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 user 2008-07-01 at 10:59:39 am Views: 54
  • #20309
    Don’t pay for what you didn’t order
    Every week I receive e-mails that ram home the fact that the Consumer Protection Bill can’t be passed into law quickly enough.They provide perfect case studies for many of the bill’s provisions.Section 21, for example, concerns “unsolicited goods or services”.It states: “If a supplier delivers a larger quantity of goods than the consumer agreed to buy, the excess goods are unsolicited unless the consumer has rejected the entire delivery.”If a person is in possession of any unsolicited goods, the person may (a) retain the goods or (b) return the goods to the apparent supplier or deliverer at the risk and expense of the supplier or deliverer.”

    Unfortunately for a pastor in Port Elizabeth, South African consumers don’t yet have the protection of this bill, although it has been tabled in parliament.The pastor told me how he’d been approached by a Sandton-based business called SA Image Solutions, inviting him to buy what was said to be superior-quality, oil-based printer cartridges.He agreed to buy one set at a cost of R980, and duly received the cartridges in the mail.

    But it didn’t end there.
    “Later they sent us another set of cartridges, then called, telling us to pay for them.”I had a long argument with a man calling himself Gavin, telling him that we didn’t order another set.”He lied, saying we had ordered two sets initially and had to pay for both.”I asked him to prove that we ordered two, but he couldn’t.”In the end, the pastor, not wishing to do anything that may reflect badly on his church’s good reputation, gave in and paid for the second set.

    But when a third set arrived, he dug in his heels.
    “A man calling himself Craig called me from SA Image Solutions, telling me we had originally ordered three sets and due to delays they couldn’t send all of them at once, so they had staggered our order.”I told him I had never ordered three sets.”The pastor then received a fax from the company, assuring him that if he paid for the third set, they would stop sending the cartridges to him.

    But he has no intention of giving in a second time.
    The Hellopeter consumer complaints website has several complaints about the same company.Most of the complainants claim they were repeatedly sent printer cartridges that they hadn’t agreed to buy.One wrote: “I agreed to buy two ‘top-quality’ cartridges at a 25 percent discounted rate and received a Woolworths voucher as a ‘thank you’.”I received two cartridges, and then another three, and when I called to advise the company that I hadn’t placed such an order, I was told that it was the remainder of my initial order, and that they could only supply a minimum of five.”

    Several complainants claim they were verbally abused, harassed and threatened with legal action and blacklisting if they refused to pay.Of course, in the absence of any written proof that the consumers were failing to pay for goods that they had legitimately ordered, those threats, if they were indeed issued, were empty.Contacted for comment, SA Image Solutions owner Krishna Naicker said because the company provided small businesses with the fantastic offer of a 25% discount on the cartridges, the deal only applied to a minimum order of three sets of cartridges.”But because we cold call people all over the country, getting their names and numbers from phone directories, and don’t do credit checks, we can’t send all three sets in one go.”Instead, we wait to see if they pay for the first set and then send the second and third,” he said.”We can’t just supply all three sets at once because they might run away and not pay.”The sales staff were instructed to tell prospective customers that the price was conditional upon a minimum order of three sets of cartridges, Naicker said.”But sometimes the sales clerks get things wrong,” he conceded.As for the threatening “pay up” calls his employees are alleged to have made, Naicker said his company was “aggressive” in compelling clients to pay, because “thousands” accepted the cartridges, but refused to pay for them.

    The call centre conversations were not taped, so there was no proof of who said what.
    Moral of the story: It’s always risky to buy products, unseen, over the phone from people or companies you haven’t done business with before.And any time a company or individual claims you owe them money, insist that they prove it.This can be by means of a signed document or phone conversation recording – showing you agreed to buy the product or service at that price.