police. Bail is granted more readily when the accused is not a flight risk and can easily be found by law enforcement agencies. There is usually bail conditions set by the presiding officer that the accused must comply with.

What information should be obtained from the accused once s/he has been arrested?

  • When was the accused arrested?
  • What was the accused arrested for?
  • Where is the accused being detained?
  • What is the case number?
  • Who is the investigating officer?
  • What is the personal information of the accused, such as his/her name, surname, residential address, identity number, place of work, marital status, number of children, and next of kin?

Where can a person apply for bail?

The accused or his/her legal representative can apply for bail at the police station before the accused’s first court appearance, or at court.

What should a person do if bail is granted at the police station?

  • The amount set by the police official should be paid and the accused will be released from custody.
  • The police official will give a receipt and notice indicating the alleged criminal offence together with the date and time the accused should appear at court.

If the prosecution does not oppose the granting of bail, it does not automatically mean the court will grant bail. The court still has a duty to weigh up the personal interests of the accused against the interests of justice.

It is important to note that any person who has been released on bail and who does not, without good cause, appear at court on the due date, remain in attendance until the proceedings are complete, or who fails to comply with bail requirements, is guilty of an offence and will be liable to a fine or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year.

Reference:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

IMPORTANT STEPS FOR THE TRANSFER OF PROPERTY

The transfer process can take up to three-months, sometimes longer. There are different steps involved in the transfer of a property, these include:

  1. Instruction.

A conveyancer receives the instruction to transfer the property.

  1. Communication.

The conveyancer communicates with the various role-players involved in the transfer process, such as the seller, purchaser, transfer and bond attorneys, municipality, bank, South African Revenue Service (SARS).

  1. Collection.

Certain information and documents are required, such as the agreement of sale, deeds office search, existing deed, bond cancellation figures from the bank and so on. The conveyancer should continuously report to the various role-players about the progress being made.

  1. Drafting and signing.

As soon as all the information and documents have been collected, the conveyancer will draft the transfer documents and request the seller and purchaser to sign them. These transfer documents will include a power of attorney and various affidavits.

  1. Finances.

Financial arrangements include requesting an advance payment for the conveyancer’s interim account for certain expenses, requesting the bank guarantee, collecting the purchase price or deposit and so on.

  1. Transfer duty.

Obtaining a transfer duty receipt from SARS, confirming that the tax relating to the transfer of the property has been paid by the purchaser.

  1. Clearance certificate.

Obtaining a clearance certificate from the municipality, confirming that all amounts in respect of property have been paid for the last two years.

  1. Prep.

The conveyancer prepares for lodgement (submission) of the deed of transfer and other documents necessary for registration at the deeds office.

  1. Registration.

Once the deed of transfer and other documents have been lodged it, takes the deeds office about 7 – 10 working days to examine these documents. If the deeds office is satisfied that the requirement for the transfer of property has been met, the deed of property is registered. The conveyancer will notify the various role-players of the registration.

  1. Accounts.

Once registered, the conveyancer makes the necessary calculations and payments relating to the sale, for example, the estate agent’s commission, purchase price and so on. The conveyancer’s final account is also drawn up and sent to the purchaser and the seller for payment.

Having an experienced and expert conveyancer is extremely important to ensure that the transfer of property takes place quickly and efficiently.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

I’M A WITNESS IN A COURT CASE: WHAT MUST I DO?

You might have seen something that you did not intend to see or you have decided that you want to be of help to someone. Either way, being a court witness is essential for many cases. It helps the court reach a fair verdict. Without witnesses, many cases may struggle to reach a fair verdict, or not reach one at all.

What do you need to do as a witness?

Firstly, you have to appear in court in person. These are some general guidelines if you’re a witness:

  1. You should arrive at court half an hour before the proceedings start.
  2. Inform the public prosecutor immediately that you’re there.
  3. Request the public prosecutor to read through your statement.
  4. Inform the prosecutor if anything important is not contained in your statement.
  5. Wait patiently outside.
  6. Stay until you are excused by the prosecutor or the magistrate.

Remember that as a witness you are not allowed to attend the court case in which you will be testifying. You should also not discuss the case with any other witness.

What happens in the court?

Before you testify you will be required to take an oath, which means affirming that your testimony will be truthful. After that, the following should be kept in mind when in court:

  1. You will be questioned by the public prosecutor.
  2. You may only address the court.
  3. The correct form of address in a lower court is: “Your Worship” and “My Lord” in higher courts.
  4. You may only testify on aspects within your knowledge and will be guided by the prosecutor.
  5. Evidence related to you by someone else is inadmissible.
  6. You may also be questioned by the accused or his legal representative.
  7. You must listen carefully and address your answers to the court.
  8. Do not argue with the court, the lawyer or the prosecutor.
  9. The court may also want to question you.

The accused in the court case may plead guilty, which means the court could pronounce a judgment without hearing any evidence from witnesses. If so, the public prosecutor will inform you that you don’t have to testify.

If you’re a witness it’s not necessary to be scared about something happening to you. You can get protection from any intimidation that you may experience. The presiding officer in the court will also make sure that you’re not intimidated. You’re there to help and will be treated as such.

Reference:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

ARE FATHERS ENTITLED TO PATERNAL LEAVE?

Fathers could spend up to two weeks with their newborn babies, while adoptive parents and parents-to-be via surrogacy, could get up to 10 weeks of leave. This is due to the latest Labour Laws Amendment Bill 2017 (“amendment bill”), which was passed by the National Assembly in November 2017.

The current labour legislation provides that fathers who want to stay home with their newborn babies have to take family responsibility leave, which is limited to three days per annual cycle, or they must take their own annual leave for this purpose. They are only entitled to family responsibility leave once they have been employed for four months and work for at least four days a week. The current law also makes no provision for paternity leave for adoption parents or fathers-to-be via surrogacy. A mother is entitled to unpaid maternity leave of up to four months and she may also claim from UIF for 17-weeks during this period.

The position regarding paternal leave has, however, drastically changed since the end of last year. On 28 November 2017, the National Assembly passed the Labour Laws Amendment Bill. The amendment bill regulates the rights of fathers in taking paternal leave when their child is born. In terms of the amendment bill, fathers will be entitled to 10 days paternal leave on the birth of a child. In addition, the amendment bill provides for 10 weeks adoption leave for one parent when adopting a child under the age of two and ten weeks “commissioning parent leave” when an employee’s child is born by means of a surrogacy arrangement. The amendment bill also increases unemployment insurance benefits from 238 days to 365 days and increases maternity benefits to 66% of the earnings of the employee at the date of the application for unemployment insurance benefits.

Five things you need to know about the amendment bill:

  1. Fathers’ paternity leave could be up to two weeks

An employee who is a parent and not entitled to maternity leave, will now be entitled to 10 consecutive working days parental leave when that employee’s child is born. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (BCEA) still provides that mothers are entitled to take maternity leave for up to four months.

  1. A father must have his name on the child’s birth certificate to qualify

Fathers must have their names on the newborn child’s birth certificate in order to apply for paternal leave. The purpose for this is to prevent dishonesty and ensure that the amendment bill cannot be used and abused.

  1. Adoptive parents and parents via surrogacy could get up to 10 weeks of parental leave

An employee who is an adoptive parent of a child less than two years old, is entitled to adoption leave of ten weeks consecutively. In the case of two adoptive parents, one of the employees is entitled to adoption leave and the other to parental leave. The same provision applies for parents-to-be via surrogacy.

  1. Family responsibility leave falls away

The father of a newborn may take three days family responsibility leave in terms of the BCEA –– but under the amendment bill, this no longer applies.

  1. The amendment bill might come into effect by June 2018

The amendment bill will be referred to the National Council of Provinces and if passed, will be submitted to the president for assent. This new amendment bill will bring South Africa in line with other countries, many of which offer between one to four weeks’ paternity leave.

Reference List:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

SOCIAL MEDIA: WHAT LINE CAN’T I CROSS AS AN EMPLOYEE?

There are cases of employees posting sensitive or disrespectful information and messages about their employers online. This might seem like an innocent joke with the people on your social media feed, however, the backlash is far more serious than that. The conduct of employees on social media platforms is also more frequently exposing employers to the risk of vicarious liability and brand damage.

In considering the risks to employers (and their employees), it is necessary to keep in mind:

  1. the impact of social media on the Constitutional rights to dignity, privacy and freedom of expression;
  2. the risks that defamatory or harassing statements may result in vicarious liability for employers;
  3. the risk of work place harassment and cyber-bullying and the impact of this conduct on the work environment; and
  4. what conduct may justify disciplinary action and even dismissal.

What if an employee posts something negative about their employers?

An employer does have recourse against employees whose social media blunders cause brand damage, or result in the disclosure of confidential information or vicarious liability. The CCMA has accepted that certain conduct on social media may warrant disciplinary action. However, the ordinary principles of fairness and equity apply. When investigating such conduct, care must be taken not to unlawfully infringe rights to privacy and the provisions of the Regulation of Interception of Electronic Communications Act.

In the case of Beaurain v Martin NO & others (2014), Mr Beaurain, was employed by Groote Schuur Hospital. During his employment, he raised various complaints regarding health issues at the hospital. Each complaint was investigated and he was informed that the complaints were without merit. Getting no joy from the hospital, Mr Beaurain started posting his complaints on Facebook. Eventually, the head of Mr Beaurain’s department addressed a letter to him to inform him that he was to stop posting his claims pertaining to health risks at the hospital, on social media. Mr Beaurain did not heed this instruction. This resulted in another letter in which was given a final warning to stop the conduct.

After an angered Facebook post where he attacked the state of the hospital, he was charged with gross insubordination and dismissed. Mr Beaurain referred a dispute to the Labour Court. His dismissal was found to be fair.

Conclusion

Not all comments on social media that are critical of an employer will warrant dismissal. For example, if the post constitutes conduct in alignment with a protected strike or amounts to a protected disclosure, dismissal is not allowed. However, employees should be careful not to post information regarding their employers that could put the brand name in jeopardy or reveal confidential company information.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

EMAIL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM? GET IT BEFORE IT GETS YOU

If your company uses emails to communicate with clients, then it’s not enough to just rely on traditional ways of managing email, such as backing up emails periodically. There needs to be a well-equipped email management system in place that will keep your business safe.

The key point that relates to the heavy use of email, is the maintenance of the integrity of the email, and being able to prove that integrity. Unfortunately, you can’t simply do nothing and leave your email system as is and hope for the best. Firstly, it is important to understand the legal requirements. This includes the Electronic Communications and Transaction Act, 2002, or the ECT Act.

The ECT Act provides that information is not without legal force and effect simply because it is in electronic form. These are some of the rules set out by the ECT Act regarding electronic communications.

  1. An electronic document must be captured, retained and retrievable.
  2. Electronic documents must be accessible so as to be useable for subsequent reference, this includes the origin, destination, date and time it was sent or received.
  3. If a signature is required, it must be accompanied by an authentication service.

So what should you do?

All companies who wish to comply with the regulations should implement an effective email management system. The core requirements of a good email management system are as follows:

  1. The ability to monitor and intercept email;
  2. Effective capturing of all email;
  3. Cost effective storage of all email and efficient discarding of email that has lost its business value or is no longer required for legal or regulatory or compliance;
  4. Efficient and cost effective restoration of email;
  5. The ability to maintain the integrity of email and the contents thereof; and
  6. The ability to audit email use in order to be able to prove integrity.

Although it seems like a trivial matter, it is worthwhile to implement an email management system in your company. It will help protect your business in the event that you need a record of communication due to an incident or contract dispute. New regulations introduced by POPI will also make this a necessary part of how your company handles information.

Reference:

  • The Electronic Communications and Transaction Act, 2002

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

I BOUGHT SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T WORK

Sarah buys furniture from Mark who promised her that the furniture is of good quality. However, he doesn’t notify her about problems with the furniture. Later, Sarah discovers that some of the chairs she bought have faulty joints, meaning they can’t be used properly. This is what’s called a latent defect and Sarah will be able to claim from Mark for the furniture not fulfilling its purpose.

A patent defect or a latent defect?

A patent defect is when there’s a problem with a purchased item but it was clearly visible and obvious to the buyer when the contract was signed. If the furniture that Sarah bought had a patent defect, such as a chair leg missing, it would be assumed that she knew about it and the law would not protect her.

NOTE: A defect is something that makes the product less useful or completely useless. A product not looking as good as you thought is not a defect. A piece of furniture with a stain on it can still be used normally. If the product has broken or missing parts, meaning it can’t be used properly, it’s a defect.

If the product you bought has a defect affecting its usability and purpose, then the seller is liable and you as the buyer can claim from them. You should also take into account if the contract had a “voetstoots” clause, meaning that you are buying a product based on its appearance or “as is”. If this is the case the seller would not be held accountable for any defects with the product, latent or patent.

What can I get back from the seller?

If the product you bought has a latent defect you can get a price reduction or a refund for the price you paid. A price reduction is the difference between the price you paid and the true value of the product. A full refund includes the price you paid, interest, maintenance costs and the cost of receiving the product. A full refund would also mean that you need to return the product that you got under the contract.

If a defect has caused you harm or damaged your property, for instance, you could possibly also claim this amount as compensation from the seller.

Who is a trader and who is a seller?

It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a difference between someone who is a trader and a seller. A trader is someone who makes a living from selling products, whereas a seller is an ordinary person like Mark in the example above. A trader who specialises in particular products and boasts having a specialized knowledge is held to a higher standard than an ordinary seller.

Sales talk or latent defect

It’s normal for sellers or traders to do the best to sell their product. This usually means “sales talk” or boasting about the products value and usefulness. They are allowed to do this, however, if they make statements about the product that turn out to be false, such as claiming the product can do something that it actually can’t, the law will be in your favour and protect you in the same way as a latent defect.

Before you agree to buy anything from a seller or a trader make sure you inspect the product first and make note of any defects there might be. If you neglect to inspect the product it could be more difficult for you to get compensation from the seller if there is a problem in the future.

Reference

  • “What you should know about Contracts”. 2009. The Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector. Department of Economic Development and Tourism. Accessed from: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/ on 13/05/2016.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)