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I had an exchange on Twitter last week that illustrates this perfectly.
Someone posted what he called a Public Service Announcement about a clothing a retailer in Jo’burg.
“Can I warn you before you go shopping at X stores. They’ve got a dubious returns policy and will try to skelm you off your refund. You return goods that don't fit and you're pointed to their nonsense policy. Last I checked the CPA was the law. The only language companies understand these days is social media. So let me send out the warning to the public before X takes another person for a ride.“
So I jumped in and said: “That section of the CPA only applies to defective
goods & not fitting your head isn’t a defect. Retailers don’t have to take
back a non-defective purchase at all, legally. But most offer a credit or
exchange as a service.
Are they not allowing you to swap it for the right size?”
HIM: “They are completely out of the type I am looking for, none of their other stores have it. I'd argue that "not fitting" makes the product unusable, does it not?”
ME: “It does, but that does not make it a manufacturing defect. The cap is perfect, it’s just the wrong size for you. If you are always going to want a refund if something doesn’t suit you for some reason (rather than an exchange or credit), it’s best to try on before purchase."
“Yes,” he said, “That's the ideal. What would also be ideal is a no refunds warning prior to purchase, then, so that we know what kind of entity we are dealing with in the first place. That's what is hoodwinking people.”
Making that kind of public claim, “skelm, nonsense policy, taking you for a ride, hoodwinking people” - with no retraction - can lead to legal action if it’s not true, so be cautious.
The legal position is this: Not fitting you is not the same thing as not being fit for purpose.
Only if something you bought does
not perform in the way it’s supposed to, is it considered to be defective, and
only then do you have the right to choose your remedy - refund,
replacement or repair - provided you have proof of purchase and the supplier’s
technical assessment doesn’t reveal that you caused the problem, somehow,
such as using it contrary to the manufacturer’s instructions or dropping it.
If there is nothing wrong with the product - you just don’t want it anymore - you have no legal rights at all. Many stores do take back change-of-heart purchases, but as customer service, and mostly they do exchanges or issue credits. Very seldom do they refund.
A big part of the reason why so many South Africans think they are legally entitled to a refund is hardly any retailers educate their customers properly about the difference between the return of a defective product and a non-defective one.
With defective returns, you have a LOT of legal rights, but if the product is not defective, you actually have none.
In the case of that cap purchase, the receipt stated: "Strictly no refunds unless stipulated by law."
That means very little to the average consumer. And there is no mention of
defective vs non-defective returns. FAIL.
Advice to retailers: Find out the legal position and explain it in simple language to your customers, on your website, on your receipts and via signs at your pay points.
And do it before Black Friday and Christmas is upon us. Please!
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.
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