Authors: Rohan Isaacs and Tatum Govender

Although the country is moving to level 3, more and more suppliers had already turned to online or telephonic sales to get their businesses starting up again. This is because these types of sales were largely permitted during level 4, in terms of directions issued on 14 May, and because consumers feel more at ease ordering online rather than shopping in-store. More people have also become accustomed to shopping online. Directions issued by government impose numerous obligations on suppliers, couriers and consumers, which are additional to those already imposed in other laws.

If you’re a supplier looking to sell goods to consumers online or by telephone during the lockdown, below are some* of the do’s and don’ts to be aware of:

Do’s Don’ts 
Maintain a hygienic, healthy and safe workplace for employees. Detailed measures are set out in the COVID-19 Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Workplaces Directive, dated 29 April 2020. Do not permit employees to share face masks, equipment, stationery, utensils or similar items.
Designate adequately trained health and safety officers who must take each employee’s temperatures using appropriate equipment or instruments at the start of a shift and every four hours after the shift commences. Do not sell prohibited goods. At present, these are: liquor, tobacco, tobacco products and e-cigarettes.
Keep records of the temperatures of each employee. Do not falsely or misleadingly advertise goods.
Immediately move any employee whose temperature is 37,5C or above to an isolated observation room for a second measurement. If the second test measurement also exceeds 37,5C, the employee must be sent home for self-quarantine, provided with a surgical mask and not be permitted to enter or stay on the premises. Do not sell goods at excessive prices. During the lockdown, specific attention has been paid to basic food and consumer items, emergency products and services, medical and hygiene supplies and emergency clean-up products and services. Companies found violating this rule during the lockdown have been fined.
Give prominence to goods manufactured in South Africa. Ensure that you have adequate stock of goods, in particular essential goods identified in directives issued.
Provide consumers with as many payment options as possible.
When packaging goods, provide written guidelines for consumers on how to safely disinfect and handle their goods before use.
Implement collection protocols to ensure social distancing by couriers and delivery personnel when they collect goods from a warehouse, depot or stockroom.
Sanitise all goods before leaving a warehouse, depot or stockroom, in accordance with guidelines published by the National Department of Health.
Implement delivery protocols to ensure social distancing by couriers or delivery personnel and consumers when the couriers or delivery personnel deliver goods.
Keep track of the origin and destination of goods.
Ensure that your suppliers are obliged to comply with these hygiene, health and safety requirements.
Ensure that the terms and conditions applicable to the sale of the goods comply with the Consumer Protection Act, 2008 and the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, 2002. This is because these laws continue to apply during the lockdown.
Comply with the Protection of Personal Information Act, 2013 as recommended by the Information Regulator.
Update your return and refund policies to cater for the current laws and obligations relating to curbing the spread of COVID-19. For example, consideration may have to be given to limiting the types of goods that can be returned for health and safety reasons. The Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman has stated that a balance must be struck between the very necessary measures required to minimise the spread of the virus and compliance with the Consumer Protection Act, 2008.
Inform consumers of updated or different lockdown return and refund policies.
Update the FAQs to explain the updated or new return and refund policies.
Prominently display updated or new return and refund policies, perhaps as a pop-up, to enable consumers to make informed decisions prior to purchasing.
Explain any measures that you will implement to sanitise returned goods before resale.
Sanitise returned goods before resale.

*The regulations are detailed. This is a summary intended to provide an overview of the most important obligations. For specific advice, please contact us.

If you are a courier, your obligations are set out here and if you are a consumer, your obligations are set out here.

For more information, please contact Rohan Isaacs or Tatum Govender or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills:

Rohan Isaacs
Rohan Isaacs
Director, Johannesburg
+27 10 500 2667
Tatum Govender
Tatum Govender
Associate, Johannesburg
+27 10 500 2665