All online shopping now allowed in South Africa

All online shopping now allowed in South Africa

The Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition has published new regulations which allow unlimited ecommerce in South Africa.

The new regulations, published today, state that all goods may be transacted through ecommerce platforms, except for alcohol and tobacco products.

These regulations were published a day after President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government will announce changes to level 4 regulations to expand permitted business activities in the retail space and ecommerce.

The regulations also include strict rules for ecommerce operations and deliveries.

Rules for ecommerce retailers

  • All Regulations and Directions in respect of hygienic workplace conditions and the potential exposure of employees to COVID-19 must be adhered to.
  • Employees may not share face masks, equipment, stationery, utensils or similar items.
  • Retailers must give prominence to those goods which are manufactured in the Republic of South Africa.
  • Retailers must provide for as many payment options as possible for consumers, that are based on reducing risks of transmission, and enabling poorer consumers to access delivery services.
  • When packaging goods, retailers must provide written guidelines for customers on how to safely disinfect their goods before use.
  • Retailers must put in place collection protocols to ensure that adequate social distancing is maintained by courier or delivery service personnel when collecting goods from a warehouse or depot.
  • All goods must be sanitised, in line with the guidelines published by the National Department of Health, before leaving the warehouse or depot.

Rules for customers

  • Customers and all residents within the immediate vicinity must wear a cloth face mask or a homemade item that covers the nose and mouth when receiving goods from courier and delivery personnel.
  • Customers must maintain at least one and a half metres distance from courier and delivery personnel.
  • Customers are encouraged to disinfect goods using guidelines published by the National Department of Health and those provided by retailers.

Rules for courier and delivery services

  • All Regulations and Directions in respect of hygienic workplace conditions and the potential exposure of employees to COVID-19 must be adhered to.
  • In addition, employees may not share face masks, equipment, stationery, utensils or similar items.
  • Health and safety officers 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.
  • All courier and delivery personnel must have their own hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes, which must be refilled daily.
  • Courier and delivery personnel must wear a cloth face mask that covers the nose and mouth when delivering goods to customers.
  • Courier and delivery personnel must maintain at least one and a half metres distance from other courier or delivery personnel when collecting goods for delivery and customers when delivering goods.
  • Courier and delivery service personnel may not enter the home of a customer if such customer and any other residents within the immediate vicinity are not wearing cloth face mask or a homemade item that covers the nose and mouth.

Pressure from industry

The regulations follow increased pressure on the government to allow unlimited ecommerce in South Africa.

Cas Coovadia, CEO of Business for South Africa, has said ecommerce should be opened up “totally” with immediate effect.

Allowing people to do their shopping online not only helps ecommerce companies, but will also kickstart courier services and economic activity, he said.

SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter also supports the move, saying ecommerce holds great potential for South Africa and should be opened up.

Kieswetter said many people think of ecommerce as a virtual economy – but it opens a full value chain of economic activity.

The DA was threatening to take the matter one step further, and launched court action to “end the national hard lockdown that is tearing our society and economy to pieces”.

The DA’s lawyers will file papers in the High Court challenging the rationality of the restrictions on ecommerce, and will also challenge the night-time curfew and the 3-hour exercise window.