Saturday 30 September 2017

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

The knives are out for me!

I bought knives for a customer from a catering supplies company after seeing them in their catalogue and they then ordered them from South Africa. After they arrived I took them to my customer and they were rejected because it was not the one they wanted. On returning them to the catering supplies company they told me to pay the courier costs for them to take them and tax clearance for them to refund me. So I am asking whether this is the right thing to do?

This surely depends on the answer to a single, simple question. Who made the mistake?

If it was you who selected the wrong type of knives from the catalogue then yes, I think you are the one who should pay the cost of that mistake. However, if it was a mistake by the catering supplies company then no, you shouldn’t be forced to pay for their mistake. If they ordered the wrong item then the cost should be paid by them.

There’s also a third possibility. Was it your customer’s fault? Did they advise you incorrectly? In that case you could probably approach them and explain that they should pay the cost of their mistake but I’m not sure that’s the best idea. If it’s only a small amount, and they’re an important customer, do you want to run the risk of irritating them that much?

Must she keep the box?

A friend of mine bought a Huawei smart phone around March this year.  In less than a month after purchasing the phone, the phone began freezing and switching off on its own. She then took it back to the shop and they tried to fix it and when she collected it the mouth piece was damaged. They refused to fix the mouth piece. After a few days the phone began freezing and switching off on its own like before. She took it back and they tried to fix the phone but failed to fix it and then they agreed that they will give her a new phone since they failed to fix that one. Yesterday when she went to the shop they told her to bring the box of the phone. She told them she misplaced it and then they told her that they she won't be given a new phone because of the misplaced box and they can't help her anymore. 

I suspect that this store needs a quick lesson in the Consumer Protection Regulations. Firstly, Section 13 (1) (a) which requires companies to offer commodities and service that are “of merchantable quality” which means “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased”. A cellphone that doesn’t even last a month before going wrong is clearly not of merchantable quality. Then when they tried to repair the phone and only caused more damage to the mouthpiece, that would be a breach of section 15 (1) (a) of the Regulations which requires a supplier to offer service “with reasonable care and skill”. They don’t seem either careful or skilful to me.

That bit about having to keep the box could well be a breach of Section 17 (1) (d) which forbids a company from “causing a probability of confusion or of misunderstanding as to the legal rights, obligations, or remedies of a party to a transaction”. By making up a rule that your friend must keep the box in which the phone was sold, I think they’re clearly causing confusion or misunderstanding. They’re also in breach of Section 17 (1) (e) by suggesting that they were disclaiming their obligations to offer a phone that was of merchantable quality, unless they made the condition very clear when she bought the device. Finally, I think they breached Section 17 (1) (f) by saying your friend waived her rights without her specifically consenting to doing so. To me, “specific consent” means a signature on a piece of paper saying she understood she needed to keep the box.

So there you go. Five different rights potentially abused in one sale and failure to fix a problem. Are they trying to break a record?

I suggest your friend goes back to the store with this edition of The Voice and reads this to them. See if that has any effect!

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