It often happens that, after purchasing an item, we discover that it is broken. Our first reaction is to return it to the shop we bought it from and get our money back, right? Not always.
Section 56 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) provides an automatic warranty whereby all goods may be returned to the supplier without penalty and at the supplier’s risk and expense within 6 months of the purchase or delivery date, if those goods fail to meet the requirements of Section 55 of the CPA:
- They are reasonably suitable for the purposes for which they are generally intended.
- They are of good quality, in good working order and free of any defects.
- They will be usable and durable for a reasonable period of time.
- They comply with the Standards Act/other public regulations.
- They are reasonably suitable for the specific purpose that the consumer has informed the supplier that the consumer wants to use them for.
If the product is not suitable or is defective, the supplier must then:
- have the item repaired; OR
- have the item replaced; OR
- give the consumer a full refund of the price paid.
The choice is always that of the consumer’s and the supplier cannot force the consumer to have the item repaired if he/she wants the item replaced or refunded. The consumer can also choose to insist on a cash refund instead of store credit or vouchers.
However, before the above can occur, it must be determined as to whether there is a material defect in the product.
The definition of a ‘defect’ in terms of Section 53 (1)(a) of the CPA is as follows:
“…(i) any material imperfection in the manufacture of the goods or components, or in performance of the services, that renders the goods or results of the service less acceptable than persons generally would be reasonably entitled to expect in the circumstances; or
(ii) any characteristic of the goods or components that renders the goods or components less useful, practical or safe than persons generally would be reasonably entitled to expect in the circumstances…”
Section 56 of the CPA does not apply and it is not considered a material defect in the item where:
- the goods were altered or used contrary to the instructions for the item provided by the supplier, e.g. storing the item in the sun when the instructions provide that it should be stored in a dark area; or
- the consumer was specifically told that the product was being offered in a specific condition, e.g. used motor vehicles.
If it is proven that there is a material defect in the item, the rules of the CPA supersede both the store’s refund policy and the manufacturer’s warranty or guarantee.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charlene Botha is a SEESA Consumer Protection and POPI Legal Advisor at our Port Elizabeth office. Prior to joining SEESA, she practised as a Civil Litigation Attorney.