Refunds and the CPA

REFUNDS AND THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT

A common question from consumers is “When am I entitled to a refund?”

It is important to bear in mind that there is no general right of return in South Africa and a consumer cannot simply return a product because they have “buyer’s remorse” and no longer require the product. Since this is a general rule, and not law, some suppliers may allow consumers to return goods when they have changed their minds under certain circumstances and in accordance with their specific refund policy.

However, the Consumer Protection Act prescribes certain situations in which a consumer may return goods and cancel the contract without paying any penalty and places an obligation on the supplier of the goods to accept the return thereof.

These scenarios are as follows.

1)  Direct marketing

If a consumer bought goods as a result of direct marketing, a five-day cooling-off period applies. A consumer may then, within five days of receiving such goods, return the goods for a refund.

2) Goods do not meet a particular purpose

If a consumer informs a supplier that the goods are being purchased in order to fulfil a particular purpose, and the supplier confirms that the goods will meet this particular purpose, then the consumer can return the goods ten days after receiving the goods if they do not meet such a purpose.

3) Goods that have not been seen before the purchase

If a consumer did not have the opportunity to examine the goods delivered before the purchase, the consumer is entitled to inspect the goods upon delivery. If during this inspection, the consumer finds that the goods do not meet the ‘type’ or ‘quality’ that they reasonably expected, they may refuse delivery and receive a full refund.

4) Implied warranty of quality

Goods that are sold to a consumer are sold with an implied warranty of quality, regardless of the contract between the parties. This implied warranty gives the consumer the right to receive goods that are reasonably suitable for the purpose that they are intended to be used for, are of good quality, free of defects and in good working order, and they will be durable and usable for a reasonable period of time. If the goods do not meet this requirement, the consumer can, for a period of up to six months after receiving the goods, either return the goods, ask that the goods replaced or request that the goods be repaired. The consumer is entitled to exercise either one of these options at his/her discretion. A supplier can only exclude liability in these circumstances if the supplier made the consumer aware of any specific defects in the goods prior to purchase and the consumer agreed to receive the goods in that condition.

Conclusion:

Although a consumer is well-advised to read or ask about a supplier’s refund policy before purchasing goods, it is important to note that a supplier cannot contract out of the Consumer Protection Act. The remedies explained above will always be available to consumers, if the requirements set out in the Act are met.

In the event that a consumer is feels that a supplier’s refund policies do not comply with the Act, he or she may direct a complaint to the National Consumer Commissioner, who is authorised to investigate that complaint and grant the consumer such remedies as are appropriate and permitted under the Act.