Tis the season to be wary

With Christmas just around the corner, award-winning consumer journalist Wendy Knowler has some advice on warranties.

Buying Christmas presents in the months leading up to the festive season is a very organised, grown-up thing to do: you spare yourself the financial and physical shock of doing it all at the last minute.

But there is a downside.

If you buy your child that tablet or fitness gizmo this weekend, for example, by the time they rip the Christmas paper off it, its super-valuable six-month Consumer Protection Act warranty will be down to just four months, the first two having been wasted in the gift cupboard.

Here’s why that’s a problem – you only have the right to demand a refund if the product is defective while the CPA warranty is valid.

Mercy of the supplier

From month seven, you are at the mercy of the supplier and they very, very seldom feel inclined to give you your money back, almost always opting to repair the item, because that’s the least costly remedy for them.

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There are a few conditions to you or your loved one getting that CPA refund:
● You must have proof of purchase, preferably a receipt.
● The retailer may insist on sending the item for technical assessment to rule out some kind of user abuse, so you have to give it up for what often turns out to be several weeks.

Remember, you have no legal right to return anything if it is not defective, much less demand a refund. Most stores do offer to exchange “change-of-heart” purchases or issue credit vouchers.

Some people buy new things for themselves and then, for whatever reason, don’t wear or use them immediately, sometimes not until the CPA warranty has expired.

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Selvarani Moodley bought a pair of shoes at a Gateway outlet in January and didn’t wear them because of a back issue until a few weeks ago, when she discovered that the shoe was “opening up” at the front.

“I took them back to the store. They want to repair them, which I can’t accept, as the shoe is brand new,” she said. “What do I do?

“PS, I don’t have the receipt.”

The clock on that six-month CPA warranty starts counting down from the day you buy something, or it’s delivered, if that is later – not the day you choose to use it for the first time.

Firstly, the clock on that six-month CPA warranty starts counting down from the day you buy something, or it’s delivered, if that is later – not the day you choose to use it for the first time.

So in Moodley’s case, that warranty expired some time in July and that’s when she lost the legal right to demand a refund for those defective shoes.

Secondly, if you don’t have proof of purchase, you don’t have any right of return at all.

Bottom line: to get the full benefit of that lovely six-month CPA warranty, start using what you’ve bought as soon as possible after purchase, and get into the habit of keeping your receipts in a special place – a spike on your desk, a box or a drawer; whatever works for you.

If you have extended warranties on goods such as electronics, photograph the receipts with your phone, because they may well have faded to a blank piece of paper by the time you want to claim on that warranty.