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In our last blog, we looked at then are entitled to a refund in respect of defective or damaged goods.

If the item you purchased is defective or damaged you are generally speaking entitled to either a repair, as a replacement or a refund.

The situation is however entirely different if there is nothing wrong with the item purchased from the supplier; as with an enquiry we had this morning from a lady who had purchased items online and then found that they were not exactly what she had intended to buy. There was however nothing wrong with the items themselves.

Consumers have no automatic right to return when it comes to “changing of your mind” returns.

If you get back home and suddenly do not like what you bought; you have no automatic right to go to the supplier the next day and insist on returning it for a refund. Unwanted gifts, wrong sizes and colour etc are not and do not amount to an automatic right to a return and a refund. These purchasers are often referred to as “buyer’s remorse” purchasers, and are neither covered by the Consumer Protection Act or the Common Law. Many suppliers will however have an exchange policy provided once again you have proof of purchase and there is a reasonably short period between the date of purchase and the date of return.

In terms of the CPA and the Common Law; you only have protection in respect of damages, defective or faulty items.

In all other circumstances, consumers have to rely on the goodwill of the supplier and their exchange policy, if applicable. Fortunately most reasonable suppliers allow such returns under certain conditions and these are their conditions; not yours. Usually they will insist on the intact original price tags and packaging and that the return and refund is in the form of a credit voucher or credit note for further purchasers. They will also almost always have a cut-off date from the date of purchase; but these dates may vary from a week to three months depending on the supplier. Their returns policy, goodwill and sometimes also the item purchased. Consumers and all of us should choose their retailers based on how each of them handles returns. Woolworths and Pick n Pay, for instance, have generous consumer centric returns policies; but not all suppliers and merchants are as accommodating in this regard.

An example of the sort of service provider who is referred by one of our clients is an upmarket clothing store in Gateway Shopping Mall in Durban. Mr X, our client, who bought regularly from this exclusive store, bought a pair of designer jeans four months ago for R 700.00. Shortly after buying them; Mr X established that they had been sold to him with a defect; namely that one of the studs had broken through the fabric on one of the legs of the pair of jeans. He took them back; without ever having worn the jeans, a day or two later. The defect was clearly a manufacturing defect and the store agreed to take them in and to fix the defect. Two months passed with no feedback at all. He complained and arranged to go back to the store a week later to collect his “fixed” jeans. To his disgust he immediately saw that there were now two holes where the defective stud had been. He left the store and requested our help and intervention.

We phoned the store about his complaint and read the legal riot act to the manager. They have still not attended to the repair and our client has now asked that we send them a formal statutory letter of demand.

This just goes to show that vendors, even reputable ones, simply sometimes do not live up to our expectations and have no notion of the merits of customer service and accommodating their customers!

Please visit our website at for further information you just send us an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will respond to your query within 48 hours.

Thank you.

The Legal Advice Office Team.


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Legal Advice Office

South Africa

Kandelaar Street, Vermont, Hermanus
Phone: +27 (0) 82 093 2304