Saturday 31 May 2014

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

My sister bought an external hard drive from a computer store last year November. The hard drive started having problems this year while under warranty. When she returned it to get fixed, the shop asked her to leave it with them for a minimum of three weeks so they can send it off to Durban for repairs. This week she went back for it and they told her it can’t be repaired so she must either choose something of the same price in the store or top up and buy something else. The thing is the hard drive was a 1 Tb and it was on sale and now the cheapest 1 Tb external is P999, she's a student and can’t afford to top up. Can she not get her money back? Please advise.

That’s simply not good enough.

If something stops working when it’s still under warranty you’re entitled to one of three things: a replacement, a repair or a refund. Generally it’s up to the store to decide which of those three Rs they offer you but they have to offer you one of them.

Given that your sister’s external drive can’t be repaired they only have two choices: a replacement or a refund.

However this store appears to want to have it all their way. If they offer her a replacement it must be for the same thing that she bought or perhaps even something better but at no extra charge. They simply can’t demand that she pays extra money to get what she originally paid for.

The good news is that the Head Office of this chain of stores agrees with me. I emailed my contact and her response was very simple. She said “I agree with our customer – If they cannot replace her like for like, they have to refund. Kindly send me her contact details, so I can get the branch management to contact her in this regard.”

Looks like your sister’s getting a proper solution now. Shame it took so long!

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

Is it ok for furniture shops to repossess items if someone fails to pay along the way and as well as blacklist at ITC while they have their items and never sell those items through an auction sale and they are the ones buying these items for themselves at very low prices?

Yes, unfortunately that's how it works when you buy things from furniture stores on credit or hire purchase. Even though the store repossesses the goods the customer can still owe the store a lot of money.

There are two very important things you need to know when you sign a hire purchase agreement. Firstly, ownership of the goods doesn’t pass to you until you’ve made the final payment. Until that moment the goods are the property of the store and they are entitled to repossess them if you fail to make the agreed payments. The second thing is that even if they repossess their property you still owe them the money you agreed to pay them. Normally that amount will be reduced by any amount they get if they auction the repossessed items but that won’t be my very much. Remember that the goods will now be second-hand and not in their original condition. Their value will be very small. Once you add on the penalties, interest and debt collection fees the store will add if you don’t keep paying and you can very quickly end up owing more than the total hire purchase amount.

And yes, they certainly are within their rights to register the customer with credit ratings agencies. After all it’s true that the customer defaulted. They’re just stating a fact: the customer defaulted on their payments and the goods were repossessed.

The lesson is simple. Avoid buying things on credit or hire purchase wherever possible.

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