'Rochester hides behind clauses when consumers demand refunds'

If Rochester Home Decor was customer-focused it would not have so many unhappy consumers.

If Rochester Home Decor was customer-focused it would not have so many unhappy consumers.

Recently when Consumer Line checked out Hellopeter.com, a website created by Peter Cheales to give consumers the opportunity to comment on treatment they receive from suppliers, we noted that out of 40 entries, 35 were from consumers who were unhappy with Rochester's service.

The terms and conditions on the company's contracts are downright one-sided, but Rochester continues to use them to bind unsuspecting consumers, despite having undertaken to review the contracts early this year.

For customers to obtain their wares they pay the company 50percent of the purchase amount and then still wait 10 weeks before they can take them home.

It is alleged that Rochester does not deliver goods on the agreed date and hides behind clauses of the agreement when consumers demand delivery or refunds.

Selwyn Govender of Gauteng is its latest victim. He has been battling since April to get his money back after Rochester failed to deliver his goods on time.

Govender says that three months ago he paid half of the purchase amount for sofas worth R38000. Rochester promised to deliver them within four weeks.

When delivered, the sofas were damaged, dirty and of the poorest quality he had ever seen, he says.

"They looked like they were second-hand and I refused to accept them," Govender says.

He said he was then promised new sofas within two weeks, but they never materialised.

Govender then demanded his money back but was informed that he was not entitled to a refund because his sofas had been sent to Tzaneen.

He was also referred to Rochester's contract, which exonerates the company from any liability should it fail to deliver goods on the specified date.

The contract also gives the company power to debit whatever amount it deems fit should a consumer cancel the contract.

The contract further binds consumers to accept goods even if they are not what they had ordered or seen in the seller's showroom.

To cancel Govender's purchase, Rochester insisted on debiting him a handling fee, which he would not accede to.

Govender says: "If this clause gave them a right to deliver used and damaged goods they should not also demand a handling fee for substandard goods or any of the manufacturer's shortcomings."

Govender wrote to Sowetan.

Rochester's Anton Odendaal has not responded to these allegations, which were sent to him three weeks ago.

l Coco Republic is another company that has been accused of using similar tactics.

Michael Dzimbanete of Tzaneen says he paid R3000 to Coco for sofas. He was told they'd be delivered within six weeks, but nothing happened for six months.

When he decided to cancel his contract the company owner, known only as Vicky, refused to refund him and tried to force him to take any other items in stock.

"She cannot force me to take anything I don't want," says Dzimbanete.

"Besides, the National Credit Act makes it clear that a service provider cannot advertise goods that are not in stock, so why should I take what was never advertised?" he asks.

Coco Republic has agreed to refund his money.

"I am not aware of this and do not know who Dzimbanete is, but I will refund him immediately," said Vicky when we contacted her.