A boutique claiming they offer exclusive gowns has one client fuming after the dress she received was ill-fitting and she is unable to get a refund from the owner. Picture: Supplied
A boutique claiming they offer exclusive gowns has one client fuming after the dress she received was ill-fitting and she is unable to get a refund from the owner. Picture: Supplied

Consumer Watch: Boutique e-tailer refuses to refund bride for defective dress

By Georgina Crouth Time of article published Nov 23, 2020

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The owner says it specialises in “exclusive” garments that “stand out and make you get noticed wherever you are”, but a Princess Lola Boutique customer is fuming after having bought a dress that was ill-fitting and had a bulging, faulty zip, but was told she would get a store credit only – valid for a month.

Too close to her wedding day and under pressure, Angela Roylance incurred further costs by buying a replacement dress from another retailer and contacting the Kraaifontein-based Princess Lola for a refund.

Via WhatsApp, Princess Lola owner Tammy Oosthuizen first sent her the “exchange details” (the return and exchange conditions), which said customers “have the right to ask all questions pertaining to the garment or item in question before making payment”, but “regret no refunds”, although “exchanges are welcome” other than lingerie, swimwear, hair extensions and sale items.

The Ts&Cs further state that returns must be made to Princess Lola Boutique within five days of receipt of the item, in a sellable condition, “unworn, unwashed and unperfumed”.

The return cost is for the client’s account and the delivery fee is “strictly non-refundable”. Customers also have to pay a further R70 upfront to cover the return courier cost of the item to be exchanged.

“Once you have paid for your order and an item has either been specially ordered for you or has already been sent to you, no refunds will be made and no cancellations will be accepted.”

In the “unlikely event” that an item is faulty, they promise to exchange it free of charge for the same item in the same size. And if customers are issued with a store credit, they must use it within 30 days or a month to avoid forfeiting the amount.

Wrong size, wrong fit or just wrong?

Concerned she would lose out on a refund if she failed to return the dress within five days, Roylance sent the dress back to Princess Lola and contacted Oosthuizen, who said she look at it once it arrived.

“I think it might just be buldging because you needed a smaller size as the dress will buldge if it’s too big but let me get it back and I will have it go through quality inspection (sic),” Oosthuizen said.

Roylance then turned to Consumer Watch.

“I don’t want a replacement – I want a refund. I bought the dress for my wedding day and I won’t be needing a credit from Princess Lola.”

After attempting to contact Oosthuizen, she not only failed to respond but also blocked my number, which is a first.

Hardly exclusive

Princess Lola Boutique’s offering of lingerie, fancy dress wear, corset tops and pettiskirts, club wear, swimwear, accessories and hair extensions, are far from “exclusive”.

A Google image search revealed the items were mass-produced and widely available on the internet. Many were replicas of designer clothing priced in dollars. The dress Roylance purchased, the “vertigo lace off-shoulder mermaid gown”, is cheap as chips in the UK, Dubai and the East.

That’s neither here nor there – most garments are produced in the East, some declaring their countries of origin as required by law, while others are relabelled in the West by deceptive resellers.

Princess Lola’s low-budget website is not only selling obvious knock-offs and refusing to refund customers, but it claims that “product colours, prints and textures may vary slightly from

what is shown in the pictures, due to some computer/laptop monitor settings, lighting used during photoshoots etc and depending if it is a printed material where the fabric has been cut”, when, in fact, the pictures have been appropriated from other websites too, including Amazon.

Unlike some of the unwearable, cheap and nasty “fail” outfits that are pilloried on social media, Roylance did not hate the dress – it was the correct size but had a noticeable flaw.

Violating our consumer protections

Critically, returns policy is unlawful and not in line with either the Consumer Protection Act or the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (Ecta), nor is it 30-day voucher offer.

The CPA says vouchers must be valid for a minimum of three years – not 30 days, six months or any other arbitrary period.

Furthermore, Princess Lola is denying customers the right to return goods, defective or not. There is nothing in law preventing a customer from returning underwear, swimwear or sale items – if they are not fit for purpose or defective.

Under the CPA, consumers have six months within which to return faulty goods.

Ecta, which takes precedence over the CPA, goes even further – it gives you the right to cancel any electronic transaction within seven days of receiving the goods, and you have to get a full refund. You don’t even need to provide a reason for cancellation – consumers can simply have a change of heart, which is not accommodated under the CPA.

But if the goods are not faulty, Ecta requires that the customer return the goods at their own cost.

It’s unacceptable for any retailer, big or small, to treat a customer in this manner – and simply cowardly not to engage with the media constructively on the issue.

Avoid online retailers that hide behind terms and conditions in such clear violation of consumer protections. And if you’ve been a victim of such a retailer, take them to the Consumer Protector.

They cannot get away with flouting the law so brazenly.

* Georgina Crouth is a consumer watchdog with serious bite. Write to her at [email protected], tweet her @georginacrouth and follow her on Facebook.

** Receive IOL's top stories via Whatsapp by sending your name to 0745573535

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