Ever since the Black Friday craze hit South Africa, locals have come to expect mayhem in shopping centres throughout the country. However, despite the ‘must-have deals’ and 50% off sales, buyers need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities when making transactions.
All goods carry a six months Consumer Protection Act (CPA) implied warranty. This means that if goods show a defect within six months of purchasing can return them and elect to have the goods Replaced, Refunded or Repaired, the choice is that of the consumer but the defect has to be a material defect and the goods should not have been tampered with or damaged by the consumer. It is therefore important to follow manufacturer instructions in handling and installing the goods.
Whilst shopping for Black Friday, ensure that you know and understand the supplier’s return policy because unless the goods are defective as mentioned above, you can only return if the store has a return policy regarding change of mind returns. You will therefore only be allowed to return the goods if they do have a return policy and only within the terms and condition of that specific return policy.
A supplier can decide on their own terms and conditions to include in their return policies for when you just don’t like an item or regret buying it, as long as it is not in contravention with the Consumer Protection Act, for instance, if goods are not defective a supplier can include provisions that stipulate the rules of return. These provisions may limit returns for example:
- Must be in its original packaging and unused
- Must return the goods with a till slip
- Must return the goods within a specified time period
“Before you transact, you must understand the written policy of the store. Good and well we’ve got the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) but we must understand that the CPA only comes into play when the goods you purchased are defective. When you return that product, you don’t have to explain anything – the problem is that the product is defective…but when you tap into an issue of a change of heart, that’s where the return policy of the store comes into play,” Ouma Ramaru from the Consumer Goods and Services Ombud told VOC.
Ramaru cautioning shoppers buying items that they may regret purchasing at a later stage.
“This is a crazy week, let’s not do remorseful buying or impulse buying…we don’t want to buy things and regret it later.”
When purchasing goods online it is important to note that most goods have a cooling-off period of 7 days. The Cooling off Period is provided for in terms of section 44 of the Electronic Communication & Transaction Act (ECTA):
(1) A consumer is entitled to cancel without reason and without penalty any transaction and any related credit agreement for the supply-
(a) of goods within seven days after the date of the receipt of the goods; o
(b) of services within seven days after the date of the conclusion of the agreement.
(2) The only charge that may be levied on the consumer is the direct cost of returning the goods.
(3) If payment for the goods or services has been affected prior to a consumer exercising a right referred to in subsection (1), the consumer is entitled to a full refund of such payment, which refund must be made within 30 days of the date of cancellation.
Although you might be able to return some of your online purchases it is still advisable to take extreme care when purchasing online. The office of the CGSO has seen an increase in complaints relating to online transactions where consumers were duped into paying for goods and services but never received the delivery. In order to avoid encountering problems with purchasing online, we advise consumers to take the following precautionary measures:
- Use well known and reputable sites.
- Ensure that there are valid contact details where you can lodge a complaint or query after a transaction
- Make sure you are aware of the delivery time-frame, to ensure that you will receive the goods on or before the date you require the goods.
- Read the terms and conditions and check for any hidden prices;
- Check the internet for any complaints about that supplier;
- Use secure payment platforms and keep records of the transaction.
Ramaru explained that the CPA cannot defend consumers when there’s a change of heart behind their reasons for returning items after purchasing if the store’s return policy doesn’t suit their wants. As such, she listed a few tips for shoppers this Black Friday:
- Avoid taking small children shopping – for safety purposes
- Spend money that YOU HAVE not that you don’t have (i.e. don’t use credit)
- Ensure that the terms and conditions of the store’s return policy suit you
- Understand that the CPA applies even on those items we buy on Black Friday
“Remember: when you buy on credit on Black Friday, you’ll pay that credit for the whole of 2020,” cautioned Ramaru.
Addressing concerns around bait-marketing and misleading advertisements, Ramaru indicated that the “one thing consumers need to know is that they have the right, if they feel that they were misled by any advert, to speak out. The office of the ombudsman is there.”