Consumer Watch

Wendy Knowler fights for your rights...

Wendy Knowler masthead
April 17 2012 at 10:05

If you own a credit card, there’s a good chance you’ve been using it for years without ever having heard the term “chargeback”, much less understood how it could work for you.

Chargeback is a wonderful consumer protection, offered by banks and their credit card company partners, which sees those who have paid for goods or services with their credit cards being refunded if they don’t get what they paid for.

You can also apply for chargeback in the case of billing errors, duplicate charges or fraudulent transactions. Essentially, your payment is reversed if your application is successful.

So, for example, if you make an internet purchase with your credit card and the item doesn’t arrive, or is not what you ordered or is defective, and the seller won’t refund you, you can apply to your bank for chargeback. The same applies to any purchase made with your credit card.

But there’s relatively little consumer awareness of chargeback in this country, so many consumers have suffered a loss when they could have applied to the bank that |issued their credit card for chargeback.

Early last month, when it became clear that budget airline Velvet Sky was in trouble, I began advising Consumer Watch readers about chargeback and exactly how to go about applying for it, having sourced specific information from each of the four major banks.

I’m happy to report that I have received e-mails from several readers who followed that advice and have since been refunded.

“Thanks to your article on March 5 on chargebacks, I approached Nedbank for a refund, which has now been reversed into my account for the unused Velvet Sky tickets,” wrote Mike Caminsky.

“I applied for a refund from Velvet Sky first, but am still awaiting a response or acknowledgement from them. The last time I called them I was told that their bank account had been frozen!”

Veenay Bennideen applied for chargeback at First National Bank, having had no response from the airline to his request for a refund.

“The chargeback was successful and I got all my money back,” he reported last week. “Thank you sincerely for your advice and support in this matter. I would never have known about this option were it not for your advice.”

Parlan Moodley was thrilled with Nedbank’s response to his chargeback request: “The card division initially told me that it would take up to 45 days. I filled in the forms and faxed them off on Friday and on Monday they informed me that my account had been credited.

“I wasn’t aware of the chargeback facility until I e-mailed you,” Moodley said. “Banks should advise all clients applying for a credit card of this.”

Indeed.

Prominent disclosure – and the consumer awareness which results – is essential if the chargeback remedy is to be meaningful.

So Consumer Watch is doing its bit, again, to raise awareness about chargeback.

Here’s how to go about requesting chargeback from the various banks – you will be asked to provide substantial supporting documentation.

Absa

A cardholder has 120 days from the date of non-delivery of a service to request chargeback via Absa.

Cardholders need to first attempt recovery from the supplier, failing which they are entitled to initiate a chargeback dispute.

From there, a formal process is followed between the issuing bank and the merchant’s acquiring bank (the bank that processes card transactions on behalf of the supplier) to determine the validity of such dispute.

Should the dispute be found to be justified, the supplier of the service is debited and |the cardholder’s account is credited.

To claim chargeback via Absa, call 0861 462 273, visit a branch, or e-mail disputes@ absa.co.za

Nedbank

Nedbank clients – holders of Visa, Mastercard or American Express cards – have just 30 days from the date on non-delivery to raise a chargeback claim.

“This allows enough time for Nedbank to validate the chargeback before we finally submit it to the acquirer,” says Pamela White, the bank’s head of corporate card services.

To claim chargeback from Nedbank, call the bank’s call centre at 0860 555 111.

A dispute form will be provided, and you’ll be asked |to provide the standard documentation.

First National Bank

FNB clients have 180 days from the transaction date, or the expected delivery date, to apply for a chargeback.

FNB customers should call 087 575 1111 to get the necessary form, which needs to be completed and e-mailed or faxed back.

Standard Bank

Standard Bank gives its customers 120 days in which to apply for chargeback from the time the service has not been rendered.

E-mail Chargebacks.dis [email protected]

A big thumbs up to the Shoprite group for coming to the rescue of Velvet Sky |would-be passengers who paid cash for their tickets at Computicket outlets.

In an unprecedented move, Computicket Travel offered to refund the estimated 1 600 affected ticket holders nationwide – to the tune of R2.2 million.

This was despite Computicket (which is owned by the Shoprite group) having paid the ticket money over to the airline. For more information, call 0861 915 4000.

For those who paid cash for the tickets, or made EFTs into Velvet Sky’s account, I’m afraid it’s not looking good.

The airline’s promises to refund “grounded” ticket holders within 21 days appear to have come to naught.

DATE TAMPERING A SERIOUS OFFENCE

Ina recent column I shared my discovery that, armed with a spot of nail polish remover on a piece of cotton wool, I could remove the date marks – best-before and use-by dates – on just about every food product in my kitchen, with a single light swipe.

My date-mark tampering mission was sparked by my investigation of a reader’s tip-off that after complaining to the manager of her local store that a batch of muffin mix was past its best-before date, the product was immediately removed, only to reappear soon afterwards without those dates.

A store employee had allegedly taken it upon himself to erase the dates rather than have the stock sent back to the supplier.

A Tiger Brands spokesman said the company was “horrified”, given the food safety implications.

Rowan Beattie, managing director of date-marking brand PackMark, a division of Pyrotec, confirmed that most date marks in SA are printed using inks that withstand the demands of super-fast production processes without smudging, but unfortunately are able to be removed with solvents.

Resin-based “thermal transfer” coding was more resilient to tampering, Beattie said, but it was very costly and could slow down production speeds.

Laser coding created a permanent “engraved” date, he said, but was also costly and not suitable for all forms of packaging material.

“Unfortunately, even if a permanent ink were to exist, an unscrupulous retailer would still be able to apply another label over it.”

So,it’s up to us as consumers to protect ourselves by being date-mark conscious.

Since last month, food manufacturers are legally compelled to apply date marks to their products, and it’s illegal for anyone to tamper with them. So, if you find a product without a date on the shelf – or in a store’s fridge or freezer – don’t buy it, and report this to the manufacturer and the Consumer Goods Council of SA.

Same goes for a date that looks “dodgy” – a sticker that may be covering the original date, or a date that doesn’t look as if it was applied in a professional factory environment.

Staying with date marks, Rennie Naicker of Hillcrest, KZN, wrote to Consumer Watch to report that he’d bought two packs of Heinz “Gourmet Sensations” beef curry “puffs” from Checkers in Westville Mall.

When the family prepared to cook the product on the Easter weekend, they discovered that the best-before date was August 3, 2011 – eight months previously.

Naicker said: “I don’t think that in this particular instance they were unaware that the date had expired because someone had put up a little ‘special’ board with the price.”

Responding, Shoprite spokeswoman Sarita van Wyk said the group owed Naicker a “big apology” for his bad experience.

“The product in question was deleted from our stock listing eight months ago due to poor sales performance and the supplier received notification to uplift remaining stock from all stores in KZN,” she said.

“The relevant stores placed the product in the back-up holding freezers to be uplifted, but unfortunately due to human error, Checkers Westville neglected to do so and it remained on the sales floor.

“This is an example of very poor housekeeping… and the necessary steps will be taken against those responsible for the gross oversight,” Van Wyk said, adding that Shoprite has given Naicker a R300 gift card as an apology.

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