Insure your car, home and valuables with iWYZE
I wish I knew why, but most consumers appear to think that the Consumer Protection Act gives them the right to return anything they’ve bought, for a refund, as long as they do so “in the seven-day cooling-off period”.
Yes, the CPA does contain a section which gives consumers the right to return non-defective goods within five business days for a refund – without having to give a reason – but ONLY in the case of deals concluded as a result of direct marketing.
Perhaps the all-important “direct marketing” bit is being missed because people don’t know exactly what it is.
Direct marketing, as the name implies, refers to the practice of companies contacting consumers directly in order to try to sell them something. The mail order catalogue sent to your home address; the call you get from someone selling a cellphone contract or insurance policy; the flyer in your postbox; the e-mail from an airline advertising discounted airfares; the person who stops you in a shopping mall and invites you to sample their face cream or make-up – these are all forms of direct marketing.
So why do we have a cooling-off period in such instances? To counteract the high-pressure hard-sell, an environment in which many consumers feel overwhelmed, and intimidated into agreeing to buy something they either don’t really want or can’t really afford, or both.
The cooling-off period gives us time – free from the hard-sell – to reconsider, and get out of the deal if you come to the conclusion that you shouldn’t have buckled under the pressure.
You have the right to cancel a direct marketing deal, and get a refund, within five business days.
The cancellation must be in writing, and the company must refund you within 15 business days.
Oh, and if you need to send a product back, you must bear the cost of doing so.
Direct marketing companies are clearly not fans of this cooling-off period and the ones on the dodgier end of the spectrum deliberately obstruct people from delivering that written notice of cancellation within five business days.
So make sure you have a valid means of doing so before you sign up.
In the case of contracts signed or goods bought in the traditional way, you only have the right to demand a refund if your purchase proves to be defective in some way within six months of purchase – and then only if you can produce proof of purchase. Also, the store has the right to send the goods off to be assessed in order to rule out consumer abuse as the cause of the problem.
Change of heart
Many stores will take back “change of heart” purchases as well, despite the lack of defect, but in such cases, they get to determine the conditions, which means they can impose their own time limit on this, and do exchanges or issue credit notes instead of refunds.
So it’s best to check out a store’s policy on non-defective returns, before you buy.
Luchelle Moodley bought a shirt from the Guess store in Gateway, uMhlanga in late July as a birthday gift for her boyfriend.
He didn’t like it, so she tried to return it for a refund about two weeks later, but she was told she would not get a refund, or even a credit note or exchange, because the store’s policy is to only take back non-defective goods within 10 days of purchase.
“This was also stated on my receipt,” she admits.
“I did not think to read the terms on the receipt, thinking that Guess being such a big store, would probably have a 30-day returns policy,” she told Consumer Talk.
“Now I have a shirt that will never be worn. I don’t mind not getting the cash back; an exchange or a credit note would have been okay.
“Are they allowed to do that?”
Yes, they are.
But only when the item being brought back is a “change of heart” purchase or an unwanted gift. When something is being returned to a store because it’s defective, the CPA’s six-month “implied warranty” applies.