Helene Fenn wants Dawn Wing to compensate her after they failed to live up to the terms and conditions on their contract.
The Stellenridge woman was flying to Canada and arranged with Dawn Wing to courier a package from Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) in Pretoria and deliver it overnight to Cape Town where she would collect it from the depot.
“I asked Leigh Ann (Robson) if I could collect it on Saturday and she said anytime from 6.30am. I told her I had to have the parcel as it contained my passport and visa because I was flying to Canada that same day at 12.55pm. Ms Robson confirmed that it wouldn’t be a problem. And when I spoke to her on Friday at about 5pm she told me she wouldn’t leave the office until she had information for me. Needless to say I heard nothing,” Ms Fenn said.
“When I phoned the Cape Town depot on Saturday at 8am they told me that the parcel had been put on the truck and it would only arrive at 5pm which meant that I would miss my flight to Canada. I couldn’t change my ticket as there would be major problems with connecting flights. I eventually booked a domestic ticket for Johannesburg hoping that I would get the package when the truck arrived. And I also booked another international ticket from Jhb to Montreal, Canada.
“At 4.30pm we arrived at the depot and waited for the truck which arrived after 5pm but the package was not there. I flew to Johannesburg hoping that they would find it and somehow get it to me before I left for Canada the next day. On Sunday Dawn Wing called to say that the parcel had never left Jhb. They got it to me that morning but I have incurred huge additional costs that I expect Dawn Wing to reimburse me for,” said Ms Fenn, who was claiming R18 094.18: a flight on Flysafair to Jhb (R1 236); a new ticket from Jhb to Montreal (R15 455.29); Kulula from Jhb to CPT (R802); international calls to family (R300), and additional luggage charge (R300).
“If only I could put a value to the stress and anxiety that this exercise caused me. I expected so much more from Dawn Wing. I planned this trip very carefully and was looking forward to going to Doha as I had specifically applied for a transit visa so that I would tour the city during my long layover. This obviously didn’t happen. I was not able to leave Munich airport as I didn’t have the necessary visa,” Ms Fenn said.
So what did Dawn Wing say? “We have investigated the matter internally to review where the issue arose. The parcel was sent at the customer’s own risk as indicated on the T’s & Cs. We have been in contact with Ms Fenn and have apologised as well as reimbursed her for the service that she paid for. Unfortunately, by paying for the service Helen inevitably accepted and acknowledged the risk. According to our knowledge, Ms Fenn can claim for the new flight tickets from her travel insurance as this is a requirement for visa applications. We are happy to write a letter to her travel insurance.”
The insurance company rejected Ms Fenn’s claim and offered her about R600 which it cost her to cancel the ticket.
Consumer lawyer Trudie Broekmann, of Trudie Broekmann Attorneys in Schotschekloof, said South Africa courier services are subject to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), and the entire Act applies where the consumer is an individual. Section 19 of the CPA requires a supplier to deliver the goods or perform the services either at the agreed time, or if no time was specifically agreed, within a reasonable time after concluding the agreement.
“The CPA sets a variety of exacting standards for suppliers’ terms and conditions: each term must be fair, reasonable and just toward the customers; that the consumer would have expected such a term, that it was drafted in plain language and was specifically drawn to their attention before they contracted with the courier, and that the customer assented to it,” Ms Broekmann said.
Ms Fenn admitted that she missed the attachment which listed the Ts+Cs.
But it doesn’t matter because Dawn Wing did not draw her attention to a specific clause.
Ms Broekmann said the courier seems to rely on the following clause to avoid liability: “Whilst the carrier will use its reasonable endeavours to effect delivery of any articles at the time requested by the client on the waybill, such requested time is an estimate only and does not constitute an agreement by the carrier that such article will be delivered at such time.
“In my view, this term is not drafted in plain language, the consumer would not have expected such a clause and it is unfair toward the consumer. I suspect the term was not specifically drawn to Ms Fenn’s attention, otherwise she would have made alternative travel arrangements, and consequently she did not specifically agree that term. In the light of these examples of non-compliance with the CPA, it is safe to say that most likely the term is void (in terms of section 51(3) of the CPA).
“The courier cannot rely on this term to avoid liability to the consumer: they will, in my view, be liable for his full damages; her additional travel costs, along with interest if they don’t pay up immediately, and any legal costs which the consumer may need to spend to obtain payment from them,” Ms Broekmann said.
Ms Fenn said: “I accept the responsibility was mine should anything happen in transit, but they didn’t even send it. Dawn Wing stuffed up and need to be held accountable for my loss.”