Re­tail­ers’ ‘seven-day re­turn pol­icy’ not law­ful


THAT “seven-day re­turn pol­icy” you are so kindly in­formed of when you re­turn to the shop the item that broke on day one has no ba­sis in law, ac­cord­ing to Peter-John Veld­huizen of Gil­lan and Veld­huizen In­cor­po­rated, a Cape Town­based law firm that spe­cialises in lit­i­ga­tion.

Veld­huizen says al­though many of us are aware of the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act, not many of us are fa­mil­iar with the rights the Act pro­vides in terms of de­fec­tive goods and re­turn poli­cies.

He says sec­tion 56 of the Act deals with what is known as an “im­plied war­ranty of qual­ity”, which es­sen­tially pro­vides that, within six months af­ter the de­liv­ery of any goods to a con­sumer, the goods may be re­turned to the sup­plier, with­out penalty. Sec­tion 56 goes on to say that this is at the sup­plier’s risk and ex­pense if the goods fail to sat­isfy the re­quire­ments and stan­dards set out in sec­tion 55 of the Act (see be­low), and the sup­plier must, no mat­ter what its pol­icy is, re­pair or re­place the re­turned goods, or pay a re­fund.

Sim­ply put, you as a con­sumer, are en­ti­tled to re­turn any de­fec­tive goods within six months of pur­chase and, more im­por­tantly, you can elect whether you would like the item to be re­placed or re­paired, to re­ceive a re­fund.

“Many re­tail­ers at­tempt to dic­tate their re­turn pol­icy to con­sumers, of­ten not al­low­ing re­turns af­ter a cer­tain pe­riod, or only of­fer­ing a voucher in re­turn. This is to­tally against and in breach of the Act,” Veld­huizen says.


Sec­tion 55 of the Act stip­u­lates that every con­sumer has the right to re­ceive goods that are safe and of good qual­ity. The Act spec­i­fies that the goods must be:

• Suitable for the pur­pose for which they are in­tended;

• Of good qual­ity, in good work­ing or­der and free of de­fects; and

• Durable and us­able for a rea­son­able pe­riod of time.

You have the right to re­fer any breach to the Na­tional Con­sumer Com­mis­sion (NCC), which, if it finds the sup­plier of the goods ac­count­able, will is­sue a com­pli­ance no­tice to the sup­plier.

“This can have far-reach­ing ef­fects, as the NCC can is­sue a fine of up to 10% of turnover or R1 mil­lion, which­ever is smaller. Clearly, this can have a big im­pact on a busi­ness should the con­sumer take them to task.

“Re­tail­ers need to ed­u­cate their staff on the rights of the con­sumer, the ef­fects of a dis­grun­tled con­sumer and what dam­age that can do to your brand. If board­rooms and head of­fices don’t re­alise that the con­sumer has le­gal rights way be­yond their en­gi­neered poli­cies, and if they are not fully au fait with the leg­is­la­tion, they are plac­ing them­selves at huge risk,” Veld­huizen says.

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