Only time you can return goods, if they are not defective, is if you buy online - and there are terms

Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler’s ‘watch-outs of the week’

26 February 2021 - 14:48
By wendy knowler AND Wendy Knowler
If you don't want to get caught out, read our consumer journalist's tips.
Image: Daniil Peshkov/ If you don't want to get caught out, read our consumer journalist's tips.

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

You bought the bed, now sleep in it

I regularly hear from people who have bought a bed which they soon discover is not a good “fit” for them. As with Goldilocks and the bears’ porridge, the mattress fails to hit the sweet spot, being either too hard or too soft for their liking.

Then, as reader John recently discovered, the store won’t take back the “used” goods.

He bought a new bed from a major national retailer on Sunday. It was delivered on Tuesday, and that night he and his partner realised it was too hard for them.

“I ended up sleeping on the sleeper couch. I phoned the store and told them I need to exchange the bed for a softer pillow-top, but they said that it can’t be exchanged because the warranty falls away.

“They said that is why they have displays on the floor. But one doesn’t sleep on the display beds. You actually have to sleep on the bed to know.

“Is there any way you can help me in exchanging the bed? It was as a cash sale. We are pensioners and cannot afford to buy another bed.”

I will certainly try, but here’s the advice: the only time you get to return goods, if they are not defective, is if you buy them online.

Thanks to the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, you get a seven-day cooling off period in which to change your mind and get a refund.

In the case of a bed, you’d have to have applied a mattress protector, and you’d be liable for the collection costs.

Some bed retailers offer their customers a “100-day exchange” or something similar. There are conditions: you have to sleep on the bed for at least a month; you have to a buy a mattress protector from them; and they won’t refund you - you have to exchange the bed for one of the same or higher price. But at least you won’t end up with no recourse.

Identity thieves are coining it

Fraudsters had a field day in 2020, in particular the “great pretenders”: impersonation fraud was up by a whopping 337% over 2019’s figures.

How it works: the fraudsters “harvest” people’s personal details - from stolen ID documents to carelessly discarded correspondence, social media posts and information traded as a result of the Experian leak of last year - and use them to apply for credit and open accounts before spending merrily, leaving their victims with bad credit records and a huge battle to clear their names.

The Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS), which revealed fraud statistics this week, says consumers must get into the habit of checking their credit records regularly to see if credit applications were done in their names. This way you avoid finding out months down the line, when the fraudster hasn’t made payment and there’s an “adverse” or blacklisting on your record.

Some credit bureaux, like Transunion, offer an alert service for a nominal fee. The moment someone applies for credit in your name, you get an SMS notification, which makes you pretty much immune to impersonation fraud.

You can also protect your identity by adding your name to the SAFPS’s protective registration list. It’s a free service, and what it does is red flag your identity with credit providers so when an application is made in your name, the company doesn’t proceed unless the person is able to verify their identity by means of other forms of identification.

No problem if it’s really you, but for a fraudster, it’s game over.

You can get that protection in few minutes by visiting the SAFPS website and clicking on "Protect Your Identity". You will need to have a smartphone and a copy of your ID in hand, either a smart card or old green book. Otherwise, you can follow the manual process explained on the website.

Here’s a big watch-out: never click on any link in an e-mail - you don’t want to fall for someone impersonating the SAFPS.

Slip of the finger and your money’s gone

How “present” are you when you give your bank account number to someone who is going to make payment to you by EFT, or when you key in someone’s else’s account number to pay them?

As someone who regularly hears from people who mistakenly paid the wrong person, and then couldn’t get their money back, I am extremely present and concentrating, obsessive even, when I deal with bank account numbers.

Here’s why you have to be: one very small mistake could send your money into a stranger’s account, a stranger who may not feel inclined to pay it back.

Remember, a bank can attempt a 'recall', but only if the beneficiary agrees to the recall of the funds.

The bank can’t get it back without the account holder’s permission which leaves legal action, a lengthy and expensive process, as your only option.

If you transpose two digits in an account number, the money will transfer if the number is a valid account with that bank.

Get this - if you leave off a number or two off, the bank’s system will add zeros to make it a legitimate account number.

That’s what happened to a South African man, now based abroad, this week - and the figure was in the region of R250,000.

Remember, a bank can attempt a “recall”, but only if the beneficiary agrees to the recall of the funds.

According to the ombudsman for banking services, a bank is not a court of law and cannot decide on the liability between third parties, which is why these disputes have to be settled in court. Also, the bank is not obliged to give you the unintended recipient/s contact details without their consent. You would have to get a subpoena to compel the bank to disclose that information.

All in all, it really pays to pay attention when it comes to bank account numbers.

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