The Consumer Protection Act explained

The Consumer Protection Act explained

There are a few purchase scenarios to which the Consumer Protection Act doesn’t apply in terms of the right to return defective goods. 

Furniture purchase - Consumerwatch
Getty Images, Consumerwatch

This is in the case of a private sale, for example; when you’re buying medicine, when you’re buying something second-hand, and the seller has pointed out a defect to you and you agree to buy it anyway for a reduced price,  and when you buy something on auction.

Under those circumstances, you have no legal right of return, it’s essentially a voetstoets deal.

But everything else comes with what the Consumer Protection Act calls an “implied warranty” of six months. The legislators felt that the goods we buy ought to be defect free, fit for purpose, for at least six months. 

And more than that, as I’ve said so many times in the past five years, if the product does become defective with six months of purchase, the consumer doesn’t have to accept a repair, which has almost always the supplier’s first choice. 

Not any more, not since April 2011 when the CPA became effective.

Now the consumer gets to choose the remedy if something is flawed - refund, replacement or repair. Yes, you can get your money back, or a replacement - you don’t have to accept a repair.

Amazingly, many retailers, big and small, are still insisting on repairing goods during those six months, as if the CPA doesn’t exist.

Johnny's furniture purchase

Which brings me to Johnny Chutrugon of Queensburgh’s experience with Westcliff Furnishers of Chatsworth.

He paid R5300 for a lounge suite from the store two days before Christmas, having bought three other items of furniture from the store in the past five years, and being happy with his purchases.

All was well until earlier this month, when Johnny happened to slide his hand down the side of one of the two-seaters while watching TV with his wife. He felt a large gap, and, on feeling opened staples still attached to the fabric, he realised it had pulled away from the frame. And it was the same on the rest of the suite. Plus the springs on one of the seat cushions could be felt protruding on one side.

He reported all this to the store and two days later store reps came to his home to inspect the suite. 

So far so good, I must say - often when people report defective furniture, the store in question takes weeks or even months to respond.

The reps agreed that the suite was defective, Johnny says, and the store owner then advised them to take the suite back to the store, to be repaired.

But Johnny didn’t want a repair, because he feared that the fabric would just tear off the frame again.

So he challenged the owner, Mr Moosa Docrat.

“He said that because he had issued no guarantee or warranty when I bought the suite, the CPA did not apply,” he says.

Johnny pointed out that according to the CPA, he was entitled to choose the remedy - repair, replacement or refund, but Dockrat wouldn’t budge.

Wendy intervenes

That’s when he approached Consumerwatch for help in getting a refund.

Dockrat was very polite when I engaged with him but he kept insisting that a repair was Johnny’s only option.

It was a tiny problem; easily fixable, he said. The customer was just taking advantage of the law. “We’ll sort out the problem for him very easily…”

No matter how many times I tried to explain that the CPA gave the consumer the right to choose the remedy, not the company, the more he kept saying that his supplier dictated what the remedy would be.

By this stage I was intrigued about the condition of the lounge suite, so I drove out to Johnny’s home in Queensburgh and checked it out.

As Johnny had described, on the sides, the fabric had torn away from the frame, and in a couple of the seat cushions, the springs protruded into bumps… So yes, Johnny’s claim is a legitimate one, and he’s not just nit picking, as Dockrat suggests.

I communicated this to Dockrat, who kept repeating that it was up to the manufacturer of the suite to decide how to proceed. 

I left a message for the manufacturer to call me, which hasn’t happened yet, but in any event, it’s the retailer - the person gets paid for the purchase - who has to take responsibility for a CPA claim, and to ensure that their suppliers comply with the Act.

I’ve advised Johnny to lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman for Consumer Goods and Services.


 * Westcliff Furnishers has since contacted Johnny to say that they will collect the defective suite and refund him.

Johnny's furniture purchase

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