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

The cost of standing in an ATM queue

Despite a dramatic swing towards digital banking, SA is still a long way away from a cashless society, with more than half of the population still transacting in cash daily.

But many people are paying far too much to move their cash around. For example, a Capitec customer is charged R8 per R1,000 to withdraw cash from one of the bank’s ATMs, and R9 per R1,000 if they use another bank’s ATM, but if they request cash at a Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Checkers or Boxer tillpoint, they pay a flat R1,20, with the added bonus of security.

Still the ATM queues at Capitec ATMs, in particular, are often long, and I learnt this week from the Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS) that more Capitec customers complain to the Ombud after falling victim to card swapping at ATMs – and then having their accounts cleaned out – than those of any other bank.

A whopping 130 Capitec clients have lodged complaints with the Ombud so far this year after the bank failed to reimburse the losses they suffered after being “shoulder surfed” for their PINs and then distracted while the fraudster snatched their card.Banks generally argue that consumers are responsible for protecting their PINs. So why do so many Capitec clients still spend so long in ATM queues, to pay far more than they need to to get their hands on their cash, and put themselves at risk of ATM fraud, when they could get what they need seven days a week in a far safer environment?

Could it be that many younger consumers prefer digital engagement to face-to-face human interaction, hence an ATM screen is a more appealing option than having to talk to a supermarket cashier? The OBS’ assessments manager, Edrich Buytendorp, says that could well be the case.

“Half of those Capitec customers who lodged ATM fraud-related complaints with our office were under the age 36,” he said.

Interesting times!

Make sure you know when your car’s service is due
So many car owners miss their service intervals by accident, because they are focusing on their mileage, not realising that their car must be serviced at least once a year, regardless of mileage.

Ian e-mailed me this week to say that his mother, who is in her 70s, took her car for a service but later got a call from the dealership’s manager saying the service wouldn’t be covered by her service plan because she’d brought it in three months late.

“My mom has just checked the documents she signed when she purchased the car and there was nothing about bringing the car in within a specific time frame,” he said.

“Apart from this, she is in her early 70s and did not feel safe taking the car in due to the coronavirus.

“Is the manufacturer within its rights to refuse to honour the service plan because the car was brought in late?”

In a word, yes.

And the warranty document Ian’s mom would have received, along with the service book, would have made it clear that the car needed to be serviced every 15,000km or every 12 months, whichever came first.Those who clock up more than 15,000km in a year have to service their cars more often than every 12 months, and those who do less are obliged to have their cars serviced at least every 12 months, regardless of their mileage.

The latter would apply to more people this year than usual, given how dramatically Covid-19 has changed our driving patterns, especially in hard lockdown.

Had Ian’s mom’s car reached its service interval during lockdown when the dealerships were closed, the service plan would have been extended, but the car in question had to be serviced in August, by which time all dealerships were fully operational.

Happily, after e-mailing me, Ian called the manufacturer, explained the situation to them, and his mom has since been fully refunded for that service, without any help from me. Well done, Hyundai.

But please heed the warning: if your car has a warranty and a service plan, you must have it serviced at least once a year – even if your mileage is very low. Diarise it!

If you didn’t order it, don’t get bullied into paying for it
I’ve been getting quite a few complaints from small company owners who received a call from a supplier of cleaning products or printer cartridges, agreed to the offer of a free trial, and then received a large delivery of the goods, with an invoice!

Many pay up, albeit annoyed, and use the products, which are seldom considered worthy of a repeat order.

But that’s not all – a few months later, they receive a second delivery of goods, again with an invoice. And if they refuse to pay, they are bombarded with payment demands via the phone.

Here’s what you need to know: if they have no proof of you making or agreeing to even the first order, let alone the repeat, they have no legal right to demand payment, because in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, they are considered to be unsolicited goods.

The bullying calls obviously work, or these operators would be out of business. Don’t fall for it!