The Consumer Protection Act; Your rights to return damaged Goods:

We get a number of enquiries every single week from clients about whether, when and how they can go about returning faulty or damages goods. It is really disturbing to realise how many suppliers, big and small, continue to ignore the basics of consumer protection.

Despite the fact that the Consumer Protection Act came into force on the 1st April 2011; which is more than two years ago now, many businesses and service providers continue to operate outside the legislation and some do so blatantly and knowingly very often duping their customers at the same time so as to save themselves a great deal of money and effort. Some actions reported to us border on criminal fraud.

There are also other consumer complaints from our clients including unreasonable terms and conditions in contracts and dodgy forms and even attempts to get them to sign indemnity forms. We find however that the biggest problem is the service provider’s failure to comply with the returns policy and provisions of the Act.

It is therefore a worthwhile exercise to recap on this subject as it is clear that most consumers are unsure of their rights to return goods whether they are broken, damaged, faulty or not.

The rules are as follows: Consumers have the right to return to the supplier/service provider faulty, damaged or poor quality goods within six (6) months of the date of purchase. It is your right and your choice. It is not up to the dealer!

A supplier can insist on having the goods examined and this may take a week or two; if the item is sent off site by them for the examination and to determine the cause of the damage. It is important to note that if a consumer damages an item; whether it is deliberate, negligently or even by accident, the supplier is under NO obligation to assist; but the supplier must be able to prove the damage is and was caused by the consumer.

Recently one of our clients returned a Plasma screen TV to the supplier as it was faulty. It was sent away to be repaired by the supplier and then returned to him. It was still faulty. He took it back to them and again they sent it away. They then alleged that the damage was due to “abuse.” We took the matter up on his behalf; and argued that they should then have said so when it was returned to him the first time except that he was told it was faulty then; and had been repaired. It had then been in their possession the whole time and they could not prove that he had abused the TV as it was not even in his possession. Simple answer: They took a chance! They tried to pass the buck to him and avoid having to replace the item or refund him his money! We did a letter of demand and they refunded him in full. Lesson: Do not allow a supplier to hoodwink you and deprive you of your consumer rights.

If the item upon examination is found to be defective, the customer/consumer has the right to a full refund of the purchase price, or a replacement item or can ask for the item to be repaired at the supplier’s expense. This is your choice. Not the dealer’s or supplier’s; and this is very important.

Suppliers often try to talk you into simply agreeing to them repairing the item as that is their cheapest option, and make out as if they are doing you a huge favour. Do not be duped! It is your choice and your right! All those suppliers that insist on a repair of the item instead of offering you the choice of a refund or a replacement as well as a repair are breaking the law. Those suppliers that also insist on providing you with a credit voucher; instead of your requested cash refund are also breaking the law.

Because retailers and suppliers have both the right and may ask you for proof of your purchase before attending to your complaint; it is clearly advisable holding on to your receipts and invoices for at least six months after purchasing items at any supplier; as they would be fully justified in turning you away ;if you were unable to prove that you had bought the item from their store in the first place.

Should you otherwise wish to comment on this or any other legal topic; just send us an e-mail; and we will respond.

Thank you.

The Legal Advice Office Team.

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18 Responses to The Consumer Protection Act; Your rights to return damaged Goods:

  1. Ryan Park says:

    I have a problem with BT Games at Canal Walk Cape Town, I purchased a xbox remote control and it doesn’t seem to function. I have been refused a refund. I have also been told that unless the item is damaged I will NOT receive a refund.

    What can I DO? Please help!

    • Hugh says:

      Ryan,
      You have the right and the choice in these circumstances to:
      1. A Repair; or
      2. A Refund; or
      3, A Replacement.
      This right and choice arises from the CP Act.
      We can assist you with this process.
      It will require that we send a formal statutory letter to the dealer advising them of your right and your choice and demanding that they fulfil their legal obligation to you.
      The cost of this process is R 1700.00 which you will have to pay to the credit of our bank account before we start.
      This sum however can be reclaimed from the dealer in terms of the statutory letter.
      Please advise as to whether you require our assistance or not.
      We trust you find this in order.
      Thank you.

  2. Leia says:

    I keep receiving the same broken mirrored coffee table from Overstock. It costs me money to pay the city to haul all these broken tables away. I read the following above:

    “If the item upon examination is found to be defective, the customer/consumer has the right to…a replacement item or can ask for the item to be repaired at the supplier’s expense. This is your choice. Not the dealer’s or supplier’s; and this is very important.”

    Is this true? Because Overstock is telling me that they won’t change the shipper, and the repair is based on a quote I get locally. Mark, the supervisor, said they will only repair if they are ok with the cost of repairing the item, otherwise they will refuse repair. He ball parked the repair at $50 for approval, which would never be the price where I live. They said that they will eventually refund me if the replacement shipments come broken (even though they won’t change the shipping company). This doesn’t seem like I have any rights to choose. It appears my only option is replacement until it drags out and they end up refunding me. Is this a violation of the Consumer Protection Act, as they won’t actually change anything and leave me no choice for repair?

    • Hugh says:

      Dear WordPress writer,
      I am afraid that the Consumer Protection Act only has effect in the RSA.
      It would therefore not assist you in these circumstances as it is confined to South Africa and is not applicable outside the RSA.
      We trust you find this in order.
      Thank you.

  3. Van says:

    I have purchased a Galaxy Gear Watch from the Samsung store.
    It is not what was advertised or what i expected.
    I have returned the watch and now all they want to give me is a credit note. I do not want to purchase anything else…i want my money back.
    What rights do i have?

    • Van,
      You do not have to take a credit note.
      In terms of the Consumer protection Act you are entitled to a full refund.
      We trust you find this in order.
      Thank you.

      Regards,

      The Legal Advice Office
      021- 8527794/082-0932304.

  4. M Jacobs says:

    Hi I bought a waterproof camera on Dec 21 Dec 2013 from Digital Eye in Canal Walk ,took it back on Dec 26 Dec 2013 as it was not working. After almost 20 days after myself following up they want to give me credit note cause that camera is discontinued. They don’t do cash refunds.Please Advise what are my rights. I feel they should replace me with another waterproof camera regardless of cost as its not my fault if that camera has been discontinued. Please Advise.

    • They have to refund you.
      They are not entitled to just offer you a credit note.
      Section 56(2) of the Consumer protection Act No 68 of 2008 states that in these circumstances are entitled to a full refund.
      That is the law.
      We trust you find this in order.
      Thank you.

  5. Riccardo Moretti says:

    I purchased a HDMI cable from Musica R149, which did not work on my computer.
    I returned the cable the same day and asked for a refund, the sales person reluctantly gave me a refund, he told me that cable was for a playstation only (I did argue with him as HDMI is not product specific),
    I then purchased a cheaper HDMI cable (R89)from game which worked perfectly,
    Was I correct in insisting on a refund?

  6. Sihle says:

    Hi

    I recently bought a bakkie from a dealer and it has proven to be not what i was promised. the light didn’t work and the key didn’t unlock the door. the airon and hooter didn’t work and the brakes are faulty. i contacted the dealer and they said i should fix the lights and key and then send them the invoices for a refund. i have done that and now they refuse to refund me. can i take the car back for a total refund of what i bought the car for? i cannot keep paying for things to get fixed on that car.

    • Sihle,
      If the vehicle was defective on the date of sale; you have the choice of repair, refund or replacement; provided you act and we do an intervention within a period of 6 months from the date of sale.
      We trust you find this in order.
      Thank you.

      Regards,
      The Legal Advice Office
      021-8527794/082-0932304.

  7. rofhiwa says:

    I bought sumsung Tab 3 and I have returned it 4 times already it constantly give me the same problem, I went to the store and they said they can not cancel my contract and the best thing they can do is to fix it, my contract is less than 3 months and I have not spent more than 2 weeks with my Tab because it constantly gives me problem, they have been fixing it and still doesnt work as it should and it still give me the same problem.

    do they have a right to force me not to cancel my contract?

    • Rofiwa,
      On those facts you have the choice as the consumer to ask for either a refund, a replacement or a repair at the service provider’s expense.
      We could do an intervention for you but it will cost you R 2000.00.
      Do you want to do this or will you try and speak to them yourself?
      Thank you.

      Regards,
      The Legal Advice Office
      021-8527794/082-0932304.

  8. arif mohd says:

    dear sir/mam,
    i have purchased a air conditioner, when the brand engineer installation they said us this ac is out of order(indoor part). we complaint this to supplier or brand and till now they not replace the same.
    please help me in this regards.

    thnaks and regards
    arif

    • Arif,
      If the ac was defective at the time of the sale and it is still within 6 months of the date of sale; you have the choice or repair, replace or refund at the dealers expense.
      We trust you find this in order.
      Thank you.

      Regards,
      The Legal Advice Office
      021-8527794/082-0932304.

  9. Maxie Matthews says:

    I would just like to know if you have any rights after the 6months return policy has passed. I bought a slow cooker at HomeChoice last year when I took the item out of the box for inspection after the delivery I found that it has been damaged,a huge dent in the pot.I contacted homechoice and was told that I will have to return the pot and pay the postage fees as they do not collect.I have no transport and work shifts and cannot walk by foot to my nearest post office with a heavy pot. To date I’m still stuck with a pot that has been fully paid for but I never had the pleasure of using due to it being damaged on delivery.HomeChoice now tells me my 6months have past there’s nothing they can do eventhough the item is still in original packaging and never been used due to damage. I believe damage must have occured with either the packaging or handling of goods at their warehouse or where ever as only the pot has a dent in the box is not damaged .What are my rights regarding such a matter or do I have none.

    • Maxie,
      If the 6 months period has expired; you no longer have the protection of the CPA; but you have common law rights which are more complicated and depend on a number of factors if you are able to enforce them.
      On those facts; you would have rights but it will cost money ( R 2500.00) to involve us in an intervention.
      Please revert should you still want our help.
      Thank you.

      Kind regards,

      The Legal Advice Office
      028-3162832/082-0932304.

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