Improved quality management, including traceability systems at farm level, will become increasingly important to assist producers in refuting any potential claims.A notice was issued by Trade and Industry minister Rob Davies on 23 September 2010 that the date on which the new Consumer Protection Act No. 68 of 2008 will come into force has been moved from 29 October 2010 to 31 March 2011.
But according to Cerkia Bramley, a researcher at the agricultural economics department at the University of Pretoria, although the effective date has been postponed, the product liability provisions would apply to goods that were supplied on or after 24 April 2010. Agricultural producers are therefore already at risk of being held liable for damage arising from their produce.
Bramley explained that the primary aim of the CPA was to regulate the manner in which businesses engaged with consumers. “Barring a few exceptions, the Act applies to all transactions within South Africa, including the marketing and supply of goods and services,” she said.According to Section 61 of the Act, product liability is introduced for producers, distributors and/or suppliers for damage caused by the supply of defective goods. Consumers will also be able to claim from any of these parties for any damage suffered. “This effectively shifts the burden of proof in product liability litigation from the consumer to the producers, distributors and suppliers of the product concerned,” said Bramley. – Denene Erasmus