Consumer Watch

Wendy Knowler fights for your rights...

Repair, replacement or refund? Know your stuff

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ST gamestore0

Reuters

Be clear: Game agrees that items should only be repaired if this is what the customer wants. Pictures: Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters

I do have a small shred of sympathy for retailers and their suppliers when it comes to the Consumer Protection Act’s Section 56 – the bit which gives consumers the right, for the first time, to choose their recourse when something they’ve bought malfunctions in some way within six months.

For decades suppliers had the right to devise their own warranty terms and conditions, which mostly stipulated a repair as the only recourse.

But in this new CPA era, they no longer have the right to force consumers to accept a repair. Now the consumers get to choose their remedy within the first six months – in the case of defective goods – and, naturally, many prefer to get a new item or their money back.

This means the supplier loses a sale and the broken, second-hand goods become their problem.

When it comes to mechanical or electronic goods, the act does allow the supplier to have an item assessed when a customer returns it, claiming it’s defective, so they can establish whether the problem is due to an inherent defect, or some form of consumer abuse instead.

There’s no recourse for the latter.

But I’ve heard of cases of appliances being repaired during that assessment process, despite the owner having said they wanted a refund or replacement.

Take the case of Hans Hiller of Hillcrest, KZN. He bought an Empisal sewing machine from Game in Pinetown for his wife about five months ago. The second time she used it, he says, it stopped working.

When he reported this to the store, he was told to take it in, and they would send it to the suppliers for assessment, a process which would take about three weeks.

He was not happy about this long assessment period, but he handed the machine over nevertheless, stipulating that he wanted to be refunded the purchase price.

Interestingly, the sales staff refused to accept the machine’s accessories which Hiller attempted to hand in with the machine.

Two and a half weeks later, the store contacted him and asked him to come and collect the repaired sewing machine. He saw red and refused to leave the store without his refund. Half an hour later he left without the machine and with the money he’d paid for it.

I’d taken up this case with Game’s head office and was awaiting a response when a similar case landed in my inbox last week.

Nicola Conlan bought an Empisal sewing machine from Game in Amanzimtoti on November 5, and the second time she used it, to take up a hem, she went through five needles – they broke one after the other.

She returned the machine to the store, and having read a Consumer Watch column on the CPA, she told the Game staff that she’d like to exercise her right to a refund.

She says a manager told her the machine would have to be taken in for assessment, which would take up to three weeks. Conlan claims the manager was emphatic that whatever the outcome of the assessment, she wasn’t entitled to a refund.

She was also made to sign what she termed a “repair document”, and like Hiller, the store’s staff refused to accept the accessories.

That’s when she contacted Consumer Watch for advice.

I contacted Game again, adding Conlan’s case to Hiller’s.

Responding, Game’s PR manager Shelley Kreinacke began by saying that Game was entitled to have allegedly defective goods assessed to ensure that there’d been no customer negligence or abuse.

A reasonable time period for this was five to eight days, she said.

That’s a lot more reasonable than three weeks.

If an inherent fault was found, she said, the customer had the right to decide if they wanted the item repaired, refunded or replaced.

“The item must not be repaired unless the customer has expressly advised that this is what they want,” Kreinacke said.

Quite right. So what happened in Hiller’s case?

Kreinacke said that when allegedly defective goods were handed in for repair at Game stores, a form headed “Assessment or Repair” had to be filled in and sent to the supplier with the goods. “The form Mr Hiller signed did not state that it was to be an assessment only,” she said.

“This was an error on the store’s side and is the reason why his item was repaired and not assessed.”

As for Conlan’s case, Kreinacke said her sewing machine had since been assessed and she would be refunded as requested.

No word on why that manager told her, before the assessment, that she couldn’t have a refund.

The supplier in question had confirmed that they complied with CPA regulations, Kreinacke said.

So remember – you’re entitled to choose your remedy if something you buy breaks within six months. You can’t refuse to allow the store to take the goods from you and have them assessed, but you must state your desired remedy upfront.

Make sure this is noted in writing, and a copy given to you.

You do not have to accept a repair if that’s not what you want.

Of course, after six months, the CPA protection falls away, and then you no longer have the right to insist on a replacement or refund.


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Pauline, wrote

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07:19am on 8 February 2012
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Game = WallMart. Think People of Wallmart. Kinda explains the service attitude...

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Anonymous, wrote

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09:09am on 7 February 2012
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Bought a 1TBT Samsung from Increadable Connection - 2nd time it was used it 'died' after returning it and explaining in monosylibic terms that the data shall be recovered and the drive replaced at their expence, over 3weeks later a new one was provided. Less than 6months later after doing mirror backups of two machines onto the drive as well as cataloguing 10years (yes 10) of photos onto this 'new' drive - pooff dead again! Second verse same as the first; back to Increadable Connection. This Samsung drive is unrealiable as a backup tool. We wait patiently for their response.

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Anonymous, wrote

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05:06pm on 6 February 2012
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Its a well know rumour that SA is a dumping ground for old technology, sold to the public as the latest technology at exhorbatent prices. These companies want to charge what they do, they must be held accountable!!!!(Accountable - A virtual non-extistant word in South Africa).

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Skramrox, wrote

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03:48pm on 2 February 2012
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I know in the past that “your box is your guarantee” but how does this change with the CPA ? My MTN cell-phone is 4 months old and is faulty. I have all accessories (battery, charger etc) but no longer have the original box that the handset was supplied with. MTN says that since my “original packaging” is missing they are no longer obliged to stick to CPA. My “refund, replace or repair” options are therefore removed and instead I am left with only one option and that is repair. Is this true ?

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George, wrote

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02:02pm on 1 February 2012
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Makes you wonder why we have the law in the first place if big companies are not prepared to stick to it and recourse through the Courts is beyond the reach of the vast majority of people the Act is supposed to protect.

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Anonymous, wrote

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11:45am on 1 February 2012
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We went to buy a fridge at Game KC the consultant looked us up an down and assumed we couldnt afford it. Then after trying to get assistance in the chairs department we went back to the fridges. Another staff member helped us. At least he had the decency to show us the different brands. We purchased to the value of R8000.00 cash. My did the first guy looked surpised. Game should teach their staff customer service. maybe he thought he would have to fill out forms for credit and was too lazy. One staff member made a difference when we could easily have gone somewhere else. but the rest of their staff - pathetic

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Steve, wrote

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10:59am on 1 February 2012
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I bought a renault sport from CMH Midrand. 5 months later it was in the shop for engine noises. After everything I have no recourse. I drive a 300 000 renault that sounds like a 20 year old beetle. There is nothing i can do. I'll be f**cked if i EVER buy renault again. They have lost numerous sales due to my adventures. Many people i know were considering the new meganes... Luckily for them, they bought another brand. Unlucky for me, im stuck with this piece of shit and nothing i can do about it. Wanna buy a renault, the answers in the name!

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Anonymous, wrote

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10:19am on 1 February 2012
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the stuff in Games are rude and Game should pay for stuff that can talk and be be more ready to help when asked to.the stuff get paid very little and its a fool of the street take the job and stands there and look at you like what the f,,,,k you came into the store for.

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Anonymous, wrote

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09:28am on 1 February 2012
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I bought a blender from game which broke, had no problems getting a new one depite now being sold at a higher price. They never disputed my rights.

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Anonymous, wrote

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07:24am on 1 February 2012
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The new act forces manufacturer's to produce beter quility products, if any retailer have a problem with a product they just return it to the manufacturer, no cost on their side. Remember the manfacturer is the guilty party here.

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Zane, wrote

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04:31am on 1 February 2012
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I have had this same problem with Cape Gate game.They returned my video camera still as faulty as when I gave it back to them ,too much hassle and no results . So I will agree with not to buy any electronic goods from Game .

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Anonymous, wrote

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09:47pm on 31 January 2012
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The CPA applies to juristic person's with an annual turnover exceeding R3 000 000. So, the Chinese shop SS, most likely will not be covered

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SS, wrote

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09:18pm on 31 January 2012
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Does the CPA cover the chinese malls? I wanted to buy a fan for about R1000 but the owner of the store said it came with no guarantee. Needless to say I spent my money elsewhere.

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Anonymous, wrote

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07:53pm on 31 January 2012
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I think that it also matters which store that you deal with, for instance I purchased a gazebo from the Game store at Gateway, and it was almost blown away as well as gotten bent from the first time that I used it. I took it back the following week to the same store and they gave me the option to get a new one or refund... then a few weeks ago I purchased a mountain bike for R799 and the same week saw one at PnP for R599 - went back to Game Gateway and they gave me a refund of R220..... all this with no hassle...

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Anonymous, wrote

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05:21pm on 31 January 2012
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i learned loong time ago never to buy anything that costs more than 50 bucks from HIFI corp. They don care. 50 bucks because if it does not work, I'll just replace it. Going there back n forth will cost me more than that.

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Anonymous, wrote

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04:35pm on 31 January 2012
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what happens in the case of a motor vehicle purchase? can one return the vehicle for a refund?

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Anonymous, wrote

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04:34pm on 31 January 2012
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in all fairness to game n1 city, about 3yrs ago i purchased an lcd tv for 9999-00, a week later the same tv was advertised for 7999-00 on querying the price drop in such a short period i was refunded 2000-00 no questions asked

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Anonymous, wrote

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04:27pm on 31 January 2012
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Game is pathetic... NEVER buy from them

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Anonymous, wrote

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03:25pm on 31 January 2012
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I bought a voice recorder fro HI-FI corp on 15 November last year. It never worked. I took it back, they made me sign a repair form which states that I will have to pay R350 for them to check what the problem is. The voice recorder cost R500. It is not even three months old and it has never worked. Surely they should replace it without me having to pay in anything. Does anybody know what recourse I have here?

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The Gecko, wrote

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01:50pm on 31 January 2012
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Thank you for this article. I will make a point of taking a printed copy of the CPA with me, should I ever have to return an item for a refund...

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