Saturday, 5 September 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What should I do?

I bought goods from a furniture shop by credit paying instalment every month. I have been paying them every month without skipping. So because of lockdown I failed to pay them. I'm a business lady selling food but since there is no money to pay, they are approaching me to take goods from me now through a debt collector so I need your help please.

I told them like now I still don’t have money but they insisted to pay before 5th September. I owe P3,400 arrears. The total of the goods was P17,000 before.

Hire purchase is a difficult enough way to buy thing in normal times but it’s just become so much worse in the times of Covid-19. There are many problems with hire purchase but the fundamental problem is that you don’t own the items you think you’re buying, you’re just hiring them. Until the day you pay the last instalment the goods still belong to the store that delivered them. That means that whenever you fall behind with your instalments the store can just come and collect them without going through a lengthy court process. And then, even after the goods might have been repossessed, you still owe the store money because the auction value of the repossessed goods is so low compared to your outstanding debt.

Unfortunately, things just got worse for everyone during the Covid-19 lockdown. We’ve all had to cope with a reduced income and that has hit people with hire purchase debts particularly hard. While the banks and other lenders were encouraged to show their customers some flexibility that message didn’t reach the hire purchase lenders and I think that was a mistake.

Realistically, the only thing you can try is to approach either the store or the deb collector and do your best to negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford and which offers them the money you owe as quickly as they can tolerate. You might be surprised how willing they are to do a deal with you. Good luck.

What are my rights?

I would like your help please. On the 30th July I bought a charger at a cellphone shop in Airport Junction for P150. They promised me the charger was good quality. Fast forward a month later, the adaptor isn't working and the cord seems to be faulty as it makes the electricity go off when I plug it onto another charger adaptor. I called the store and the lady I spoke to said that they don't have warranties for chargers, something they didn't communicate with me when I bought the charger. Secondly the box that came with the charger said it has a 1 year warranty. I don't think I trust them to replace this charger because I fear that they may give me another faulty device. Am I entitled to a refund? I have the receipt and everything. The adaptor even still has the plastic wrapping it came with.

The good news for you is that the Consumer Protection Act is on your side. The bad news for this store is that they clearly have no idea what the law says. Let’s fix that.

I think you should go back to the store and tell them that Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act of 2018 says that a consumer “has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects". But what happens if those goods don’t satisfy that requirement?

Section 16 (2) of the Act says that a consumer "may return goods to a supplier in their merchantable or original state, within six months after the delivery of the goods, without penalty and at the supplier’s risk and expense, if the goods fail to satisfy the requirements and standards" required in the Act.

So that’s exactly what you should do. Return the charger to the store and explain both these parts of the law to the store manager. You might need to use very simple language so they understand it fully and recognise their obligations. Let me know if they need it in writing!

Update: I heard from the reader that the store gave her a replacement charger. Sometimes all it takes is a little understanding of consumer rights and the courage to demand that a store honours them!

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