BY PAT DIAL
From time to time we have reiterated some of the important consumer rights and have enjoined consumers how to protect themselves. Despite such educative efforts, consumers still allow themselves to be made victims or to be exploited. In today’s offering, we will remind consumers of their basic rights and how they may seek redress in the event they may be victimized.
When one purchases a good or service, one must always demand a receipt. That receipt must always have
(a) The name and address of the shop or enterprise from which the purchase was made.
(b) The description of the good of service should be stated on the receipt
(c) The price should be stated
(d) The date of the purchase should be clearly written.
Why does one need to have a bill or receipt?
(i) The receipt evidences that the purchaser is the owner of the good purchased. For example, if the Police are doing a search for stolen property of the type of good one has purchased and the Police visits and one has no receipt for the good, it could result in some questionings
(ii) Without a receipt the purchaser may not be able to exchange the good or seek a refund.
Consumers must be particularly alert when purchasing goods from certain shops, since they do not usually give receipts except one asks for them.
In some shops one may see notices of the following type displayed:- GOODS ARE NOT RETURNABLE or NO REFUNDS GIVEN ON ITEMS SOLD
Such notices are illegal under the Consumer Affairs Act and the shops would be committing an offence if they display such notices. Despite such notices, the purchaser has the right of returning a good purchased provided the good is defective or the purpose for which the good was bought was changed soon after purchase. The purchaser should return the good within 7 (seven) working days of the purchase.
Above, we mentioned a purchaser could return a defective good to the purchaser. A defective good is defined as follows:-
(1) A good which is unfit for its intended use. For example, a cell phone which works erratically or a washing machine where the timing is incorrect.
(2) Where the good is dangerous or harmful for normal use. For example, buying furniture with nails or sharp ends exposed or equipment which works with electricity where one may be subject to electrical shocks or an electrical hand-saw where the blade cannot be accommodated with full precision.
(3) The written instructions for the use of every piece of equipment bought must be supplied. This is necessary for the user’s safety and also when invoking a warranty
When a defective good is returned to the seller, the seller must do one of the following four things:
(i) At no cost to the purchaser or consumer, the supplier must replace the goods purchased within fourteen (14) days of the goods being purchased
(ii) The supplier must repair the goods at no cost to the purchaser
(iii) The supplier must return the receipted payment for the goods
(iv) The supplier must provide the purchaser with a temporary substitute of comparable value until the good is either replaced, repaired or restored.
The next item we will deal with is warranties. When a consumer purchases a consumer durable such as a washing machine, cooker, fan or electric toaster or various tools, there is always a warranty. Many consumers are not aware of warranties and some suppliers do not bring the warranty to their attention. When consumers purchase goods without receiving their warranties, they are left unprotected if the goods or equipment cease to work or work badly or need immediate exchange.
What is a warranty? A warranty is a written guarantee given by the manufacturer or supplier to the purchaser undertaking to repair or replace the good or goods if not working properly. Defective parts are replaced free of charge as well as workmanship. A local supplier must honour his foreign supplier’s warranty.
Warranties are of two types – a written warranty which the purchaser collects on his purchase and an implicit warranty. An implicit warranty is not written but by Law, the supplier must provide an automatic warranty for six months with supply of parts and labour without charge.
The smaller shops try to avoid the six-month warranty by giving a written warranty for one month. Though their prices may be slightly lower than Courts or Singer, it turns out to be more economical to buy from the big reputable shops. This is so because they provide transport of the consumer durable to the home of the purchaser, their warranties are much longer, they have the repair facilities and they honour their warranties while the less reputable shops do not even honour their month’s warranty.
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