Bought something that doesn't fit - can you get a refund?

Bought something that doesn't fit - can you get a refund?

If you buy something and it doesn’t fit, can you take it back for a refund?

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Listen to Wendy on the topic below, or read the details under the podcast.

In most cases, the answer would be no. The Consumer Protection Act only gives consumers the right to return goods if they are defective, so best you try on that pair of shoes or jeans and make sure they fit before you pay. 

There are exceptions: if you buy something as a result of direct marketing - a salesperson confronts you in person or via your phone with a hard-sell pitch and you agree to buy on the spur of the moment - you have the benefit of a five-business day cooling off period in which to change your mind.

This week’s case involves another situation which entitles you take get a refund for something you’ve bought, even if it’s not defective.

Sheila Deiner had had her eye on Homemark’s Fat Freezer product for some time. It claims to be a non-invasive alternative to liposuction, using cold to break down fat cells - on the stomach and thighs, for example, to be disposed through the body’s lymphatic system “resulting in a more toned and sleek appearance”.

Last November, Sheila saw that the FatFreezer’ price had dropped from R1500 to R1000, and that’s what got her to enter the Homemark store and buy the product.

Homemark’s Fat Freezer

But she never got to find out if those claims - including losing 20% of body fat after the first month - were true, because the elasticated belt wouldn’t fit around her 105cm waist.

That is not an unusually large waist circumference, especially given that this is a product targeted at people who want to lose weight. Although the young woman modelling the FatFreezer on Homemark’s website is a little slip of a thing - certainly not someone in need of a fat loss product.

And here’s the thing - the salesman didn’t tell Sheila the product wouldn’t fit her, and the packaging did not point out that it was only suitable for people with a waist circumference of less than 90 or 100cm or whatever.

So naturally, Sheila wanted to return the product and get her R1000 back. That didn’t go so well.

“The salesman had the cheek to tell me that people bigger than me have bought the product and they felt happy to use it and it works for them,” Sheila said. "I find that totally impossible because if I couldn't fit the belt around me I don’t see people bigger than me getting it around their leg!”

I took up the case with Homemark’s Dino Hadjipaschalis. At first he said the company wouldn't consider a refund “after such a long time” but he’d authorise an exchange. Sheila went back to the store - where she’d left the FatFreezer some time before - and got a blender in its place. But what she really wanted was her money back.

I argued that she was entitled to a refund- that product was bought less than six months ago, so the CPA warranty applies. Section 55 states that “the consumer has a right to expect that the goods are reasonably suitable for the specific purpose that the consumer has indicated” and consistent with the way in which they are marketed, packaged and displayed.

Hadjipaschalis agreed that there was a lack of disclosure on the packaging about the limitations of the product’s belt and undertook to remedy that.

And he’s reconsidering that refund. I’m pretty sure Sheila is going to be able to return that blender and get her money back.

In short, if something is sold for specific purpose and it doesn't fulfil that purpose, you have a right to return it for a refund.

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