CPA: buyers may demand refund for defective goods regardless of store’s policies

2016-02-09 12:22
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Pietermaritzburg - When a company has tried and failed to repair a defective appliance, a cellphone or a big ticket item like a lounge suite, it is important to know and assert your rights.

Christo and Clare van Deventer were sure that after Rochester Furniture’s Park Meadows branch had attempted to fix a defective R55 000 leather lounge suite that they were entitled to a refund in terms of the Consumer Protection Act within six months of delivery.

But obtaining a refund quickly proved to be an uphill battle.

Clare van Deventer said she had picked up defects with the lounge suite when it was delivered last May, including scuffs on the back and a loose panel. She immediately took photographs and arranged for Rochester to rectify it.

She also complained that the foam in the cushions had become uneven by the time the suite was collected a few weeks later.

Van Deventer said the company repaired the lounge suite but problems persisted.

“We noticed when you sit that the foam was shifting underneath like it does in a pillow case when it goes into an uneven ball and in the upper part of the lounge suite a piece of steel had pierced the leather and was sticking through,” she said.

She again complained to the store manager, Keith Hodgkinson, and he arranged for a manufacturer’s representative to inspect the lounge suite. He reported that the suite was poorly manufactured and had to be recalled but that they could use it while they decided whether to ask the store for a replacement or a refund.

Van Deventer said a Rochester salesman called in July to advise that they could view lounge suites at a factory that would open its doors after a revamp in November.

She said they selected a lounge suite at the factory and asked Rochester for a quote, which took another two weeks.

“When I complained and told them to refund us our money, they quickly sent the quote which was R6 000 more than the price we paid,” she said.

Van Deventer said she then asked for a refund and Hodgkinson promised to send the paperwork to process it in December, but despite repeatedly calling and complaining via e-mail she heard nothing.

“Only after complaining on Hello Peter, has he sent me an e-mail, stating that we should look at another lounge suite and that was his final decision,” Van Deventer said.

At her wits’ end, Van Deventer turned to me.

“I am fed up with the service received from Rochester. Where do they get off telling a customer that a regional manager has made his decision and we should pick another lounge suite? We have bought plenty of furniture from Rochester before and have never had a problem,” Van Deventer said.

When I asked Hodgkinson and Behr why the company had not refunded the customer as she was entitled in terms of the CPA, he referred my questions to company spokesperson Nicky Simmonds, who responded.

Simmonds said the lounge suite frame was defective and the supplier, which covers the warranty, had agreed to take it back “for credit” in September.

However, in terms of the CPA consumers may in fact demand the refund from either party regardless of their policies.

Simmonds said the company had received the request for a refund on December 18.

“We acknowledge that the request was not given the priority it deserved and this matter will be dealt with internally. Rochester did assist the customer throughout the process of the complaint and will continue to do so until the customer has been satisfied,” Simmonds said.

Simmonds agreed to collect the lounge suite and refund the customer but her response fell short of an apology.

“We want to ensure the customer receives the service Rochester stands for, even in processing of a refund. We always strive to provide exceptional service and trust we will do business with Mr and Mrs van Deventer again in the future as we value them as our loyal customers,” Simmonds said.

SIDEBAR

Tips from the Ombudsman

Furniture complaints were among the top five product complaints Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman Neville Mellville received in 2015 and these were mostly about defective furniture.

Topping the list were complaints about services (632), followed by cellphones (537), furniture (300), electrical appliances (209) and other (98).

Furniture defective within six months of purchase comprised 52% of complaints followed by complaints about furniture that was defective after six months (24%). Other complaints were about delivered goods not meeting orders or requirements, late and unreasonable delivery times and breakages.

Melville advised consumers to exercise their rights in terms of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA).

“When a supplier tenders delivery of any goods, the supplier must, on request, allow the consumer a reasonable opportunity to examine those goods for the purpose of ascertaining whether the consumer is satisfied that the goods are of a type and quality reasonably contemplated in the agreement,” he said.

Melville said consumers had the right to reject goods and receive a full refund if they did not get the chance to examine goods before delivery and if these were not up to standard. He added that if a supplier repaired goods or any component of goods and within three months after the repair a failure, defect or unsafe feature has not been remedied, or a further failure, defect or unsafe feature is discovered, the supplier must replace the goods or refund the consumer.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  cpa

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