Be aware of consumers' rights this festive season
The Office of the Consumer Goods & Services Ombud (CGSO), the consumer goods and services industry's Ombud scheme, set up in line with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) to enforce the consumer goods and services industry Code of Conduct has given some valuable guidelines for both the supplier, the retailer and the consumer during this festive season.
- Under the CPA, goods must be reasonably suitable for the purposes for which they are intended, and must be of good quality, in good working order and free of any defects and must also be useable and durable for a reasonable period of time.
- If the goods one has bought fail to comply with the above provisions within six months of being delivered, one is entitled to return them, and ask for one of the three R's - to have the item repaired, replaced or to get a full refund of the price paid.
- It is important to note that a supplier cannot force a consumer to choose to have the goods repaired, if the consumer prefers a refund or replacement. The consumer can insist on a cash refund instead of a store credit or vouchers or on a replacement with something similar at no additional cost.
- The supplier may also not force the consumer to purchase a more expensive model or brand and must cover the costs of repairing, collecting or replacing the defective goods.
Things retailers should look out for before accepting goods for refund:
- Original packaging: In the case of a defect, the CPA does not require a consumer to return the goods in its original packaging in order to get a refund. The supplier may, however, insist upon the return of the goods in the original packaging if the goods are returned because consumers have merely changed their mind, there is nothing wrong with the goods and they are permitted to return the goods in line with the store's returns policy.
- Till Slips: While the CPA makes no specific reference to till slips, the high levels of crime in South Africa and the fact that the CPA implied warranty is only for six months are reasons justifying the requirement of the production of a till slip when exchanging an item. However, it's also up to suppliers to assist in keeping proper records.
- Condition of the goods: The supplier is likely to consider whether the condition of the item suggests it is a recent purchase and may try to determine whether the customer could have caused the defect.
If you have any queries about your legal rights as a consumer or wish to complain about a supplier you can contact the CGSO for assistance. Each case is treated on its own merits, is independent and free of charge. For more information go to www.cgso.org.za.