Plain Language on the Way for Consumers in South Africa

South African consumers can look forward to plain language in all consumer documents – the South African Consumer Protection Act became law April 24, 2009. The act "makes plain language a basic right and a business obligation." This impressive news is on the site for Plain Language Around the World.

The news article goes on to say that in two months time – on April 24 – "the National Consumer Commission must be established and the regulations will come into operation. Six months later, the rest of the Act will take effect." The article provides additional sources you can read.

The Clear Language @ Work site links to an article about the impact of the Consumer Protection Act on insurance, where I found one sentence that I wanted to share:

Insurers will not be allowed to take advantage of the fact that the consumer is unable to understand the terms of the contract being concluded with it as a result of either physical or mental disability, illiteracy, ignorance or inability to understand the language of the contract.

Reading this as a consumer is bliss. No more intimidating piles of papers to read through – and not understand. Reading this as a technical communicator, it feels like justification for years of that gut feeling that you should always be able to write in the clear language your audience demanded. It puts value back into clear writing. I'll bet South African consumers value this news, too.

We've reported plain language news before, especially concerning United States legislation. It's great to learn about efforts in other countries. To keep up with news about plain language, visit Plain Language Association InterNational and Clear Language @ Work.

While visiting the Clear Language @ Work site, be sure to pick up your complimentary Clear/Plain Language Writing Principles Checklist and Clear Design Chart in the sidebar on the front page.

Plain language bill in U.S. Senate is being stalled – Update it is now a Law

Update: The Plain Writing Act of 2010 Became Public Law No: 111-274 10/13/2010

You might be able to help.

Whitney Quesenbery brought us the latest news about the Plain Language bill that we wrote about back in April this year.

It is stuck in the Senate. Senator Bennett (R. Utah) has blocked the bill on the grounds that it would be a problem for the Federal Election Commission and the Election Assistance Commission.

Whitney has two simple answers to their objections:

  1. The law does not apply to regulations
  2. Are they really suggesting that information about elections should be hard to understand

If you are in the United States, you can help by writing or calling your Senator's office and Senator Bennett's office to express your opinion.

Here's additional information from the International Law Prof Blog about how to write your representative on this matter:
Plain Language in Government Communication