Consumer, Advertising and Regulatory
We’ll help your business with the right regulatory protocols.
When it comes to pharmaceuticals, complementary medicines, nutritional supplements, food, cosmetics, agricultural products and liquor, Africa is home to diverse regulatory environments.
South Africa’s is particularly complex, and South African consumers enjoy strong rights of recourse.
For instance, consumer law ensures that importers, manufacturers, retailers, service providers, distributors, advertisers, and marketers uphold specific standards when dealing with consumers.
At Spoor & Fisher, we’ve seen how failure to observe proper regulatory and advertising protocols can impact negatively on a business.
Clients without access to the right advice and support may face a range of issues including incorrect labelling, negative publicity, social media pushback, complaints to the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB), objections from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), customs detainment, or even product recalls.
Our Consumer, Advertising and Regulatory team specialises in providing pre-clearance checks, advice and dispute resolution on packaging, labelling, advertising and other promotional materials, as well as advice and dispute resolution across various consumer product sectors.
The team has vast legal and technical knowledge and experience, spanning regulatory, scientific, and industrial environments, as well as many years of robust and meaningful engagement with the relevant Government departments and industry bodies.
What standards govern advertising in South Africa?
Advertising to consumers is regulated by various instruments of legislation, regulations and industry codes. Many intersect with and complement each other. The Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 establishes the consumer’s basic rights, which include the right not to be misled and not to be subjected to unfair terms in an agreement.
Various other acts and regulations regulate the advertising of specific products, such as wine, food and tobacco products, and services, such as banking, financial, medical and real estate services.
In addition, it is prudent for advertisers in South Africa to comply with the practice, ethics and standards set out in the Code of Advertising Practice of the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB). Complaints before the ARB can lead to negative publicity; many have even gone viral on social media platforms.
What standards govern the labelling of products in South Africa?
There are various regulations that determine the applicable standards for labelling products in South Africa.
For example, the labelling and packaging of foodstuffs must comply with the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act No. 54 of 1972 and its regulations and/or the Agricultural Products Standards Act 119 of 1990 and its regulations.
Different standards apply to products for children and infants, while still others apply to categories of products like rice, beans, maize, honey, sweeteners and frozen foods.
When it comes to pharmaceuticals, specific labelling requirements apply to different schedules of pharmaceuticals, and others to complementary medicines. The advertisement of certain medications is also limited or restricted.
It’s important to remember that the ARB Code can apply to product labelling too, as product packaging constitutes an “advertisement” under the ARB Code.
What procedures exist for complaining about an advertisement and what sanctions can be imposed for contraventions of advertising codes or laws?
It is important to know exactly which forum can hear which matter.
In respect of violations of the ARB Code, complaints can be filed directly with the ARB by consumers or competitors, and the ARB can impose sanctions and/or issue directives to its members calling for the withdrawal of the advertisement or packaging concerned.
In respect of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), the CPA has created various forums for complaints to be lodged. Such complaints can be lodged with the Consumer Tribunal, escalated to the Consumer Commission, and further escalated to the Consumer Court and the High Court.
There are also various ombudsmen, accredited in terms of the CPA, to hear complaints relating to specific industries; for example, The Consumer Goods and Services Ombud (CGSO), The Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa (MIOSA), and others.
Matters relating to unlawful competition are heard in the High Court.
What procedures exist for complaining about packaging and labelling and what sanctions can be imposed for non-compliance with regulatory and labelling provisions?
Meet the team
Eben van Wyk