Consumer Watch

Wendy Knowler fights for your rights...

Wendy Knowler masthead
November 12 2012 at 10:29

My deadline for last week’s column was several hours before news of 1time airline’s demise broke.

In the past week I’ve been inundated with e-mails from affected 1time ticket holders, and my heart particularly goes out to those who paid cash for their tickets, as they don’t have the protection of chargeback.

There’s the woman who paid R2 700 to fly from Durban to Joburg in mid-December to be at the birth of her first grandchild, and the 12-year-old who saved his pocket money for three years so that he could buy himself a ticket to Cape Town to visit his sister in December.

“There is no money to just ‘buy another ticket’,” his mother told me. “It is an absolute disgrace. Surely there is some recourse to be had?”

Well, for cash-paying ticket holders, the only recourse is contacting 1time’s liquidators to add their names to the airline’s creditors list, and the most they can hope for is a few cents in the rand, months down the line.

For those who paid for their tickets with their credit, debit or cheque cards, there’s some consolation in the form of chargeback, although most will have to pay considerably more for replacement tickets on other airlines.

A chargeback is essentially a protection offered by Visa and MasterCard globally – it’s |a reversal of a transaction because the goods or services that were purchased were not provided by the merchant – either not at all or not in full.

Your bank gets the money back from the “acquiring” bank, the bank that collected the payment – in this case, 1time’s bank, Absa – which in turn claims from the credit card companies.

Unaccustomed as the banks are to large numbers of clients requesting chargebacks – consumer awareness of chargeback has been relatively low – some consumers are being given wrong or conflicting advice by bank staff, which is hampering the process.

After much phoning around, Consumer Watch can report that while Diner’s Club was initially refusing chargeback requests relating to 1time’s demise – as it did with Nationwide’s and Velvet Sky’s collapses – it has done an about-turn and is now offering chargeback to affected 1time ticket holders.

And while chargebacks will be processed on all cards –   credit, debit and cheque cards  – in the case of debit and cheque cards, the card has to have been swiped or “dipped” when making payment in order to qualify.

In other words, if you used your debit card to do an EFT, as many people did, including the soon-to-be granny, you’ve lost out: you can’t apply for chargeback, because an EFT transaction is regarded as a cash transaction.

But if you paid for your 1time ticket with your debit card at a 1time office, you qualify to apply for chargeback.

Since 2008, in my quest to get the word out about the chargeback protection, I have always said that it applies to credit card payments, and no one has said otherwise.

Now I’ve discovered that the protection applies to debit and cheque cards, too, as long as they were “swiped” when making the purchase.

Just to be clear, all credit card purchases, no matter how they were made, qualify for a chargeback.

Spread the word!

Kershnee Nundlall, who paid for two 1time tickets with her FNB credit card, told Consumer Watch that when she applied for chargeback, one bank staff member told her that the refund would take 30 days, and another said |the bank was not liable to process 1time-related chargeback requests.

I took this up with FNB, which responded by saying that it is committed to helping those clients who bought 1time tickets with their FNB Visa credit, cheque and debit cards within “several days”.

And Nedbank client Sunjay Ramnanan, of Durban, said he’d been told by a Nedbank staff member that he could apply for chargeback only after the date of his booked 1time flights – that’s mid-December.

Aarthi Ramterath of Joburg was told the same thing by a Nedbank staffer.

She submitted her dispute form for four 1time tickets, and was told the refund would take 24 hours, but when she called for an update she got a different story. “I was advised that the money will only be reversed after the date of departure.”

Unhappy, she called the bank the following day, and that time was told that the refund would take 45 working days.

Normally consumers would have to wait until after the date of the flight, or any other service, before applying for chargeback, in order to prove that the service was not provided, but given that 1time has collapsed, the banks should begin 1time-related chargeback refunds immediately.

Thankfully, that is Nedbank’s official policy in this case.

Nedbank’s head of corporate card services, Pamela White, said Nedbank would refund cardholders their 1time tickets within 24 hours on receipt of a chargeback form and booking confirmation reference documents.

That applies to payments made with a credit card branded with a Visa, MasterCard or an American Express logo.

So, if you paid for your 1time tickets by card, apply for chargeback, and don’t take no for an answer.

The key to a successful chargeback – air ticket-related or not – is having the hard evidence to back up your claim.

Receipts, correspondence between yourself and the |supplier, photographs – even |a recording done with your cellphone: it all helps make |your case.

* On the upside, Absa credit cardholder Christine Burnand of Durban applied for chargeback for her four Durban to Cape Town 1time tickets – totalling R5 200 – via e-mail last Monday.

“They e-mailed me back asking for certain documents, which I sent, and by Wednesday R5 200 had been deposited back into my account.

“I couldn’t believe it!”

No doubt the fact that Absa is 1time’s acquiring bank helped speed up the process.

How to apply for chargeback

ABSA
Chargeback rights apply where the service has not been delivered as contracted, whether the merchant has been liquidated or not. To claim, call 0861 462 273, visit a branch, or e-mail disputes@ absa.co.za.

NEDBANK
Nedbank clients have 30 days to raise a chargeback dispute. Nedbank and American Express cardholders may apply for a chargeback if they have bought a 1time ticket on their Nedbank Visa or MasterCard credit and cheque card, their American Express card or cheque card, for a flight scheduled to depart after 3pm on November 2. To claim, call 0860 555 111. Complete the dispute form and provide a copy of your ticket.

FNB
FNB clients have 180 days from the date the airline’s liquidation was confirmed, to apply for a chargeback.Call 087 575 1111 to get the form. Attach a copy of the unused ticket/flight confirmation to the |completed dispute form and fax or e-mail it to the fax number or e-mail address that appears on the form. Indicate “service not rendered” on the form. FNB says refunds may take “several days” due to the volume of disputes being received.

STANDARD BANK
Standard Bank gives its clients 120 days in which |to apply for chargeback from the time the service has not been rendered. E-mail [email protected] 

DOES THE DEAL SOUND TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE? KNOCK-OFFS ARE ILLEGAL

Does the deal sound too good to be true? Knock-offs are illegal

The complainant in this story asked not to be named, because “I’d hate for people to think that all my genuine bags are fakes”.

I’ll call her Stella.

Stella spends a fortune on genuine designer handbags from Louis Vuitton, Fendi and so on. As she put it: “I’m the type of person who’d rather have a real Guess bag than a fake Gucci.”

A few weeks ago she spotted a beige Chanel 2.55 lambskin bag “with gold hardware” in the Naf Naf store in Eastgate.

She said she was aware that “anything sold outside of the branded boutiques is likely to be counterfeit”, and admits that the asking price of R2 800 was about a tenth of what she’d paid for her other designer handbags.

But on the other hand, “the bag looked of reasonable quality, the stitching lined up, and the hardware had the Chanel logo”, and the assistant produced a Chanel envelope, containing the bag’s certification papers. “All of which led me to believe this was a real designer Chanel handbag,” Stella said.

“On my return home I was excited to find the Chanel hologram sticker in the bag with the serial authentication number matching that of the card. This all looked promising and I thought I had the deal of the century – until I decided to verify my bag’s serial number online.

“A Google search revealed that several thousand ‘good quality’ replicas had been made, complete with fake Chanel authenticity cards and fake hologram stickers, all bearing the same authenticity number – y # 10218184.

“So this was obviously a fake, as every real designer bag has a unique serial number that proves it is real. I had been duped.”

Stella was especially angry at this discovery, as she had stressed to the staff that she only ever bought genuine designer bags, and was assured that the bag in question was the real deal.

So she took the bag back the following day and asked for her money back. The assistant asked her to fill in a form and said someone would get back to her about her refund.

“I have spoken to Malcolm Dick of client services, who keeps telling me he needs to speak to their MD, but in the meantime they have R2 800 of my money and are continuing to sell copies,” she told Consumer Watch.

I took up the case with Dick, who said the store knew the bags were copies, and the staff was supposed to make this clear to customers.

“We have dealt with the staff member in question,” he said, and [Stella] will be refunded,” he said.

That has since happened.

Many manufacturers of top brand goods – including GHD hair irons – use the unique serial number system to differentiate their goods from counterfeits.

Rather than checking out the number online after making the purchase, use your smartphone for this purpose right there in the store.

l In terms of the Counterfeit Goods Act of 1997, the owners or licensees of a trademark, or their importers, distributors or attorneys, may take civil or criminal action against any person or company involved in counterfeiting those protected goods.

The Department of Trade and Industry, the SA Customs Authority and the SAPS |are jointly responsible for implementing the act and they act in terms of guidelines of the international agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

Raids usually take place at ports in Durban and Cape Town, with knock-offs confiscated and destroyed.

E-mail Wendy: [email protected]

On Twitter: @wendyknowler

 

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