Do You Qualify as a Consumer?

Uaatjo Kaurimuje

In today’s dynamic marketplace, the concept of consumer rights holds significant importance, shaping the relationship between buyers and service providers.

But how do you know if you qualify as a consumer with the right to hold the service provider liable?

Influenced by my studies abroad and due to the lack of consumer protection laws in Namibia, various examples and frameworks to our understanding are highlighted.

Firstly, what defines a consumer?

A consumer encompasses any individual engaging in the purchasing of goods or hiring of services, spanning across diverse transactional platforms, including online and offline channels like electronic means, teleshopping, direct selling, or multi-level marketing.

When we talk about services, we’re referring to a broad spectrum of offerings made available to potential users.

From banking, financing, insurance, transportation, and energy supply to accommodation, entertainment and news dissemination, the scope is extensive.

However, it’s crucial to note that services provided free of charge or under personal service contracts fall outside this classification.

Similarly, goods cover a wide array of movable properties, excluding actionable claims and money.

This category includes items like stock, shares, crops, and land attachments, primarily movable and subject to sale or contract agreements.

Now, the question arises: What factors determine your status as a consumer?

One key consideration is the purpose behind your purchase.

If you acquire goods for self-employment to earn a livelihood, you retain your consumer status.

For example, buying machinery for personal operation qualifies as consumer behaviour, even if you seek limited assistance in its operation.

However, appointing others exclusively for operation forfeits this classification.

Moreover, the distinction between commercial and personal use plays a pivotal role.

Purchases made for large-scale profit-making ventures, with a direct nexus to the purchase, exclude the buyer from consumer classification.

This determination hinges on the specific circumstances of each case.

Additionally, consumer rights extend beyond the buyers themselves.

Beneficiaries of services, such as widows entitled to compensation for negligence, fall under the umbrella of consumer protection, irrespective of their direct involvement in hiring services.

Medical services covered by insurance policies or provided by employers for their employees are not considered free services, as the costs are covered by insurance, or the employer, as such constitutes a service.

Similarly, university examinations and result publications do not qualify as services for consideration, so candidates cannot be considered consumers.

On the flip side, tenants entering lease agreements typically don’t fall under consumer classification unless additional services beyond rent payment are explicitly outlined in the lease terms.

While specific examples and legal frameworks provide insights, it’s essential to recognise that they are not exhaustive and consumer protection laws may vary across jurisdictions.

Nevertheless, the core principles remain consistent, aiming to safeguard the interests of consumers in their interactions with service providers.

  • Uaatjo Kaurimuje is a consumer protection advocate and freelance writer. The views expressed here are her own.

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