Cellphone buys, puppy scams and till slips: Consumer watch-outs of the week

07 June 2023 - 08:03
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Online pet scams are rife so beware fake breeders and sellers. File photo.
Online pet scams are rife so beware fake breeders and sellers. File photo.
Image: 123rf/Mikkel Bigandt

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

Who cares what colour phone you wanted?

It’s not as convenient as “upgrading” your cellphone contract telephonically, but at least when you do so in a physical store, you get to walk away with the phone you want.

A few months ago I shared the story of the man who specified to a telesales agent that his daughter wanted a white iPhone 14 but a red one was delivered instead. She was instructed to return it, which was done, and the debit order was activated, but the young woman remained without a replacement phone until I took up the case.

Palesa recently emailed me about a similar experience. She chose a green phone when taking out a cellphone contract during a telesales call, but was sent a black one. Realising this after the courier had left, she placed it back in the box, and didn’t touch the SIM. She had to put up quite a fight to have the “wrong” phone collected and the contract cancelled, but she was relieved it was over. Only it wasn’t.

At the end of April the cellphone company debited her bank account for the supposedly cancelled contract’s monthly subscription fee. She reversed it, and was handed over to debt collectors as a result.

“And now neither party is responding to me,” Palesa told me.

“How do I pay for a phone I never used, and don’t possess?” All my loan and credit applications have been declined because of this.”

I’ve taken up her case, and I’m sure it will be sorted out, but it’s a troubling issue. Yet another reason to avoid taking out cellphone contracts over the phone, if you ask me.

Never mind how much that doggy is, does it exist?

Online pet scams are as rife as ever. If you want to buy a purebred puppy or kitten, you’d do well to visit a treasure trove on how to avoid being scammed, namely www.petsplace.co.za. It’s compiled by Eileen Gibb and her advice includes gems such as:

  • If the breeder refuses to do a video call, it’s a scam. That is, the pup or kitten doesn’t exist; they’ll take your money and then spin you a story to extract more money out of you when it’s time to send it to you.
  • They demand immediate payment and ask you to send them a copy of your identity document. Never do that because they will steal your identity.
  • The website may have an odd URL, such as www. joescutepuppies..co.za. They often put a person's name in the URL so they can change it easily. Tomorrow the same site can be www.maryscutepuppies..coza. The word “puppies” in the URL is often a scam site.
  • The site also has the vetted details of bona fide breeders.

Keep your receipts

I keep saying it, but every day I receive emails from consumers who’ve not been able to get what they are due because they failed to save their proof of purchase.

Gregory bought a supposedly extra special garden hose, but it cracked after a few days’ use.

“I was buying this product to keep not to return it, hence I didn't keep the receipt,” he told me.

Best advice: hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Retailers are within their rights to insist on proof of purchase as a condition of honouring any warranty. It proves when and where a product was bought, and the price paid. A receipt can also determine whether an airline accepts or rejects your baggage claim.

Here’s Airlink’s condition of carriage: “All say submitted to the airline must be substantiated by a sworn affidavit in the presence of a commissioner of oaths, and original receipts indicating the date of purchase and the price of purchase.”

So whether it’s a shoebox, a dedicated drawer or computer file, spare yourself a lot of drama and financial loss and keep your receipts.

GET IN TOUCH: You can contact Wendy Knowler for advice with your consumer issues via email: consumer@knowler.co.za or on Twitter: @wendyknowler.

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