Consumer Watch

Wendy Knowler fights for your rights...

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June 25 2012 at 10:37

Here’s a question which has sparked many a debate: if you have a item replaced under warranty, does the replacement item come with a full warranty, or the balance of the warranty of the item it replaced?

For years it’s been standard practice for the replacement to “inherit” the balance of the original, failed item’s warranty, which has irked consumers, who expect the replacement to have the same warranty as the original.

For example, a reader wrote to me recently about his geyser issue. He’d had a new geyser installed in March 2010 as a replacement for a geyser – originally installed in 2006 – which had failed during its five-year warranty period.

“Apparently,” he told Consumer Watch, “when a geyser is replaced under warranty, a code is written on the cylinder to indicate the date of installation, as well as the date of the original installation.

“According to both the plumber and the insurance assessor, the five-year warranty period runs from 2006 to 2011.

“The fact that the geyser was replaced under warranty in 2010 is irrelevant to them.

“The bottom line is that I received no five-year guarantee for the geyser installed in March 2010, and as the five-year warranty on the original geyser expired in 2011, I now have to pay… for a new geyser”.

To him, this was “legal trickery at best – after all, there is a huge sticker on the geyser which says “five-year warranty when installed by a qualified technician”.

Just after the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) came into effect last April, I received an e-mail from a woman who’d bought an iron, which came with a one-year guarantee.

Five months later, it stopped working. “So I took it back to the supermarket and they gladly swopped it for me, but they put the new iron into the old box with the date I bought the original iron on it. This confuses me because it is a brand new iron, but only guaranteed for the next seven months.

“Should they not have stamped the new box with today’s date to give me the full year’s guarantee?”

And then last week, Viv Menhard posed the same question, hypothetically, in his case.

“If I buy a product that turns out to be faulty within the CPA’s six-month ‘implied warranty’ period, say, after four months, and I return it for a replacement, would the replacement then have a new six-month return policy, or would there only be the balance of two months?”

So I thought it was time to seek a legal opinion on this issue, specifically pertaining to cases where goods fail within six months of purchase and are then replaced, given that this period now falls under the CPA when it comes to remedies for defective goods.

Tarah King, of the Cape Town-based consumer law firm Robertson Teuteberg Kirk, obliged.

“We are of the view that the answer to this question can be found in section 46 (2) (a) of the CPA, which deals with substitution of goods,” she said.

“The replacement of defective goods, in our view, clearly constitutes substitution.”

And that section states that the substituted goods will be governed by the same terms and conditions as that which governed the transaction of the original defective goods.

“From the date of delivery of the substituted goods, the transaction applies to the substituted goods rather than the goods originally described.”

What this means, King says, “is that the replaced goods, like the original defective goods, will come with a full six-month CPA implied warranty, which comes into effect from the date of delivery of the substituted goods”.

An additional argument could be made that the replacement of goods constituted an exchange, which fell within the definition of “supply”, she said.

“It is a requirement that there be a ‘supply’ of goods in order for the six-month CPA warranty to come into effect.”

But, like so many other aspects of the CPA, this one remains open to interpretation until the Consumer Tribunal or a court makes a finding in this regard.

“We are of the view, particularly having consideration for the argument based on substitution, that all replaced goods should come with a six-month CPA implied warranty as afforded in terms of section 56,” King said.

Remember, if an item fails more than six months after purchase, and is replaced under warranty, the CPA doesn’t apply.

If you’ve recently had the “balance of warranty” applied to an item which was replaced within six months of purchase, please let me know.

 

Much less to much on

 

Not so long ago all the small chocolate slabs on sale in SA were 100g and all the big ones were 200g. Simple.

Then in 2009 Cadbury decided to pass on the increased cost of “premium” ingredients such as nuts and fruit by reducing the weight of the variants with those ingredients – such as Whole Nut and Fruit & Nut – to 90g and 180g respectively.

Now the chocolate maker, owned by Kraft Foods, has introduced new re-sealable foil packs, and done away with the remaining 200g and 100g slabs. All of them are now 90g and 180g, a move which been picked up by many readers.

“Cadbury has quietly reduced both the Dairy Milk and the Top Deck to 180g,” wrote Graham Goetze.

“Previously when they reduced the size of the Whole Nut slabs to 180g, the marketing department said they’d done this because of the high cost of the hazel nuts. I wonder if this means that they will sneakily reduce the size of that slab again…”

Responding, Kraft Foods Southern Africa marketing director Mike Middleton said commodity prices had increased by between 8 percent and 10 percent in the past year, and with escalating transport and energy costs, Cadbury had been under “enormous pressure” to find ways of minimising the impact on consumers and remain at a competitive price point – relative to competing brands, which had also downsized their slabs in recent years.

“Therefore, we decided not to apply a price increase to the Cadbury Dairy Milk range in 2012, but to rather reduce grammage to 90g for the smaller packs and 180g for the larger packs, across the entire range,” Middleton said.

The packs have been re-designed to accommodate the smaller slabs, and the packs are now re-sealable.

In my experience whenever you see a new pack design, you should check the weight or volume. Chances are it will have reduced.

Beacon’s standard size slab is now 90g and Nestle’s is just 80g. So when comparing the prices of chocolate slabs, take into account the size. If you’re shopping in a Pick n Pay or Checkers/Shoprite store, compare the unit prices displayed on the shelf label.

 

It’s curtains for Velvet Sky and now for refunds

 

 

So budget airline Velvet Sky has finally been liquidated, leaving those who bought tickets for flights scheduled for take-off after the airline stopped taking to the skies in late February to join the long list of its creditors.

The airline apparently owes its creditors almost R100 million.

Those who bought their Velvet Sky tickets at Computicket outlets were refunded by Shoprite, which owns Computicket, and many of those who paid for their tickets with their credit cards successfully applied for chargeback from their banks and have since been refunded.

For the rest, who paid cash or did an EFT, all hope of a full refund has now evaporated.

When companies liquidate, creditors, especially the smaller ones, such as individual customers, can expect to get only what is referred to as “a few cents in the rand” – in other words, a tiny fraction of their losses, if anything. That’s if they register their details with the attorneys appointed to handle the liquidation.

The upside of paying for goods or services by credit card is that you have the protection of chargeback – offered by banks and their credit card company partners – which sees you being refunded if you can prove that you didn’t get what you paid for.

Last week Tjeerd de Wit wrote to say: “I read your article about chargeback on credit card purchases… (and) sent an e-mail to Standard Bank… I was fully refunded R2 900. Thanks a lot.”

Another Velvet Sky “victim”, Bruna Gillham, wrote: “We followed due process with chargeback, and although it has taken a while, I am happy to report that we have received our money back from the bank.

“Thank you for all your advice – I would not have known about chargeback if you hadn’t written about it some time ago when Nationwide airlines collapsed.”

In my Consumer Watch column of April 17, I have details on each of the four major banks’ chargeback procedures and time frames. To access that column, go to www.wendyknowler.com and scroll down to the column of April 17.

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