Consumer Watch

Wendy Knowler fights for your rights...

Wendy Knowler masthead
June 20 2012 at 09:58

Believe it or not, I’m still getting e-mails daily from people who have either misunderstood how the Consumer Protection Act’s section on returning defective goods applies to them, or have been denied their right to choose their remedy by a company which is apparently still rooted in the pre-CPA era.

A couple of weeks ago I was standing at the tillpoint in the Vertigo’s clothing store at Gateway, waiting to pay for a sweatshirt, when my eyes fell on |a large notice on the desk – in particular, this paragraph:

“We are happy to issue refunds within 10 days of purchase, in the event of a defect in the garment, and on condition that a valid receipt is provided.”

Naturally, I told the assistant that that policy wasn’t compliant with the CPA, which gives consumers the right to return defective goods within six months of purchase – for their choice of a refund, repair or replacement.

(And the supplier has the right to have it assessed in order to find out if the problem is in fact a defect, or caused by some form of consumer abuse instead.)

The assistant apologised, saying I was not the first to point that out, but that the notice came from “head office”.

So I contacted “head office” – the Cape Town-based Platinum Group, which owns the Vertigo brand, along with Aca Joe, Urban Degree, Jenni Button and Hilton Weiner.

Spokesman Brian Essakow responded immediately, saying the group had been unaware that its returns policy was not compliant with the CPA.

He asked for my advice on how the sign should read, and within days, the old sign had disappeared and there was |a new one in its place.

“We are happy to refund, repair or replace (where possible) any item which is defective within six months of purchase, on condition that a valid receipt is provided, and that the goods have not been deliberately or negligently damaged.”

That’s more like it.

It’s been more than 14 months since the CPA became effective, and its returns provisions affect all of us.

All anyone – consumer or company – has to do if they need to know the new rules of return, is turn to the internet.

Beware though, because one of the early drafts of the Consumer Protection Bill gave suppliers the right to choose the remedy when defective goods are returned, and a few companies have adopted that as their returns policy.

But the final act turned that on its head, giving consumers the right to choose their remedy, for the first time.

Naturally, many retailers and their suppliers are less than pleased that they no longer have the right to repair faulty appliances, shoes etc as they’ve always done, and some are coming up with creative ways of continuing to repair, particularly appliances, contrary to consumer’s wishes.

If you want a refund, or a replacement item, that’s what the CPA now entitles you to, provided it is indeed defective.

So when you return a defective item to a company, make sure you record your choice of remedy in writing, with both parties keeping a copy.

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