Black Friday purchases happen in store or online. Whether you have a change of heart or buyer’s remorse, it is good to be forewarned about the legal implications should you wish to return an item bought.
It is well known that the Consumer Protection Act (the Act) offers consumers the right to “cool off” (in other words, to walk away from an agreement or transaction without penalty), but this escape mechanism is only available if the transaction was concluded as a result of direct marketing to the consumer.
Direct marketing in this context refers to marketing that is targeted directly at the individual consumer, such as an unsolicited phone call or an email from a supplier to the consumer.
In store purchases on Black Friday will generally not allow the consumer to make use of the cooling off right as the purchase is unlikely to occur solely as a result of direct marketing. Absent a general right of return in the Act, the shop (supplier) cannot, without more, be compelled to take back goods purchased and a return will be subject to the supplier’s return policy.
The Act does however allow for returns in a limited number of instances:
a. Where the consumer has not had the opportunity to inspect the actual goods received before purchase, he is entitled to inspect the goods on delivery. If on this initial inspection he finds that the goods do not meet the type or quality he reasonably expected, or if it was special order or custom order goods and the goods did not meet the expected standard, the consumer may refuse delivery and cancel the agreement.
b. If goods do not meet the purpose for which they were bought where the supplier was informed of the purpose, then the consumer may return the goods within certain stipulated time periods.
Even in the above instances, a return may be prohibited because of public health and safety provisions, or because the goods have been partially or entirely altered after delivery to the consumer.
c. A consumer has the right to receive goods that are reasonably suitable for their intended use; are of good quality, free of defects and in good working order; and will be durable and usable for a reasonable period of time. If a supplier breaches this ‘implied warranty of quality’, the consumer has the right to return the goods and ask for a replacement or his money back, depending on certain time factors. Obviously the right to return the defective goods is not available if the consumer bought the goods after he was made aware of the specific defect.
If the goods were ordered online, the provisions of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act finds application. The latter legislation provides wider protection than the instances described in a, b and c above. A consumer has a general right to return goods within a certain time frame, with limited exceptions, especially with regards to personalised or custom made goods.
Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance with your return policy and practice or, if you are a consumer, for advice on the available forums to address non-compliance.