Service shows crack in store’s customer care

Jeremy Mahoney spent R6 914 online buying self-assembly furniture from Decofurn on April 10.

The set included two cupboards, two storage boxes that fit on top of the cupboards and two desks – a total of eight boxes. Before he bought it he went to see it at Decofurn’s brick and mortar premises at Myhof Road, Claremont.

“It took a day or so to assemble,” the Manenberg resident said.

“But the last storage box had a 60 centimetre crack in one of the panels. I complained to Decofurn and sent pictures of the damaged panel. Neh from Decofurn said there was nothing they could do as I should have reported the defect within 48 hours of buying it. It’s poor customer service,” he said.

I asked Decofurn about the 48-hour rule. How does Decofurn comply with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA)? How do you think the panel was damaged? How much time is needed to assemble eight boxes of furniture? How you view the Electronic Communications Act (ECTA), which also governs online purchasing? And, how do you plan to remedy the situation?

There was a standard reply “that it can take up to 48 hours for us to respond to you”. Decofurn must be fixated with the number 48.

When prompted, Neh, who did not give a surname, didn’t answer any of the questions, but said: “As discussed with the customer, we have a strict policy whereby all items are to be checked and anything reported damaged / defective must be done so, after 48 hours upon receiving delivery. This complaint was received on May 20 and delivery took place on April 20. We cannot be liable for such damages that may have occurred after delivery took place.”

Other prompts went unanswered: I wanted to know Neh’s surname, did Decofurn think Mr Mahoney damaged the panel? And I asked: Is this your final answer? Neh didn’t respond.

Decofurn should re-examine the CPA and how they comply with its provisions. They don’t.

The Ombudsman for Consumer Goods and Services (CGSO) said that according to the ECTA there is a cooling-off period and a consumer is entitled to cancel without reason and without penalty any transaction within seven days after the date of the receipt of the goods or after signing a service agreement.

“The only charge that may be levied on the consumer is the cost of returning the goods. If payment for the goods or services has been made before delivery he is entitled to a full refund which must be made within 30 days of the date of cancellation without prejudicing the customer’s rights provided for in any other law,” the ombud said.

Mr Mahoney told me: “I don’t want anything from Decofurn. I made a plan because the unused box was taking up too much space. I put glue in the crack and I am using it as I need the storage space. I just want the public to know and not to accept poor customer service.”

Eventually, on June 5, Neh said: “If you feel we have been non-compliant, you are welcome to take it up with the ombudsman.”

That’s up to Mr Mahoney.

Consumer lawyer Trudie Broekmann of Trudie Broekmann Attorneys in Bo-Kaap said that if any goods are defective, a consumer can return them within six months from the date on which they were delivered to the customer and can claim back his purchase price or ask for a replacement or repair of the defect.

“The return of the goods is at the supplier’s risk and expense, so that means the consumer just needs to notify the supplier to come and collect the goods. If it’s still possible to disassemble the furniture without damage, he can ask them to come and collect the cracked panel and replace it, otherwise he can ask them to collect the whole thing and it will be their problem to figure out how to disassemble and transport it. He can then ask for his money back, or a replacement to be delivered to him, all of this according to the CPA, is at the supplier’s expense,” Ms Broekmann said.

Mr Mahoney said that if Decofurn would refund him it would be a nice gesture.

“But if I have to dissemble the furniture I would rather let it be.”

Ms Broekmann said Decofurn’s contract term that the consumer notify them within 48 hours contradicts the CPA where the deadline is six months.

“A contract can’t overrule a law, otherwise we would have a free-for-all.

“So the supplier’s requirement that the consumer contact them within 48 hours is invalid, and consumers are not bound by it,” Ms Broekmann said.

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