Clients of Mc Naught and Company will know that our legal contracts, wills and documents have always been written in plain simple and easy-to-understand language. This was one of my priorities as a newly-qualified attorney... taking contracts, tearing them apart and reducing them to simpler wording.
The good news is that the Government have recognised this need and it is now law that all legal contracts should be written so that the average South African will be able to understand them. The Consumer Protection Act which recently came into effect provides in Section 22, and the National Credit Act provides in Section 64, for documents to be written so that persons with average literacy skills and minimal experience as a consumer could be expected to understand them.
The new Companies Act also has similar provisions and requires plain language to be used in documents.
Consumers who are upset with contracts that are difficult to understand can complain to the relevant Ombudsman appointed for this purpose and it is intended to stop misleading or deceptive business practices. Fines can be imposed along with other appropriate decisions. The consumer may be entitled to cancel the offending contract or have it set aside by the courts. The court may also make any order it deems just, give money or property back to the consumer, compensate the consumer for any loss and cancel or alter the terms of the contract in favour of the consumer.
So there you have it! Consumers are being looked after.