News you can use | Cellphone deals, cons and customer reviews

Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler’s “Watch-outs of the week”

17 December 2021 - 15:48
By Wendy Knowler
There’s no law compelling a store to take back a cellphone if you have a change of heart, given that it is not defective.
Image: MARIANNE SCHWANKHART There’s no law compelling a store to take back a cellphone if you have a change of heart, given that it is not defective.

In this weekly segment of bite-sized chunks of useful information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarises news you can use:

Make sure you’ve chosen the right cellphone

Somehow many consumers have the idea that they have a week’s “cooling off” period to return something they’ve bought and get a refund — or cancel a contract — if they have a change of heart.

That’s true if your purchase decision was made after a direct marketing approach — such as an unsolicited sales call — or if you buy something online, but definitely not if you transact in a physical store.

I had to break that to Kayolin of Durban this week when he emailed me about his cellphone predicament.

“I took out a contract as an early surprise Christmas gift for my wife at a cellphone shop in Gateway, but when I got home, she was not happy with the make or model of the phone.

“So I returned to the store within two hours of taking out the contract and asked if I could exchange the phone, but they refused.

“I am now stuck with paying for something that she is not happy with, for the next two years! Please help.”

Sadly, there’s no law compelling the store to take back that phone, given that it is not defective.

So if you go into a store to take out a cellphone contract — mostly a far better way to do it than over the phone — take time to make very sure that you’re choosing the right device and the right contract for your needs.

EFT the only online payment option? No way!

With many South Africans making last-minute travel plans this year, thanks to on-off international travel bans, and delays in the issuing of UK visas, fraudsters will be going all out to con the unwary.

“We see the level of complaints rise at this time of year,” says the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (Asata).

“With many travellers now ‘panic buying’ to save their December break, it is more important than ever to be on the lookout for scamsters,” says Asata CEO Otto de Vries.

Tips on how to avoid falling victim to a scam include being extremely wary off too-cheap offers, and checking out all the logos and contact details on any email you receive.

Blurry logos or low resolution images are giveaway signs of a spoof operation.

And here’s a very important piece advice for all online transacting with unknown entities — if the only form of payment they will accept is an EFT, walk away!

“This actually means you’re paying by cash,” Asata says. “Safeguard yourself by paying on credit card so your purchase is protected (by chargeback) if you don’t get what you paid for.

Trust those customer reviews

If an online retailer includes buyer reviews of the products they’re selling, you’d do well to read them before making that purchase.

Takealot customer Shihaam was furious to find that the R1,000 Christmas tree which looked so full and gorgeous in the photo advertising the product, was an “unrecognisable, scrawny thing” when assembled.

“I was beside myself to open the lush, green gorgeousness that was advertised, but to my dismay, I unwrapped this emaciated piece of art,” she said in a Facebook post, with pics of her tree and the image in the Takealot listing.

“I pride myself on having a pretty good sense of humour, but it’s not much of a laughing matter when your kids look upon a tree that seems like it’s been on tik.”

But had she read the reviews of that product, she would have no doubt been warned off — seven people who purchased it before her gave it an average rating of just 1.4 out of a possible five stars.

Another tree on the Takealot site scored just 1.9 stars from eight reviews. “It doesn’t look like this,” Bryan wrote. “It’s half empty. All you see are metal rods sticking out, and hardly any white branches.” All but one of his fellow reviewers expressed the same sentiment.

CONTACT WENDY: E-mail:; Twitter: @wendyknowler; Facebook: wendyknowlerconsumer