Online shopper's return nightmare

Thuli Zungu Consumer Line
Using sellotape to secure packaging is considered damage by Macaroon Collection.
Using sellotape to secure packaging is considered damage by Macaroon Collection.

Purchasing goods online can be tricky if you ever have to return them to the service provider.

Like goods sold on sale, they are not subject to return or exchange. And unlike goods bought at a bricks and mortar retailer, the goods need to be returned in undamaged original packaging, and you still have to wait for 14 days before the online retailer can refund whatever is due to you.

This is exemplified in the case of Emily Mokgeledi of Soweto, who bought a pair of boots from online retailer Macaroon Collection.

Mokgeledi said she ordered the boots and they were delivered to her within a week, which impressed her as the Electronic Communication and Transaction Act (ECT Act) allows them to deliver within 30 days.

The shoes did not fit, though they were penned out in the size she ordered, she said.

Mokgeledi said she notified the service provider, who did not have a bigger size, causing her to return the goods for a refund. She did not expect any problems as the boots were returned in what she perceived to be an undamaged box.

But Macaroon Collection told her that Hunter, the manufacturer of the boots, did not want to accept them due to the fact that the box was severely damaged .

The terms state that consumers should ensure the goods are properly packaged to ensure damage does not occur during the return courier. But Mokgeledi was told Macaroon might not refund her as she had damaged the box when she sealed it with sellotape.

"I was confused. They did not ask me to ensure that the box was wrapped to prevent damage," Mokgeledi said. "When I carried the box home, the flaps were coming out hence the clear tape that I used on the side, but the box was never damaged or torn."

She was told that the Hunter shoe box is as much a part of the boots itself and therefore they reserved their right to refund her, she said.

Mokgeledi was further told that returns, refunds and exchanges would not be allowed on sale or clearance items. She was further told that if Hunter did not accept the boots and the damaged box, they would have to be returned to her.

A woman who only introduced herself as Michelle of Macaroon Collection said she has a full returns' policy which allows clients to return goods within 14 days.

She said she had not refused to refund Mogkeledi, and that she made all refunds within the 14-day time frame, if not sooner.

As per the ECT Act, consumers have general right to a seven-day "cooling off period" after delivery. This means they can return goods for any reason, without penalty, but they would be liable for the cost of returning the goods.

She said the shoes were on sale but she accepted them back though she was not obliged to do so.

The boots were purchased by someone else a day after Consumer Line took up her matter. Michelle therefore said she would not charge Mokgeledi anything even though she should deduct R195, the original cost of couriering the boots. She also would not charge her the transaction costs of the R2 000 Mokgeledi paid, she said.

At the time of publication, Mokgeledi had not received her refund as the 14-day waiting period has not expired.

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