Slides you can't expose to sun, tyre expiry dates, warranty T&Cs
Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler’s watch-outs of the week
In this regular segment of bite-sized chunks of useful information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarises news you can use:
Sliding in with a shoe warning
You’d think you could wash a pair of slides, right? Some would say it’s essential every now and then for hygiene reasons. But when Portia Dube's size 4 Versace slides shrank at least two sizes, the manager at the store she bought them from reportedly told her she shouldn’t have washed them.
Dube paid R1,850 for the slides at Versace's Mall of Africa shop in August and went back in December with the shrunken pair, wanting a refund. “The manager responded by saying I wasn’t supposed to wash the slides, but I was never given special instructions about caring for them,” she said.
She was referred to Marike Stols, Versace’s brand manager in South Africa. “She said the finding was that the shoes were exposed to extreme heat,” Dube said. “But I washed those slides in cold water and I left them to dry in the house as it was raining.”
I took up her case with Stols, arguing that as the slides had become unfit for purpose within the Consumer Protection Act’s six-month warranty period, Dube was entitled to a refund unless it could be proved she acted contrary to specific and adequately disclosed care instructions.
I shared with her a warning about the same slides I found on a UK retail site, which read: “The shoe should be protected from direct sunlight, otherwise it may shrink.”
Dube was insistent she was given no warnings when she bought the slides. It is possible the slides were exposed to sunlight, being a product designed to be worn outside — poolside or at the beach, for example — where temperatures, especially in South Africa in summer, can be extreme. I’ve taken up several cases of Crocs shrinking when left outdoors.
Responding, Stols said: “I’ve already spoken with Ms Dube and the matter is being attended to. Any further updates will be communicated with Ms Dube directly.”
Dube confirmed she’d been refunded.
I went back to Stols to say: “As the issue which Ms Dube raised could affect others, I would appreciate a response to the questions I asked you about warnings concerning the wearing and caring of those slides.” No response yet.
For goods sold in store, such a warning would have to be in or on the box, or at least a notice on the relevant section of the shelf. And for online sales the warning should be clearly included in the listing, with clear instructions on what to do to avoid shrinkage.
In short, don’t let them heat up in the sun as they may shrink.
Do you know what percentage of your take-home pay goes towards your debts? Do the maths
Most South Africans know that while their incomes have mostly stagnated in the past seven years, the cost of living has gone through the roof. So it’s not surprising that almost all those who applied to go under debt review with debt counselling company DebtBusters last year had a personal loan — the most expensive form of debt.
DebtBusters’ 2023 data — shared this week to coincide with National Debt Awareness Month — shows consumers who applied for debt counselling in the last quarter of 2023 had 39% less purchasing power than they did in 2016 and, on average, were spending 62% of their take-home pay to service debt, and relying on personal loans to plug the gaps. Those earning more than R35,000 are spending a staggering 71% of their post-deductions income on repaying debts.
A third of the long-term credit agreements of those who went under debt review with DebtBusters last year were signed in 2020 when interest rates were unusually low. “At the time, those consumers did not have enough room in their budgets to cater for those increases, which came in quickly,” said DebtBusters executive head Benay Sager.
So how much of our income should we pay towards our debts every month? No more than 40%, said Sager. “More than that is unsustainable. But I’d say 30% is the magic mark — you want to be under that because home loans can go up in a flash and you need to be prepared.”
Debt counselling is a legislated way to get debt collectors off your back and pay off your debts with dramatically reduced interest, but it’s not a quick or easy fix. If you have a home loan and a car loan it will take you more than four years to pay your debt and exit debt review. And in that time you can’t take out any new debt.
Here’s a big watch out for those contemplating financing a car with a balloon payment: DebtBusters has seen an increase in the number of balloon payment car loan contracts included in its customers’ debt review agreements.
“Many forget they have that big balloon payment waiting to be paid, until they get to the end of the payment term,” Sager said. That large sum has to be added to the repayment total. If this is the only way you can get a car loan instalment down to an affordable sum, you can’t afford the car — rather opt for a cheaper one.
Hot reader tip!
When you buy an iron, particularly a relatively inexpensive one, make sure to keep your receipt and the box the iron came in in a safe place. A reader told me for the past two years her iron has stopped working each January, and in the latest case, she was able to get an easy replacement because she'd kept the box and the receipt. But here’s something to bear in mind: if you have a product replaced under warranty, technically the replacement product inherits the remainder of the warranty period of the original item.
Take Nazlie's case: she bought a washing machine in December 2020 and when it broke down in October 2022, while still under the manufacturer’s warranty, it was replaced. “Last month the replacement washing machine broke and they say it is now out of warranty, but isn't each washing machine supposed to have its own warranty?”
No, sadly not. What you pay for a product includes the warranty, for three years, for example. Simply put, the manufacturer is undertaking to ensure you have full use of that product for at least three years, so if it breaks they will repair it or replace it.
The replacement inherits the warranty of the original appliance because the industry argues if the consumer had the benefit of the full warranty period for the replacement machine, that would be “enrichment”. That’s why the warranty period on Nazlie’s replacement washing machine ended in December 2023.
If an appliance breaks within six months of purchase or delivery, you have the benefit of the Consumer Protection Act’s six-month warranty, giving you the right to insist on a refund rather than a replacement or repair.
Did you know that car tyres can “expire” and become unsafe, even if not used?
The woman who recently advertised on my neighbourhood WhatsApp group the tyres which she’d had removed from her Audi the day she bought it and stored them for the past seven years had no idea about that. Vehicle tyres are usually given a five-year validity period from their date of manufacture, according to the Tyres Equipment Parts Association. After that they are likely to burst, especially when used in hot weather, because the rubber component may have hardened and cracked.
So how can you tell when a tyre was manufactured? Check the tyre for a stamp with four numbers and an asterisk on either side, such as *2823*. The first two numbers relate to the week of the year in which the tyre was manufactured — in this case, the 28th week of the year — and the last two numbers are the year of manufacture. So a tyre stamped *2823* was manufactured in July, 2023.
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