#Opinion

Return policy in according with the Consumer Protection Act 2014

Jun 29, 2020, 1:31 PM

Press release

Is there a 24 hours return Policy in The Gambia?

A general misconception in the country is that goods bought cannot be returned after 24 hours. There is no legislation in the laws of The Gambia which states that goods cannot be returned after 24 hours. The Consumer Protection Act, 2014 which deals with both goods and services does not detail the time beyond which consumers are not allowed to return goods they have bought. What is made clear in the Act is that the Tribunal (the Consumer Protection Tribunal at Bundung Magistrate Court) may, at the consumer’s request order the replacement of the goods or services, refund of contract price, or any consideration paid in excess of the contract price.

Displaying a sign or billboard indicating that consumer’s statutory rights of return do not apply is a violation of the Consumer Protection Act. The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission therefore enjoin all businesses to desist from this practice as it constitutes a blatant violation of the Act.

Goods can be returned within a reasonable time if they are defective or could not serve the purpose for which they are purchased. What constitutes the phrase “reasonable time” will depend on the type and nature of the goods purchased.  The Tribunal decides what is reasonable depending on the circumstance of each case and nature of the product bought by the consumer. For instance it may not be reasonable to return a loaf of bread after some hours but it may be reasonable for an electrical appliance to be returned if it becomes faulty after few days of its purchase.

Delicate products Deserve Special Treatment

Some products like pharmaceutical products, due to their very delicate nature, have to be handled with care and stored under special conditions. These products should be returned as soon as possible after detecting a fault or defect. The product should also be returned immediately if the pharmacy mistakenly gives the wrong pharmaceutical product. It is sometimes difficult to return these products because of diminution in quality and efficacy for instance when exposed to high temperature. This is why consumers should be careful and make well-informed decisions when buying delicate products.

When are Consumers not Allowed to Return Goods?

It is important to note that product failure or defect may not be inferred in respect with particular goods or services solely on the grounds that better goods or services have subsequently become available from the same or any other supplier or provider. If you change your mind because you have seen better goods or services elsewhere, you are at the mercy of the seller, who is under no legal obligation to return or replace the products.

Consumer Responsibilities

It is also noteworthy that the consumer should not damage or change the nature of the good that he or she intends to return. The consumer’s right to return will be hampered if there is a diminution in the value and quality of the goods due to negligence of the consumer.

It is important that the consumer requests evidence of the transaction from the supplier upon the conclusion of the transaction.  This is necessary if a consumer wants to return or replace a defective or unsuitable product. Consumers are obliged to provide evidence of transaction during the process of lodging a complaint at the Commission.

Redress for Consumers and Complaint Procedure

The Consumer Protection Act, 2014 has come to protect consumers from unfair and misleading market conduct. Slogans like “Goods Once Bought Cannot be Returned” constitute flagrant violation of the Act and should be proscribed.

When a consumer buys a good that is not reasonably fit for purpose, not of good quality, and not useable and durable for a reasonable period of time, he or she can lodge a formal complaint at GCCPC.

The Commission will first vet the complaint, and if it is a consumer protection case, the following procedures are taken:

  1. A determination has to be made as to whether it could be handled by the Commission or referred to another competent authority with the mandate or expertise to deal with such a consumer protection issue. The Commission may also delegate the responsibility of investigating consumer complaint to any state agency if it makes the ultimate decision to handle consumer complaint, but does not have the required expertise to investigate.
  2. If the Commission is directly handling the case, it will endeavor to resolve the case amicably first and foremost through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as required under the Consumer Protection Act 2014. This will require the full participation of the complainant, respondent and the Commission. If the ADR or the settlement negation fails, it is forwarded or referred to the Consumer Protection Tribunal located at Bundung Magistrate Court for adjudication.