Clothing, fees, and selling and buying cars
Clothing, fees, and selling and buying cars
Wendy Knowler chatted to Darren Maule about these and other COVID-19-related consumer issues on Thursday morning’s Consumerwatch. Listen to the audio here:
Guess your clothes size
You know we’re living in highly unusual times when Woolworth has a “no returns” policy!
Thing is, no retailer is legally required to take back non-defective goods. Only defective ones. But many retailers will take back a “change of heart” or “it doesn’t fit” or “my child hates it” purchase as customer service, offering a credit voucher or exchange.
The issue is this - the Consumer Protection Act does require retailers to allow their customers to examine or try on goods to make sure they are suitable.
And in the case of online purchases, the Electronic Communications and
Transactions Act gives consumers the right to return even non-defective
products for a refund within a week of delivery.
But almost all clothing retailers which have re-opened their doors since we entered level 4 on Friday have closed their fitting rooms in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus - and some of them are refusing to accept returns.
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Plus, although it’s not stipulated in the Disaster Management Act regulations, just about all retailers are barring children from their stores, resulting in many an unfortunate scene at store entrances with single parents arguing that they have no-one to leave their children with, given that we are all in compulsory isolation.
So you can’t try on clothes in-store, you can’t take your child with you, to at least hold the tracksuit against them, to see if it fits and if you guess wrong, you can’t take it back for the right size - that’s an unprecedented triple whammy.
But these are unprecedented times - dealing with pandemic calls for business unusual.
And rapidly changing retail policies - since the weekend, two major clothing retailers have done an about-turn on their no-returns policies. What does Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman Magauta Mphahlele have to say about the legality of a no fitting/no return policy?
Single Parents - Do not let retailers bar you from entering their store with your child.
The Disaster Management Act regulations do not prohibit children to enter the retail stores, although many security guards placed at store entrances are refusing to allow parents to enter with their children.
“We are aware that not allowing children is not stipulated in the regulations. we will ensure that all our store team members are reminded that they are able
to allow families into our stores. As a precautionary measure, we do however encourage shoppers to leave their
loved ones and children at home, if possible, for their own health and safety," said Woolworths.
When will car sales resume?
Official figures released by Naamsa - the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA - reveal that only 574 cars were sold in April, 98,4% fewer than in March - numbers the industry could not have predicted in their worst nightmares just a few months ago.
In early February, a month before South Africa’s first confirmed Covid-19 case, Wesbank CEO Chris de Kock, speaking at Cars.co.za’s annual glittering Consumer Awards evening at Kyalami, predicted that the new vehicle market would shrink by 3.5 percent this year, with the total volume amounting to around 518,000 units.
Toyota SA’s CEO Andrew Kirby predicted an annual volume of 515,000 vehicles for 2020 at another industry event around the same time.
That’s an average of 43,000 cars a month.
With dealerships forced to close for the last five days of March, that month’s new car sales figure was 37,821 - about 30% down on sales of last March.
And then came April’s 574 cars, more than 300 of those being Fords.
Some were online sales to entities involved in providing essential services, and the rest were sales actually done in March but only processed in April, a Ford SA source told me.
“In this unprecedented time, the motor industry is experiencing unchartered conditions and grappling with the solutions to address it,” said Lebogang Gaoaketse, Wesbank’s head of marketing and communication, this week.
“The global consequences of this pandemic will be immense for some time to come, from the economic impacts to the way corporations work and the manner in which consumers behave.
“How the motor industry adapts now will define just how drastic the changes will be, but one of the few certainties from this crisis is that the industry will be different.”
What remains uncertain is when dealerships will be allowed to sell cars again.
Automotive factories were allowed to reopen on Monday under the new level 4 lockdown restrictions and government regulations published last week also allowed for “Car sales under specific conditions” but no details have been forthcoming since.
Dealerships may carry out emergency vehicle repairs under level 4, but routine servicing may only start again under level 2.
The government initially said motor dealerships would only be allowed to resume the selling of vehicles when SA moves to level 3, but the motor industry has been lobbying for that to happen in level 4.
The National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) says the franchised auto dealership network in South Africa has adequate infrastructure to manage social distancing: spacious facilities, effective access control, low consumer footfall and the ability to operate on an ‘appointment only’ basis.
“People will have far more space in a car showroom than in a grocery store,” NADA says.
For those who have the need and the budget for a new car, the timing is perfect - the motor industry, being desperate for sales, will no doubt be offering excellent deals when they get the green light to sell, and the interest rate has dropped by 2% in the past month.
But many are eagerly awaiting the re-opening of dealerships so that they can sell their cars for much-needed financial relief, or do a trade-in for one which will cost them far less every month.
The motor industry met with the government on Monday and submitted recommendations to allow the resumption of car sales under level 4, and was hoping for a decision by yesterday. But for now, motor dealers are allowed to carry out emergency vehicle repairs under level 4, while routine servicing may only start taking place under level 2.
Am I compelled to keep paying my daughter’s ballet teacher?
In “normal” times, if you aren’t getting a service, you are not compelled to pay for it.
But there’s nothing normal about the Covid-19 pandemic - it’s a "no one's fault” catastrophe. If you want your child’s creche or ballet teacher to survive, and be there for your child when they can legally resume, they can’t be starved of financial support.
Likewise, they can’t expect full payment from parents who has lost some if not all of their income, through no fault of theirs?
Those whose incomes have not been affected may well be happy to continue to pay such fees in full, but for the rest, negotiations should happen on a case-by-case basis.
There is no justification for creches expecting full payment of a fee which includes meals, or a private school demanding that parents continue to pay bus transport and after-care fees when the school is closed.
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