Always read small print before buying

Guarantees and warranties give consumers peace of mind, most assuming that should something go wrong with the product they’ve invested in, the problem will be sorted out at no additional cost to them.

Sadly, most find out that when it comes to claim time, the devil is in the small print.

Reality check: Niresh Bachoo's house, and a close-up of one of the rusting gates. Maxidor say their offer to him was very generous.

What the large print giveth, the small print – to a very large extent – taketh away.

In July, Niresh Bachoo spent almost R42 000 having Maxidor security products fitted to his five-bedroomed home in Queensburgh, Durban.

In terms of the “conditional” five-year guarantee given on the installation, he was obliged to have the products serviced once a year.

In January, seven months after the installation, Bachoo arranged for the gates and burglar guards to be inspected. To his horror, five of the security fittings had rusted.

He was then told, that 0.05 to 0.08 percent of Maxidor’s coastal installations had to be replaced during the guarantee period because of rust.

Then began the negotiations, which boiled down to Maxidor giving Bachoo two options: a 25 percent refund on what he paid for installation, with a “corrosive treatment/ repair of the affected product as it stands”; and a cancellation of the guarantee on the entire installation thereafter; or a 30 percent refund with no servicing or repairs, and no further guarantee.

Bachoo responded by asking Maxidor managing director Tertius Venter-Davies to increase the offer to a 50 percent refund, to enable him to have the rusting gates replaced by another company.

Venter-Davies responded by saying that the offer was “very generous” and, in fact, “exactly double the percentage that we would offer any other client”.

“If the 30 percent (refund) is not acceptable, then the only remaining option is to remove against a full refund.”

Having been advised by his engineer that removing every gate – installed via drilling and gluing – would leave all the reveals of his house extensively damaged, Bachoo reluctantly opted for the 30 percent refund – about R12 000.

According to his original quote, the rusting gates made up R25 887 of the cost of the entire installation. Bachoo now has no guarantee on the rest of the installation, and says the rust is worsening.

“Another security gate company has given me a quote to replace the five rusting gates, which is more than R30 000,” he said.

“So having spent almost R42 000, a year later I am left with five rusting gates, no guarantee and just R12 000 towards the replacement of the gates.

“I really thought that I was purchasing a superior product, given all their advertising and sales pitches; a product which would last me a lifetime,” Bachoo said.

“The rust is visible on the part that actually locks into the wall panel, so I don’t think that’s going to last till year-end.

“Three of the rusting gates are on the inside of the house, with the sliding doors protecting them from the elements, and the other two are on the outside, but have roof and ceiling cover.”

Responding, Venter-Davies denied removing the entire installation would not have compromised the structure of Bachoo’s house. “Installation is merely a matter of drilling holes into the reveal and can easily be closed shut with filler that can be purchased over the counter and repainted without a problem,” he said.

He also contested Bachoo’s claim that replacing the rusting gates “like for like” would cost R30 000.

“We suspect that there is a lack of transparency from Mr Bachoo,” he said.

Bachoo countered that the replacement gates quoted by another company were indeed not “like” those installed by Maxidor, being less likely to rust. “My problem is as transparent as the rust on my five gates,” he said.

All warranties are conditional, and have exclusions.

Protect yourself by finding out exactly how the warranty works in practice so you can make an informed decision.

And be sure that you diarise the warranty conditions – such as having the product checked or serviced at particular intervals – to avoid the warranty falling away completely.