Wendy Knowler masthead
June 15 2011 at 10:07

I’ve been going on for months about the rights which we consumers now have when it comes to returning defective goods to the companies which sold them to us, thanks to the Consumer Protection Act.

In short, if something you bought proves to be not fit for purpose within six months of purchase, you get to take it back and request either a refund, a replacement or its repair.

Clearly, you’ll need to prove when and where you bought the item, in order to claim this right.

The easiest way to do this is by producing your till slip, but, as reader Jo-Anne Whitehead points out, there’s a good chance your till slip won’t last that implied warranty of quality period of six months.

“Most of the shops use thermal paper for their till slips,” she said. 

“It fades after a couple of months and you are lucky if you can see the date of purchase let alone the item purchased.

“My husband and I have a habit of keeping all original boxes with the slips, even though this takes up a huge amount of space, just in case we have a problem and need to return something. 

“But it doesn’t help when the information on the slip vanishes!”

The couple bought an Xbox 360 which started malfunctioning before it was a year old, Whitehead said. But when they found the slip for its purchase, “all we could see was the retailer’s logo and the word X-Box – and that was it”.

What can consumers do in this instance?

Consumer law attorney Sam Robertson says the Consumer Protection Act does not specify that consumers need to retain till slips.

“What does need to happen is that the consumer must prove purchase, which can be done easiest with a till slip, but any other form of proof will work,” he said.

“It is, of course, not legal to insist that a till slip be produced if another form of proof is utilised.

“Many of our clients still have a provision in their terms that states that returns will only be entertained with a till slip, but this will only be for non-CPA returns.”

In other words, goods bought before April 1 this year.

If you paid cash for something and you lose your till slip, or it fades to the point of uselessness, you’d have a problem proving when and where you bought it if it malfunctioned within the CPA’s six-month implied warranty period.

One way around the problem is get into the habit of photocopying your till slips – particularly those pertaining to expensive appliances – before storing them for possible use later.

You can also prolong the legibility of those thermal slips by storing them in a manilla envelope or folder, away from plastic objects, excessive heat, humidity and light, all of which accelerate the fading process. 

I had an extremely positive return experience recently, one which I considered not sharing in this column because it requires me to make an embarrassing admission.

For years I’ve been advising readers to keep till slips – even if this means tossing them into a special drawer or box rather than methodically filing them away. I do follow my own advice, mostly, but sadly, when a relatively pricey winter jacket I’d bought at Truworths last month began to fray badly on the shoulder seam the second time I wore it, my somewhat haphazard filing system failed me.

Yes, I couldn’t find my slip.

So I sourced my credit card statement, made a copy, highlighting the payment to Truworths, and went off to the branch where I’d made the purchase – Musgrave Centre – to claim my refund.

Given that the CPA’s right of return does not apply if a consumer is deemed to have abused a product, I was half expecting be faced with an insinuation that the jacket problem was somehow my fault.

That didn’t happen. The assistant manning the till took the jacket into an adjacent office, returning about five minutes later with a copy of the credit card slip I’d signed a few weeks earlier.

Armed with my credit card statement, they’d managed to retrieve the slip from their system. Very impressive.

Admin supervisor Jessica Arumugam appeared, apologised for keeping me waiting and processed a full refund to my credit card.

And it was all done without me having to say “CPA”.



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