Advice and Opinion

Complicated jargon could make contracts invalid in terms of the Consumer Protection Act

One of the more hotly debated points to come up at a recent franchise staff training day (attended by some 100 people) at the Rawson Property Group’s Western Cape head office was that some estate agents believe that many of the documents used in property transactions are still, despite many protests on this subject, too cumbersome, complicated and prone to use jargon and legal terms which many laypeople have difficulty in understanding.

Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, who was sitting in on the training session said that he found himself agreeing wholeheartedly with the criticisms levied.

“It is,” he said, “all very well to tell us, as is frequently done, that the wording is satisfactory to the legal profession, but that is not enough – it has to be easily understood by the vast majority of members of the public.”

If this message is not taken to heart by those compiling property documents, said Rawson, they are likely to find that their clients, especially estate agents, will be contravening the Consumer Protection Act.

This act, said Rawson, lays it down not only that the client in any sales transaction has to vouch that he has fully understood the sales document but he has to do so in the presence of the estate agent and in most cases has to sign another document to this effect.

“If at any stage it can be shown that the client did not, in fact, understand, this provides grounds for the cancellation of the contract. Awkward though it may sound, there is absolutely no getting around this very difficult provision in the Consumer Protection Act and the property marketing sector is going to have to come to terms with it by simplifying and streamlining its documentation.”

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