Consumer protection in Swaziland : a comparative analysis of the law in South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Dlamini, Eugene Majahemphini.
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Consumer protection has become an important issue in many spheres of trade. This fact is borne out by the many consumer protection laws introduced in many countries globally. However, despite these developments Swaziland is lagging behind. Obviously, this state of affairs has left consumers in Swaziland in a totally vulnerable position. Consumers are often exploited in two material respects. They are either subjected to unfair contract terms in the provision of services, or supplied with defective products having the potential of causing serious bodily harm. In protecting consumers the common law has been judicially developed over many centuries to curb these unfair trading practices. The doctrine of freedom of contract has been the driving force in regulating the relations between consumers and suppliers. The import of this doctrine is the unyielding recognition of an individual’s autonomy in the conclusion of consumer transactions. The underlying percepts of this doctrine are privity of contract, which only recognises obligations between contracting parties, and pacta sunt servanda which requires contractual undertakings to be recognised. The operation of contractual freedom in concluding agreements often leads to unfair results against consumers because suppliers usually impose unfair terms as a result of their stronger bargaining power over consumers. In short, problems faced by consumers were twofold; first, they have to battle the issue of potentially harmful goods, and secondly, their economically weak bargaining position is exploited by suppliers through the use of unfair contract terms. Many countries, including the United Kingdom and South Africa, addressed these two consumer issues decisively through statutory reform aimed at protecting consumers against potentially harmful products and unfair contract terms. Swaziland requires statutory reformative measures that will ensure a shift from the current consumer framework regulated by outmoded common law principles towards a modern framework that will comply with international standards.