Store says no exchange on our watch

Flipinel* thought Philip Heppell when the R18 000 Longine’s automatic watch he bought from Tanur Jewellers at the V&A on June 13, last year, stopped working from time to time.

Five days after buying the watch the Heppells went overseas where, within two weeks, it stopped.

“I sent an email to Tanur explaining that I wanted to exchange it. But that would only happen when we returned,” the Fresnaye resident said.

“We took the watch back on August 21 but the shop was being renovated. When they reopened on August 30 Tanur sent it for investigation and it came back with a report that it was not faulty. It stopped again in November and it was returned in December with a report that there was nothing wrong.

“In January when it stopped we went back to Tanur who offered to send it away again but refused to exchange it, refund us or give us another watch. They told me the watch doesn’t get enough movement because I’m left-handed and wear it on my right wrist,” Mr Heppell said.

Tanur’s store manager, Melanie Stockmann, said the watch was sent twice to the Swatch Group who tested it and supplied a written report that there was no fault.

“The Longine’s watch has an automatic movement and the power reserve is 48 hours,” she said.

Watches featuring an automatic movement will still require winding, but less than a manual watch.

“If the watch hasn’t been worn for a while or not moved enough on the wrist, it will need a quick wind. Mr Heppell is left-handed and as he wears the watch on his right wrist, it could be why the watch stops working after 48 hours,” she said.

Jewelvest’s brand manager, Aimee Lentz, said Mr Heppell was told it is an automatic.

“The watch was sent twice to Longine’s and it was tested over several days and it did not stop working. When we sell an item in our boutique and ‘we (sic) recognise a faulty timepiece we surely handle each case with care’.”

Mr Heppell is adamant that no one told him on which hand to wear the watch.

Tanur couldn’t show me where in the warranty it explains on which hand to wear the watch. They couldn’t because it doesn’t.

Tanur complies with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and Ms Lentz confirmed that they would not take the watch back as there was no defect and Mr Heppell asked for a “new watch, outside of the seven-day refund period”.

Peter Winhall, one of four members serving on the Western Cape panel of the Jewellery Council of SA (JCSA), said: “If I had been asked by our head office to get involved I may, as an arbitrator, have suggested that Tanur ask the customer to choose a battery-operated model in exchange, and they could re-sell the original at a discounted price, telling the new buyer what happened and the reasons why the watch was stopping in the first place. We would be looking for a win-win situation,” he said.

Ms Lentz said Tanur doesn’t deal in second-hand goods.

Lorna Lloyd, the JCSA’s chief executive officer, agreed to mediate in the dispute.

The JCSA is an alternate dispute resolution body and represents almost 2 000 members, which includes jewellery retailers and manufacturers.

Mr Heppell sent Ms Lloyd a formal letter of complaint who in turn asked Tanur to comment.

Ms Lentz gave the JSCA the same explanation she gave me and stressed Mr Heppell is “asking for a new watch, outside of the seven-day refund period”.

“We did not sell Mr Heppell a faulty watch and we are unable to accept back stock without reason outside the seven-day refund period. Currently, the watch is not in a very good cosmetic condition as it appears it has been worn a great deal after purchase. Mr Heppell can take the watch to another jeweller to test the watch to see if it’s working but it must not be opened as it will void the guarantee,” she said. But Mr Heppell said no.

Ms Lloyd told Mr Heppell: “The JCSA is no longer able to mediate due to the dispute of fact. We recuse ourselves from this matter and recommend that you take whatever action you deem appropriate.”

Consumer lawyer Trudie Broekmann of Trudie Broekmann Attorneys in the Bo-Kaap said a watch which loses time is defective and suffers from a product failure.

“The deadline for returning a defective product is not seven days, but six months, according to the CPA. By imposing a contractual deadline on a consumer which is inconsistent with the CPA, Tanur is breaching the CPA, which could land them with a R1 million fine (Section 112). On top of that, their contractual term is invalid and they can’t enforce it against consumers.

“Mr Heppell is entitled to take the watch back to them again, and insist on a replacement, repair (at Tanur’s expense) or his money back. It’s his decision as to which of the three remedies he prefers. Suppliers need to be warned that they must comply with the Consumer Protection Act, if they refuse they face severe sanction,” Ms Broekmann said.

*Flipinel is the first word of Mr Heppell’s email address.