Saturday 1 November 2014

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

Is it ok for a business to charge a percentage of goods value when one returns them and asks for reimbursement? I bought an item and then found it was the wrong size. I took it back intact with its packaging and receipt. They said I could buy something for the value of the returned goods. I then requested for the right size which they told me they did not have. So I requested a cash refund as there was nothing I could get. I was told in that case I would have to forfeit about 5% of the refundable amount as it is their policy for cash refunds. As usual there was a small print on the invoice saying exactly this. But is it legal?

Yes, I’m afraid it is legal and what’s more it actually a very reasonable thing for them to do.

The 5% is the fee the store pays every time they swipe your credit or debit card. The critical issue is that if the store reverses the payment for whatever reason they do NOT get that 5% back from the bank, the bank keeps it.

If, when the store sold you the item, it was their fault that you were given the wrong one then clearly you shouldn’t be penalised by losing the 5%, it would be the responsibility of the store to cover that cost. However if it wasn’t their mistake, if it was you who made a mistake is it fair that they should pay?

Also they were open about the policy on their invoice so I doubt if you have any right to object to the deduction from your refund. I suspect that if the store explained this on the receipt there was probably a sign in the store as well to let everyone know. Sorry!

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

One day I went to a certain shop in Phikwe to buy 1 litre of juice. When I checked the expiry date I found it was expired. I told one of the workers and to my surprise they didn’t have a clue. So my question is isn’t it the duty of the shop to check the expiry date of their products before the said date?

It most certainly IS the duty of the store to make sure everything is labeled correctly!

The Labelling of Prepackaged Foods Regulations are very clear. Section 4 of the Regulations says that “No person shall
… import, distribute, sell or offer for sale prepackaged food … whose expiry date has lapsed”. Can that be any simpler?

People are often confused by the variety of dates that appear on prepackaged food. They’re not sure of the difference between "Best Before", "Sell By" and "Expiry Date". In fact it’s quite simple. The “Best before” and “Expiry” or “Use by” dates are the dates before which the food should be in an edible condition. The “Sell by” date is the last day the store can sell the item.

You certainly shouldn’t buy anything that is at or beyond any of these dates. If you do see such an item it’s your right (and your duty) to tell the store manager immediately to help protect other consumers.

You should also think carefully about how long you’re likely to store something before consuming it. I wouldn't buy something that's expiring within a couple of days, particularly if it's a high-risk item because I don’t know how long it’s going to stay in my fridge before I eat it.

You should also use some common sense with these dates. It depends very much on what the food is. If it's meat, fish or poultry then be very careful about the dates. On the other hand if it's an apple then you can be less fussy.

It’s more complicated with things like your juice container because you can’t see inside it. That’s when you should absolutely rely on the expiry date that is shown.

Either way, use your eyes and your nose with ALL foodstuffs. Millions of years of evolution have given us senses that can often tell us when things we want to put inside our bodies are likely to harm us. Ask your partner, relative, housemate or whoever is standing close enough, "Does that smell OK to you?" before you cook or eat anything suspicious.

So read the dates and take care with them but above all trust your senses. If in doubt don’t eat it.

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