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WENDY KNOWLER | Online retail reviews and selling your car doesn't mean selling your tracking contract

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

29 April 2022 - 15:47
You're still liable for paying tracking unit fees even if you sell your car prior to your tracking unit contract coming to end. File photo.
You're still liable for paying tracking unit fees even if you sell your car prior to your tracking unit contract coming to end. File photo.
Image: DENIS DROPPA

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

You’re taking a huge risk if you don’t check recent online retail site reviews

Grabitall. It seems the founders of this online retail platform took a lot of inspiration for its name from SA’s largest online retailer, Takealot. But a recent wave of complaints, and a lack of communication, suggests that the platform is “grabbing” a lot of consumers’ money but failing to deliver their goods.

Bev bought two watch boxes from Grabitall at a cost of R800 in July last year. It wasn’t her first purchase from the company, so she was confident of getting what she paid for. But it wasn’t to be.

In September she was told that the supplier was out of stock, and 60 e-mails to Grabitall later, Bev still does not have a refund.

“I had also purchased another product from them, which, when it arrived, was an absolute misrepresentation of what was advertised,” she told me.

“The courier collected it to return to Grabitall, but I didn't receive that refund either.

“It’s impossible to speak to a person at Grabitall,” Bev said.

“The phone number activates a recording giving a web address, e-mail address, and WhatsApp number.

“WhatsApp is not functional. Nobody responds. And when you send an e-mail, 99% of the time, you get an automated response with a ticket number saying that they will respond within 24 to 48 hours. That's it. You don't hear from them.”

Scores of people have recounted similar experiences with Grabitall on consumer complaints website HelloPeter. Bev has gone to great lengths for justice, to no avail.

Ombudsman for consumer goods and services spokesperson Ouma Ramaru said the office has received 30 complaints from consumers about Grabitall since 2018

“I have approached the NCC, the CGSO, the Hawks, consumer protector and the ombudsman. Nobody has bothered. If l get a response, l am shoved from pillar to post — there is no recourse,” she said.

Ombudsman for consumer goods and services spokesperson Ouma Ramaru said the office has received 30 complaints from consumers about Grabitall since 2018.

“Half of them were resolved, and 11 were referred to the national consumer commission, because since last September the supplier has no longer been  co-operating with our office.

“Four cases are still open with us.”

I e-mailed a media query to Grabitall, but no response, other than the automated: “Thank you for shopping with Grabitall. Our standard delivery time is five to seven days.”

Well, clearly not any more.

Always check review sites for recent reviews before supporting an online retailer.

Never sign a gym contract for a branch which has yet to open

A national gym group has been recruiting members with appealing specials on two-year contracts, with a signup fee of R150 to secure the special.  A Durban mother and her daughter signed up on the understanding that the gym would open in their area by May 1.

“But that’s not going to happen, or next month either,” she told me. “It doesn’t look like they’ve even started the work

“For that reason, she sent a cancellation e-mail to the company but had no response.

“I’ve heard that what happens next is that we get handed over to a collection agency, which demands 40% of the value of the 24-month contract, which works out to just under R2,000. Can you help?”

I’ve been trying, but so far I’ve had no response to the media query I sent the gym group in question.

Watch out for these seemingly very attractive offers — don’t commit to a contract, no matter how attractive the subscription seems, if the gym is not already operating.

And then unless you are a seasoned gym goer, sign the shortest contract on offer. Opting for a longer contract because monthly fees are lower is false economy for most people, because if you stop attending for some reason — about 80% of people give up within three months, internationally — you remain liable to pay the subscriptions for the full term.

You can cancel, but you’ll be liable to pay a hefty cancellation fee, based on the number of months remaining on your contract.

Your tracking contract doesn’t end when you sell your car

It may seem like a good idea to sign a three-year tracking contract for your car and avoid the upfront payment of the tracking device itself, but if you sell the car within three years or you can no longer afford the monthly payment, things can turn bad pretty fast.

You can either buy the device outright, upfront, and then pay only for the monitoring, or — as most dealerships suggest — enter into a three-year contract with a tracking company, in which case you get the device and pay for it over those three years, as you would with a cellphone contract.

With that option, the monthly payment is higher, of course, because you’re paying for both the monitoring and the hardware hidden somewhere in your car and you remain locked into that three-year contract whether or not you still have the car, or whether you can afford it.

A lot of consumers assume that when they sell their cars, the contract somehow falls away, but you remain liable for payments for the full three years.

The fewer contracts you are committed to the better in these uncertain times. As we’ve all learnt these past two years, your life can be turned on its head almost overnight, dramatically affecting your ability to fund your repayments.

CONTACT WENDY: E-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za; Twitter: @wendyknowler; Facebook: wendyknowlerconsumer

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