The Consumer Goods and Services Ombud (CGSO) has been in existence for five years and has tackled a number of rights issues, including consumers’ rights over defective products, rights in relation to the Ford Kuga debacle, transferability of warranties, wedding deposits and incorrect pricing.
Consumers are increasingly making use of its services. For the second quarter of 2018, the office opened 1 840 new cases compared with 1 495 in the previous quarter. It closes hundreds of cases every month – in June this year it closed 625; there were 594 and 379 cases finalised in May and April respectively.
NATURE OF COMPLAINTS
The typical cases the CGSO deals with – 25% – are to do with services not being of the quality the consumers expected.
Consumers claimed that goods did not stand the test of time – 21% of claims were for goods defective within six months of purchase.
Agreements and cancellations comprise 17% of cases; 10% of consumers claimed they had been overcharged. Other complaints consisted of services not provided on time (9%), unfair terms in agreements (6%) and deliveries that were not as per requirements (6%).
The good news is that in 56% of cases, the CGSO found in favour of the consumer either fully or partially.
“In some cases the office provided assistance to the consumer, which led to mainly administrative glitches or miscommunication being resolved,” said the CGSO in its report.
The CGSO featured two case studies in its report, which showed that cases don’t always go the consumer’s way. The first one highlighted the importance of having a written agreement in place, while the other relayed how an emotional decision could result in losing money
1. The complainant contracted a photographer to take pictures of their wedding. The agreement included video, discs with photos and an album of 50 printed photos. The complainant was charged a discount price of R12 000 on condition the full amount would be settled on an agreed date. The complainant paid R5 500 upfront. However, the complainant was unable to make full payment on the agreed date and advised the photographer.
Because the complainant paid in full after the agreed date, the supplier did not hand over the album. Instead the photographer stated he agreed to a reduced cost on condition the complainant committed to paying by a certain date so that orders could be made before price increases.
What were the findings? The CGSO found that, based on WhatsApp evidence provided by the supplier, the consumer was aware of the need to settle the bill by the agreed date or otherwise forfeit the album.
. CGSO tip: Make sure you have the agreement in writing, especially if certain promises are made verbally.
2. After meeting a supplier on a dating site the complainant signed a one-year contract at a gym and paid the entire 12-month contract upfront.
After this, the supplier cut all contact with the complainant and blocked her on WhatsApp.
The complainant then requested a full refund after making it known that she was cancelling the agreement.
The supplier said she was free to cancel but demanded she pay a cancellation fee.
What were the findings? The CGSO said the complainant entered into a valid agreement with the hope of pursuing her love interests, adding: “She is bound by the agreement unless she pays a cancellation fee.”
. CGSO tip: Never make emotional decisions when entering into an agreement. Contracts are binding and you will be held liable in terms of such an agreement.