Stores cannot wash their hands of responsibility

2015-11-17 10:24
Lyse Comins

Lyse Comins (File)

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WHAT happens if a store loses your cellphone, laptop or tablet that you entrusted to it for a repair quote?

Some stores might think that putting up signs or using contract clauses declaring “goods left entirely at owner’s risk” absolve responsibility but such notices cannot quash consumers’ rights to recourse in terms of the Consumer Protection Act if something goes wrong.

Sharuska Pillay left her damaged ­iPhone 5s and iPad Air — they had been dropped on the floor — at the Appleberry Store at Liberty Midlands Mall last October.

Naicker said the store had agreed to assess her “dead” devices — both screens were also cracked — to establish whether they were repairable. She said staff had promised to give her a quote before going ahead with repairs as stipulated on the job card.

But after many trips back to the store Pillay said it emerged last month that the devices had either been disposed of or lost and staff had given her the run around.

“They said it would take a few days to assess and they would call me before any repairs were done. I visited the kiosk weekly, asking if the assessment was done. I was always told that they are still busy with it, they know me and the devices and I shouldn’t worry,” Pillay said.

“By June 2015, I was going many times in a week demanding my devices back, without the assessment completed as their turnaround time was too long.”

However, Pillay said a manageress, Trisha Mathura, told her last month that her devices had been “disposed of” in terms of company policy because she had not collected them and that she would check the call records to see if staff had contacted her over the months.

“I reminded them of how often I had come in to enquire about the device and get [sic] no positive feedback. She told me that they were looking in all their branches for my device and she will call me,” Pillay said.

Pillay said Mathura later advised her again that the devices had been disposed of and asked if she would like to “pay in the difference” for working devices or receive monetary compensation.

Pillay said she was not prepared to accept the former since it was not possible to determine the extent of the damage to the devices. “She refused to give me any numbers of [the shop’s] owners or higher management,” she said.

However, another manager, Charmaine Perumal, called Pillay later to advise that she would look through the call records to determine whether staff had called her to collect the devices and, if not, they would consider compensation.

By this time Pillay’s patience had worn thin and she turned to me in desperation. I asked Appleberry owner Daniel Perumal what went wrong.

Perumal said the store did not have a record of disposing of the devices but that the devices might have been lost during an office move. He said Pillay had left the “irreparable” and “crushed” devices — the iPad was “bent like a sandwich” — at the store and only returned 10 months later to collect them.

However, on the job card Perumal sent me there was no description indicating the extent of the physical damages.

“Normal policy is we have to sell to defray expenses if the client doesn’t come but we keep it as long as we can,” he said.

“We didn’t even take a screw from it — it is not even like we fixed it and sold it to someone else. We have an honest and reputable company,” he said.

In the end Perumal agreed to lodge an insurance claim saying he had spoken to his broker who advised that he could claim the full value to pay out the customer. “I just want to sort the problem out and make sure it never happens again to a client,” Perumal said.

Consumer Protection Act (CPA) legal specialist Salin Govindsamy of Gavin Gow Attornerys said section 19 of the CPA provides that the suppliers are liable for the loss of goods be it accidental, intentional or negligent loss and goods must be kept in the company’s “care and risk” until delivery. She added that if a customer had not agreed to any exclusion clause or had not failed to collect goods then a store should compensate the consumer for the loss of the damaged goods.

“The consumer should not be forced to pay for unwanted second hand items,” she said.

SA National Consumer Union spokesperson Clif Johnston said sections 54 and 65 of the CPA also covered goods in such cases and required “the supplier to return the item to the consumer in at least as good a condition as it was when the consumer made it available to the supplier for the purpose of performing the service.”

I will keep you posted on the outcome of this case. Send your consumer complaints to

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  consumer

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