Mohamed Raees Hussain | Legal Advisor

 The growth of electronic commerce (“e-commerce”) which involves the buying of goods and services over an electronic network or platform has transformed the way consumers interact with businesses (“e-commerce service providers”) which gives rise to its own unique challenges requiring enhanced consumer protection.


This article aims to briefly explore some of the key legislation and legal considerations governing consumer rights in the context of e-commerce in South Africa.


With the constant advancement of the manner in which we interact with each other and in response to a rapidly advancing and evolving digital and electronic landscape, it is important to have robust laws enacted to guide these processes as well as provide protection to those using these electronic platforms and services. In this regard, we briefly explore the following legislation.

Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, 25 of 2002 (“ECTA”)
ECTA plays a pivotal role in e-commerce, providing legal recognition for electronic transactions by outlining the legal requirements for forming contracts online, ensuring that consumers are afforded the same protections as in traditional transactions. The purpose of ECTA is to promote the understanding, acceptance, and growth of electronic transaction in South Africa.

Consumer Protection Act, 68 of 2008 (“the CPA”)
The CPA is considered the cornerstone to consumer protection in South Africa with its purpose being to promote a fair, accessible, and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services and the establishment of national norms and standards relating to consumer protection as well as legal consequences for service providers that choose to act in bad faith. The CPA  generally applies to all transaction that occur in South Africa, including electronic transactions unless the application of the CPA is expressly excluded.

Protection of Personal Information Act, 4 of 2013 (“POPIA”)
E-commerce service providers must comply with POPIA which sets out principles for the lawful and responsible processing of the consumer’s personal information which is aimed at safeguarding the consumer’s privacy, and failure to do so may result in severe penalties.


Your Right to Return Goods (cooling-off period)
Section 44 of ECTA entitles you to cancel an electronic transaction for goods or services within seven days from date of receipt of the goods or conclusion of the agreement thereby providing you with protection against unsatisfactory or defective products. Section 16 (3) of the CPA allows you to cancel a transaction for goods within five business days of conclusion of a transaction resulting from direct marketing. It is important for you to note that the right afforded in terms of Section 16 of the CPA will not apply to a transaction if Section 44 of ECTA does.

Your Right to Due Performance and Delivery
In terms of Section 46 of ECTA, the supplier must execute your order within thirty days of receipt, unless you and the supplier agree otherwise.

Your Right to Transparent Pricing and Advertising
Section 43 of ECTA sets out the information disclosure requirements which suppliers must adhere to in respect of electronic transactions. This ensures that you will always be provided with the full price of the goods or services including any additional costs (if applicable) for transportation, fees, taxes, etc.


  • Ensure that you transact with reputable service providers.
  • Thoroughly read product descriptions and specifications before making a purchase, in doing so, you should ensure that the features and details of the product align with your expectations.
  • Familiarize yourself with the return policies of the service provider to avoid unnecessary issues when trying to return a purchase.
  • Be cautious about sharing excessive personal information online and ensure that the website or platform uses secure payment methods to.
  • Save receipts, order confirmations, or any communication with the service provider. This information can be important in the event of a dispute.
  • Avoid clicking on unfamiliar links or responding to unexpected emails, especially those requesting personal or financial information. Scammers often use phishing tactics to exploit online users.
  • Share your experiences by leaving reviews on products and platforms. Your honest feedback can help other consumers make informed choices and contributes to a more transparent online marketplace.
  • Regularly review your bank statements to identify any unauthorized transactions. If you notice discrepancies, contact your bank or financial institution promptly.


Consumer protection in the realm of e-commerce relies on a strong legislative framework, which includes amongst others, the CPA, ECTA, and POPIA which offers not only regulations and guidelines for service providers to adhere by, but also offers rights and protection to you as the consumer.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, staying informed and adapting to legal developments is crucial for both consumers and services providers alike.