CUSTOMER CARE: Knowing your consumer’s rights is priority

Last week there was a this story of a customer who went to buy a phone in one of the retail shops in town. After getting home, she realized that the telephone was faulty so she decided to look at the guarantee notice on the product.

Last week there was a this story of a customer who went to buy a phone in one of the retail shops in town. After getting home, she realized that the telephone was faulty so she decided to look at the guarantee notice on the product.

Surprisingly the guarantee was actually for 2 days for an expensive product. She then took it back the next day to the sales person only to be told that she could not be reimbursed. The dealers were quite rude and almost threw her out of the shop.

This revokes one famous quote by Erwin Frand which says, “Every company’s greatest assets are its customers, because without customers there is no company.”

Your columnist sometimes wonders if service people are aware of this. One also wonders if service people acknowledge the fact that the customer/consumer pays their salaries.

That is a fact. The question here one would want to ask: Do we as customers know our importance? Do we know that when we pay for certain services and products, we are supposed to request for the best of them? Do we know our rights?

As customers, we all need to know that we have rights. Goods and products we buy should always be in a satisfactory condition. They should be ‘defect free’ and fit for the purpose they were intended for when we received them.

This goes as well for the services and products we purchase. When we pay Rwf10,000 for medical consultation, the service should be worth the bargain. When we go to a hair saloon or to a automobile garage for services, the money should fit the bill. 

In some developed countries, customers are entitled to return a faulty good and get a refund if items do not meet the basic criteria stated on the notice or on the advert.

In the US for instance, consumers had little protection in the world marketplace before President John F. Kennedy, on March 15, 1962, put forth the “Consumer Bill of Rights”.

This was done to help consumers understand their rights and responsibilities. In 1985, eight basic consumer rights were adopted by the United Nations’ Assembly, which resulted in consumers having stronger consumer protection policies worldwide. March 15 is now declared as World Consumer Rights Day!

As consumers, our original basic rights are:

1. The right to choose
2. The right to safety
3. The right to be informed
4. The right to be heard

If goods we buy are faulty, we should not keep quiet. That is even why it is important to keep receipts. We should take them back and request for a refund.

The law stipulates that we return items within a reasonable time. This can vary but we should be able to take goods home and try them out. If there is a fault, it is important to complain as soon as possible.

We know how things happen in Rwanda and in most Africa countries where the consumers have nowhere to go and complain in case a retailer refuses a refund.

Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) has a mission of regulating certain public utilities including, telecommunications, electricity, water, sanitation, gas and transportation. From the information I gathered your columnist has the impression that any complaint that does not fall under these 4 categories cannot be handled by them.

This is why there is a need in Rwanda for a real consumer’s protection association to help and educate both service providers and consumers.

sandra.idossou@sheiconsulting.com

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