The ConsumerProtection Act 68 of 2008 and Parol Evidence

Keywords: Consumer, consumer protection, bargaining position, efficient redress, standard-form contract, parol evidence, Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008, Consumer Rights Act, 2015

Abstract

The conflict between the objectives of the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 – to protect consumers and ensure accessible and transparent redress – and the purpose of the parol evidence rule – to exclude extrinsic evidence and observe the maxim pact servanda sunt ‒ is evident and forms the basis of this article. The purpose of consumer protection legislation is to balance the rights of consumers and suppliers, to protect the interests of consumers and to ensure efficient redress for consumers who have been wronged. The parol evidence rule, which is still in effect in South Africa, prohibits extrinsic evidence in a dispute to interpret a written agreement between parties to ensure certainty on the terms and conditions agreed to in writing. In practice, the parol evidence rule can disadvantage consumers who enter into standard-form contracts, as they normally are in an inferior bargaining position and cannot negotiate the individual terms and conditions of consumer agreements. It is obvious that the strict enforcement of the parol evidence rule in consumer agreements could lead to unjust results in consumer disputes. The provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 are discussed to establish the extent of the limitation of the parol evidence rule therein. Then, the Consumer Rights Act, 2015 in the United Kingdom is considered to establish the tendency to limit the application of the rule in foreign consumer legislation, and to compare that to the position in South Africa. This article discusses whether the restriction or limitation of the parol evidence rule in the Consumer Protection Act is efficient in reaching the aims and objectives of the Act.

 

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Published
2021-07-05
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