Cus­tomer left in the lurch when drone deal fails to fly

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - This Week You’re Saying... - WENDY KNOWLER CON­TACT WENDY: Email: con­sumer@knowler.co.za Twit­ter: @wendy­knowler

Can an on­line re­tailer uni­lat­er­ally can­cel your pur­chase? Carl Starke was an­noyed when his pur­chase of a dis­counted R18,000 drone he’d or­dered from SA’s big­gest on­line re­tailer, Takealot, was uni­lat­er­ally can­celled two days later, due to a stock short­age.

He was even more an­noyed to see the iden­ti­cal drone ad­ver­tised at R25,800 soon af­ter­wards.

When he com­plained to Takealot, he was told a re­fund was his only re­course, be­cause “the prod­uct that is avail­able now is be­ing sold by a dif­fer­ent seller for a dif­fer­ent price”.

And then he was sent the re­tailer’s terms and con­di­tions: “Should there be any er­rors, which are not due to our gross neg­li­gence, we shall not be li­able for any loss, claim or ex­pense re­lat­ing to a trans­ac­tion based on any er­ror, save – in the case of any in­cor­rect pur­chase price – to the ex­tent of re­fund­ing you for any amount al­ready paid ... ”

I’ve in­ves­ti­gated many such cases with Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act ex­perts in the past.

Three years ago, South African Air­ways’ on­line site mis­tak­enly dis­counted busi­ness class tick­ets from Jo’burg to Dubai to R858, when the nor­mal price at the time was more than R30,000.

Many com­men­ta­tors fumed on­line, in­sist­ing that the air­line was legally obliged to hon­our that ridicu­lously low price, be­cause, they ar­gued, “the price you see is the price you pay!”.

Ac­tu­ally, the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act says no such thing. What it does say is this: “If a price as dis­played con­tains an in­ad­ver­tent and ob­vi­ous er­ror, the sup­plier is not bound by it after cor­rect­ing the er­ror in the dis­played price; and tak­ing rea­son­able steps ... to in­form con­sumers to whom the er­ro­neous price may have been dis-

played of the er­ror and the cor­rect price.”

Com­ment­ing on the SAA case at the time, CPA at­tor­ney Janusz Luterek said: “It is not the pur­pose of the CPA to al­low con­sumers to ex­ploit sup­pli-

ers.” In this Takealot case, I put it to the com­pany that re­gard­less of their terms and con­di­tions, the ad­ver­tised price Starke paid for that drone – R18,000 – was not a glar­ing or ob­vi­ous er­ror and thus he

could not be ac­cused of in­ten­tion­ally ex­ploit­ing a mis­take.

Re­spond­ing, Takealot said it had in­ves­ti­gated the mat­ter and de­cided to hon­our the orig­i­nal price quoted to Starke.

“There was hu­man er­ror in- volved in the mat­ter,” the re­tailer said.

“Be­fore a prod­uct goes live on the plat­form, a list­ing is drafted. If a rec­om­mended sell­ing price is not con­firmed, a ‘hold­ing price’ is en­tered for up­dat­ing be­fore the prod­uct goes live. The list­ing was un­for­tu­nately ap­proved in er­ror be­fore the price was con­firmed.

“In the case of this prod­uct, the sup­plier set a global price which Takealot was re­quired to ad­here to.

“When the er­ror was picked up, the or­der was can­celled.”

And here’s the in­ter­est­ing part.

Takealot said when an or­der is can­celled, op­er­a­tors have a num­ber of stan­dard com­mu­ni­ca­tions they can choose from to up­date cus­tomers.

Be­cause there wasn’t one to cover the rea­son for Starke’s can­cel­la­tion, he got that in­ac­cu­rate re­sponse about stock short­age, fol­lowed by that dif­fer­ent re­tailer one.

“The com­pany is in the process of re­view­ing its sys­tems to en­sure a far greater level of ex­pla­na­tion,” Takealot said.

So Starke got his drone at the ini­tial price ad­ver­tised, and other Takealot cus­tomers will be get­ting the ben­e­fit of more pre­cise stock re­sponses, should their or­ders are can­celled.

And while the term “ob­vi­ous er­ror” is a sub­jec­tive one, I’d sug­gest that on­line re­tail­ers give the ben­e­fit of the doubt to cus­tomers who place or­ders based on a price that could fea­si­bly be a “spe­cial”, be­fore whip­ping that wrong price off the site as quickly as pos­si­ble.

END OF THE LINE: The last of the old Kel­logg’s Rice Krispies were be­ing snapped up at Wool­worths in the La Lu­cia Mall in KZN this week, the store hav­ing yet to re­ceive stock of the new, im­proved, far more sug­ary multi­grain Rice Krispies which so many loyal Krispies con­sumers have con­demned as ter­ri­ble on so­cial me­dia

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.