One of the most frequent questions we are asked is when goods can be returned under the
Consumer Protection Act (“CPA”). There are a number of sections in the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 that allow consumers to return goods to the suppliers, but what is important to note, is that there is no general right of return.
Whether you want to buy a television or a car, provide a service, file a consumer complaint or return an item to a seller, you need to know your rights under the new Consumer Protection Act…
The CP Act has given every South African rights and obligations that up until now have not been an issue, and ignorance of the law is not a defence. This easily accessible guide explains how, among other things, the CP Act aims to:
- Promote and protect the economic interests of consumers
- Improve access to, and the quality of, information that is necessary so that consumers are able to make informed choices
- Protect consumers from hazards to their well-being and safety.
- Develop effective means of redress for consumers; and
- Promote and provide for consumer education
Shoes that don’t fit, a toaster that stops working, a gift that you’d never dream of using –
there are many reason as to why you might want to return something.
Some retailers will take something back and refund your money whatever your reason, but sometimes you could have a fight on your hands. Usually your right to a refund depends on your reason for returning the product.
It was a present
Some shops will take back gifts without question (particularly if it is their own brand of product), without asking to see a receipt or other proof of purchase.
It’s broken, or it’s the wrong type
Shops have a duty, under the Consumer Act, to make sure that the product is:
- as described
- of satisfactory quality, and
- fit for purpose – this means both their everyday purpose, and also any specific purpose that you agreed with the seller (for example, if you specifically asked for a printer that would be compatible with your computer).
If you buy a product that has a problem because of one of these reasons, you can choose to ‘reject’ it, return it and get your money back.
However, other shops might require more to issue a refund.
When buying gifts, make sure you ask for a gift receipt that will allow the recipient to take it back if they need to. If you can’t get a gift receipt, write “gift for [name]” on the normal receipt, and get the retailer to accept this by signing it. The recipient should then be able to take it back if they need to.
The law gives you a ‘reasonable’ time to do this – what is reasonable depends on the product and how obvious the fault is. For example, it’s reasonable to assume that an expensive TV will work for a long time, so if it packs up two weeks after you bought it – reject!
If you leave it longer than a ‘reasonable’ time, the retailer must still resolve your problem, but it can normally choose whether to repair or replace the faulty item rather than refund your money.
I’ve changed my mind
If you bought it online, and you’re still within the cooling off period you should be able to return it for a full refund.
If you bought it in a shop, it might be trickier. Shops don’t have to have a returns policy, but if they do have one they must stick to it. So check their policy and see what it says. You might be entitled to a replacement or a credit note.
I don’t have the receipt
The good news is that if your item is faulty you should not need a receipt to return it – your rights don’t depend on you having one.
However, without a receipt you need another way of proving that you bought the item from that shop.
The best way to do this is with a bank statement or credit card slip. However, this may not confirm exactly what you bought – if they sell a number of things at that price, they might not be keen to refund you.
To avoid any problems, it is always best to keep the receipt for any expensive items.
Question: Why do retailers insist on the packaging when you return goods
The universal bar code is on the packaging, which allows the specific item to be traced. It also helps prevent fraud…if you bring something back without the packaging, who’s to say it’s just not a cheapie of an identical item you found at a flea market somewhere, and are trying to “return” for more cash?
Sometimes stores will take the item back, and sometimes not. Those that do, will have all sorts of restrictions on accepting it back. First, of course, you have to have the receipt or record proving you bought it.