The virtue of cooling-off rights to consumers : ‘be in the habit of choosing the mean’ – a comparative discussion of South Africa, the United Kingdom and Belgium

01 Aug 2016

The focus of this contribution is on the consumer’s cooling-off right in terms of section 16 of the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 in the case of consumer agreements in South Africa compared with the positions in the EU member states: the United Kingdom and Belgium. In its simplest form a cooling-off right can be described as a statutory right accorded a party in terms of which he or she may withdraw from the agreement without reason or penalty within a specified time, provided that this is done in accordance with the statutory formalities of the particular Act. A comparative analysis is conducted to determine if a cooling-off right is in fact advantageous and how the advantage is to be determined. As a basis the concept of virtue by Aristotle is used in that a ‘virtue is to make a habit of choosing the mean.’ The concept is analysed comparatively by discussing ‘the mean’ (the possible voices between which a mean needs to be found); ‘the choice’ (the responsibility of making the choice lies not only in the hands of the consumer but also of the supplier and legislature); and finally making ‘a habit’ of choosing the mean (conclusion after comparative analysis).