Wedding ring set loses its sparkle

Although the Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman (CGSO) found that Galaxy & Co contravened the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), the store is refusing to pay for repairs or refund the R12 999 Peter Martin paid for a wedding ring set, because they say his wife damaged it.

Sheena Ruiters of Galaxy’s customer service department told me, “Mr Martin complained to the Office of the Consumer Protector (OCP) Western Cape, and the CGSO, and they found that ‘Galaxy & Co complied with the CPA, as well as our own policies as shown in-store and on the back of the invoice’.”

Mr Martin of Allenby Estate said the wedding set was valued at R20 399 but when he bought it on October 30 2017 he paid R12 999 as it was on sale at the jewellery store in Blue Route Mall, Tokai.

A month later, on November 20, Mr Martin’s wife noticed that “a small diamond was missing”.

When she returned it the next day, the saleswoman told her the claw was broken and the diamond would have to be replaced but they would have to pay for the repair.

A certificate with the set stipulated the “ring setting should be checked annually to ensure that the stones remain secure” but the saleswoman recommended that this be done every six months.

“When my wife asked how the claw could break in such a short time, the saleswoman said the set is more for ‘dressing up’. We understood that to mean it could not be worn daily. We were not told this when we bought it,” Mr Martin said.

“Nevertheless, we were invoiced for the repairs (R326). Since we only had the ring for 21 days we were not prepared to pay as it was worn under normal conditions. Galaxy & Co refused to bear the costs for the repairs. Since we were informed only after the fact that this set was more for dress, we requested an exchange in line with their refund and exchange policy: ‘You have 30 days from date of purchase in which to exchange your purchase if you are not completely satisfied’. The set became defective within 21 days, which is not normal. Galaxy & Co refuse to meet their commitment and they have had the set since November 21 last year,” said Mr Martin.

The OCP told Mr Martin they do not have a mandate to enforce the CPA and referred them to the National Consumer Commission (NCC) who in turn advised him to contact the CGSO.

Ms Ruiters agreed the ring was damaged in less than 30 days, “with the emphasis being on damaged”.

“We sent the ring to our quality control department and they found that a claw broke off and the diamond fell out due to the complainant’s poor wear. The ring does not have a manufacturing defect and is not of poor quality,” said Ms Ruiters, who added, “Galaxy’s wedding ring set is meant for daily use but like most things it must be given reasonable care. We are responsible for damage as a result of a manufacturing defect, but we cannot take responsibility for customer abuse,” Ms Ruiters said.

“If Mr Martin disagrees, he is welcome to fetch the ring and send it in for an independent evaluation,” Ms Ruiters said.

“Mr Martin has taken this matter to the OCP and the CGSO, and they found that Galaxy & Co complied with the CPA, as well as our own policies as shown in-store and on the back of the invoice,” Ms Ruiters said.

When Mr Martin went to collect the set from Galaxy & Co at Blue Route Mall, tenants said it was closing down.

“We are not sure if they were referring to this branch or the chain. However, area manager, Maria Kirton, couriered the ring to us but we did not have it repaired,” he said.

Ms Ruiters’s assertion that the OCP and the CGSO found that Galaxy & Co complied with the CPA is incorrect.

Ms Ruiters sent me the email Ms Kirton submitted to the CGSO which highlighted the company’s “change of heart” policy. That’s not the issue. A defective product is.

The OCP said their attempts to resolve the issue were unsuccessful.

Their mandate was restricted to mediation and conciliation. The National Consumer Commission was the only body that could enforce the provisions of the CPA. The NCC referred Mr Martin to the CGSO.

Zandile Hlongwane, adjudicator at the CGSO, quoted the relevant section of the CPA to Galaxy & Co.

However, the CGSO did find that Galaxy & Co had contravened the act.

“We note that the consumer must bring the ring in every six months to check if the stones and claws are still intact.

“If this is your requirement, how can you say it was not defective as the ring was damaged within the six months.

“It is not reasonable that a wedding ring, which is to be worn daily, should be kept in the box, unscratched and spotless, to be returned in the same condition in the event that a stone has fallen off. This is not in line with the provision that the ring ‘will be useable and durable for a reasonable period of time …’.

“You are in contravention of the act and you are liable to repair the ring at your cost, but to also offer the Martins a refund in the event that they reject the repair. We request that you take this ring back for a proper inspection as we cannot agree with your findings that the ring was damaged due to the customer’s poor wear,” said Ms Hlongwane.

Oh well, perhaps Galaxy & Co will do the right thing and “have a change of heart”.