Was your item looted while in for repairs? Here's how to negotiate compensation

Was your item looted while in for repairs? Here's how to negotiate compensation

Not all the appliances which were stolen from shops and warehouses by looters last month were new. Some were in for repair. So what rights do their owners have? Consumerwatch’s Wendy Knowler investigates.


Wrong place, wrong time

Spare a thought for those who had taken their appliances in for repair only to have the store or repair plant looted.

“Aiden" was one of them. He emailed me last week to say that his Samsung 55" UHD Smart TV, which he’d taken to Makro for repairs, was stolen during the unrest.

He’d bought it in 2017 and took out an extended warranty on it.

READ MORE: Are you being charged unreasonably high prices for goods after the looting?

“Makro has now advised they can refund me the purchase price of the TV - R7999 - and that I would need to pay a difference if I want another Samsung 55" UHD Smart TV,” he told me.

“They have further advised that in terms of the warranty, if the TV could not have been repaired, they would have only refunded the purchase price. 

“The issue here is that the TV was never assessed to understand if it could not be repaired as it was stolen from the store, yet Makro is using these conditions as a base for settlement.

“While I am grateful that they have offered compensation, I feel that I  am being treated unfairly as I am being put in a worse-off position. Should I want to replace the TV, then I will need to pay the difference in the price.

“I have requested that they please compensate me with another TV of the similar make/specification and brand however they have refused.

“Please can assist by providing me with guidance on this.”

READ MORE: Beware! Scammers are using Capitec bank accounts as so-called business accounts

Well, I have to say I think Makro’s offer is fair. 

If this were an insurance claim, to replace his stolen TV with a model four years newer would not be replacing like for like, it would be referred to as “betterment”.

But I raised the case with Makro anyway. 

Their response: “As a customer centric business, we made the decision to reimburse all customers that had an item looted from our store/s during the recent riots.

“To ensure that we were consistent in this approach, all affected customers were offered a credit corresponding to the original purchase price of that item."

READ MORE: How to get insurance for your looted business with Wendy Knowler

Naturally, I was curious to know how many other people’s appliances were stolen while in for repair, but Makro’s not saying: "The total sum on the impact of the losses due to the looting has not been publically disclosed.  As such, we are unable to comment on it.

"We offered (Aiden) a full credit on the original purchase price of the television set and we would love to assist him by linking to him to one of our multimedia associates who can assist him with finding a suitable television within that price range.”

He’s happy with that outcome.

By the way, when it comes to lay-by goods stolen during the unrest, according to Consumer Goods & Services Ombud Magauta Mphahlele, in the case of any goods which were paid for in full or in part but not yet delivered, the risk remains with the supplier. So the customer should be refunded what they’d paid or the goods delivered, when paid for in full. 

*As to the extent of the losses, in the week of the looting, Cedric Masondo, the MD of Sasria, estimated the claims to amount to between R3.5bn and R7bn.

A month and half on, Sasria - the government-owned insurer providing cover against risks such as civil commotion, public disorder, strikes, riots and terrorism, is predicting that the total number of claims will reach R19bn – R20bn, once the phases of quantifying claims and the work done by loss adjustors is completed. 

Wendy Knowler shared more scenarios like this with Darren, Keri, and Sky. Take a listen: 

Don’t fall for the fake car auction sale

Fraudsters are very creative, and very convincing, and they rely on their potential victims not knowing what the legitimate processes are.

Take the fake car auction scam which is rife at the moment. They hijack the names of reputable auctioneers and place Instagram or Facebook ads for “bank repossession car” auctions.

Those who express interest are sent a range of cars, and told if they pay a deposit immediately, the car will be taken out of the auction and reserved for them. Creating a sense of urgency is one of the things fraudsters almost always do

READ MORE: Get your full refund back as events and bookings are cancelled

Her first “deposit” payment was R20,000, followed by one of R35,000, at once-off payment is made in full, the fraudsters ghost their “clients” - game over.

Most of the make-believe auctions are said to be taking place in Gauteng, but their victims are from all over the country, looking for a bargain in the province with the most car stock.

SA Institute of Auctioneers’ board member Jacques van der Linde says reputable auctioneers dealing with bank assets can only sell the cars on auction - they cannot be withdrawn. 

And a reputable auctioneer will always allow you to look at a car. 

“These crooks don’t allow that because it’s a scam and they don’t have any of the cars in the photographs they send their potential victims,” he says.

"Plus they pressurise you to pay deposit.

"We all love a bargain, so making you believe that you are scoring by them pulling a bargain of a car out of the auction is the perfect way to exploit that.”

But it’s not the consumers who are being affected by his awful scam, van der Linde says. 

“The fraudsters are pretending to be legitimate auctioneers, so the victims, some of whom have lost a huge amount of money, come looking for justice at the legitimate businesses, which puts our staff at risk."

Here’s what else you should know:

-Anyone buying a vehicle will need to be taken through a FICA onboarding and verification process as bona fide car dealers are not allowed to just accept cash into their bank account without understanding the source of the funds and the client who provided them.

When it comes to claimed online auctions, it pays to go to query them first via the Institute’s website: www.auctioneering.co.za, or hotline: 021 813 6342 or WhatsApp 067 117 7049.

Contact Wendy

Get in touch with Wendy via her website or her Facebook page. Please note that Wendy is not able to personally respond to every email she receives. If she is able to take up your case, she will contact you directly. Here are other avenues for you to consider.

Listen to more podcasts from Wendy Knowler in the Consumerwatch channel below:

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