Consumers should lodge service complaints with NCC as soon as possible to strengthen their case

2015-04-21 00:00

A HOWICK consumer has lodged a complaint against a local upholsterer with the National Consumer Commission, following a bitter dispute over allegedly shoddy service and poor quality fabric used on a job.

But the supplier, while offering several rejected solutions, has blamed the consumer’s children for the defects, alleging that they must have jumped on the furniture.

Barry James hired Elaine’s Country Comforts to cover an old Grafton Everest lounge suite for R8 150 and said he took then owner, Elaine Bromilow’s, professional advice when selecting fabric.

“We asked her to replace anything that needed replacing, including foam and springs, but also to tell us if the lounge suite was not worth recovering. Elaine told us she would get it covered by a professional upholsterer from Pietermaritzburg,” James said.

However, James said he was not impressed when he inspected the finished job, adding that Bromilow had apparently got a worker on site to do the upholstering. James said he pointed out several problems and gave Bromilow the opportunity to fix the alleged defects. A few days later when the suite arrived, James said he accepted delivery reluctantly.

“We started using the lounge suite and very quickly realised there were a lot more problems. Very quickly the seams started splitting on all the seats, and one of the armrests split,” he said.

James said he complained to Bromilow in November, about a month after delivery. He said he had to repeatedly call her before she finally arrived to inspect the suite in mid-January.

“Elaine immediately agreed that it was a shoddy job … She said that it was the worst job she had ever seen,” he said.

James listed at least 14 problems with the suite, including lumpy and uneven sections, splitting seams and the absence of padding between wood and fabric.

He said Bromilow had initially agreed to refund him in full, but later changed her mind saying she would make him brand-new furniture, and then she offered him R3 800 and 30 metres of fabric. He declined both offers, demanding a refund.

However, in a faxed response to me last week, Bromilow said James was “satisfied” with the suite, which was not damaged when he took delivery.

“It did not look like the same suite he took from me. It must have gone through some rough treatment — the fabric was torn and it looked like it was used as a trampoline — with all the footmarks on it, even on the back. The springs and the arms were broken,” she said.

However, James vehemently denied his children had jumped on the furniture.

He said he had taken the suite for a second opinion, to textile experts and to upholsterer Faizel Mahomed of AS Mohamed in Pietermaritzburg, who advised that the workmanship was not acceptable. He said textile experts had also advised him the fabric was unsuitable.

When I spoke to Mohamed last week, he confirmed his view and alleged that there was no foam in the furniture and that the springs had not been replaced. Bromilow did not comment regarding the foam but she said it was not possible to buy new springs for the suite. However, Mohamed said springs were readily available locally.

Bromilow said James agreed to allow her to send the lounge suite to her upholsterer “to sort out the problem” at her expense and added that the fabric was of a “very high standard”. She said the fabric division of her business was under new management.

The National Consumer Commission last month referred the complaint to Bromilow for resolution but she declined to comment on this and the issue remains unresolved.

I asked NCC spokesperson Trevor Hattingh about the next step.

“If a supplier does not co-operate, ­depending on the facts presented, if the NCC believes consumer rights have been infringed, the supplier would be informed that an investigation will be instituted,” Hattingh said.

“Evidence will be collected and if there are merits, an application will be filed with the National Consumer Tribunal (NCT) for arbitration.”

Speaking generally about service complaints, Gavin Gow Inc attorney and CPA expert Salina Govindsamy said the CPA allowed for a six-month quality ­warranty on any goods provided with a service, as well as for a service warranty, with no time stipulation for complaints about the latter.

Govindsamy said consumers could require a supplier to perform the service again to correct a defect, or alternatively, ask for a “reasonable refund in relation to the goods and services provided”.

She advised consumers to lodge service complaints as soon as possible to avoid suppliers arguing that goods had been used for a lengthy period.

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