Saturday, 25 December 2021

The rules on advertising

The Consumer Protection Act 2018 did something new. Something that had never been done before.

It included strict rules on how companies can behave when they advertise their goods and services. 

There were hints in earlier laws but this was serious, specific and comprehensive. And it's good. And it came with serious penalties for those companies that decide not to behave properly.

Here's a brief summary of the rules. 


Suppliers MUST NOT make false claims about:
  • The nature of a product and its uses 
  • Whether something is new or used 
  • If something has been approved 
  • When or for how long it's available 
  • When it can be made available or delivered 
  • The price 
  • Warranties, guarantees and consumer rights 
They MUST:
  • Advertise goods for the real price 
  • Have enough stock to meet reasonably expected demand 
  • Disclose any limitations on the stock available 
  • Indicate how long the goods will be available 
  • Understand that if they fail to disclose how long something will be available, it must be available for one month 
  • Understand that if goods are not availed as advertised the consumer can cancel the purchase and get a refund. 

When something is offered for sale:
  • The information provided on goods for sale must be accurate, clear and complete 
  • The price must be displayed clearly 
  • The price must be displayed IN PULA
  • They supplier must not charge the consumer more than the price displayed 

If a supplier breaks these rules they can face a fine of up to P50,000, jail for up to 3 years, or both.

Saturday, 18 December 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my stuff?

In September 2020 I paid for building material amounting to P15,000. Then my builder lost the receipt/invoice. I report the issue to the supplier. Their Security Manager advised me to give them 3 months for them to check if the material did not leave their shop. After 3 months the manager kept telling me they have not yet managed to resolve my issue. I tried to go to other managers in the shop they told me he is the only one I have to deal with.

I went to Consumer Affairs and they told me there is nothing much to do because its me who lost the receipt. They advised me to be patient with them. They talked with the Security manager but they eventually gave up. I have been patient with the Security Manager even up to now. They are still telling me they have not yet balanced their books, therefore, they can not help me.

I need you advice on what I can do now.

This is really unacceptable. I understand that you lost your receipt and that makes life a little bit more difficult for the store. I get that and I'm sure you do too. However, I can understand this being difficult only if the store doesn't keep any records. But it's 2021. They'll have a computerised point of sale system that connects to their billing system and they can easily find a record showing that you bought these supplies on a particular date and a particular time. If you paid for the goods using your bank card they'll definitely have very detailed records but even if you paid cash they a professional supplier will still have records.

There are two possibilities. Either they don't have detailed records of things they've sold in which case they're incompetent and can't be trusted or they can't be bothered to check for you in which case they're also incompetent and can't be trusted.

I'll get in touch with the store for you and remind them that they have an obligation to act professionally, promptly and respectfully. They can't wait 15 months without giving you what you paid for and make up excuses about why they can't.

I need that money back!

Richard I need your help because I feel I have been unfairly mistreated. On the 1st December I ordered a smart watch online from a local company, it costed P499. The site promises free next day delivery. After 2 days with no word from them I called and the man told me the watch is out of stock, and he promised to get back to me with a solution to my predicament. I waited for a call which never came through, had to call him several times until I was referred to someone else who he said he was his brother. He advised I top up with P200 to get a different watch which I did instantly. I was told the watch was gonna be sent through the following day. 2 more days pass with no watch or an explanation on what the hold up is. I'm told the brother is in SA and he is the only one who can confirm the shipment of my order. I eventually get assistance from someone else and he assured me he will send the watch on the 9th. When the watch is about to be sent they told me they are sending me one that costs P529 but I paid P699.) He eventually sent the watch.

Now here is the thing, They advertised something which is not in stock and it's still advertised as available. They failed to communicate with me unless I called them. I had to pay for the delivery myself because they didn't pay the couriers. Right now I am an unhappy client, feeling unfairly treated and I want some of my money back.

It's not even about the money, it's about the principle. Please help.

I think we need to teach this company a few lessons. Firstly, they need to learn some common courtesy. You don't treat a customer with such rudeness.

Then they need to learn about Section 5 of the Consumer Protection Act which is called "Prohibition of false or misleading representations". This section talks very clearly about making false claims in advertisements. Then there's Section 7 which is entitled "Bait advertising" and this talks about the same things. It also says that a supplier who breaches these rules on advertising can face "a fine not exceeding P50 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both". I don't think they need to go to prison yet. That's unless they fix this problem and offer you the money you're owed. Then I think handcuffs might be necessary.

Saturday, 11 December 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

He's ignoring me!

I gave someone a deposit of P700 to manufacture steel window frames for me on the 9th of November. He has been taking me from pillar to post since, claiming there isn't any material in all GC shops. I asked him to return my money on several occasions as my project is lagging behind and on all counts he promised to do so. He is not taking my calls any more. On 26th November I used another SIM card and I pretended to be somebody else and I asked for a quote. He quoted me and assured me that material is available.

What can I do?

What can you do? You can get angry, that's what you can do. You can get even more angry than you are already. This sort of thing is happening way too often and the time has come to take the battle to the people that let us down and then refuse to talk to us. My patience with such people has disappeared and I think yours should too.

The first step in this battle is to contact this guy and explain to him what the Consumer Protection Act says about situations like this. Section 14 (1) of the Act says that where:
"a supplier undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of a consumer, the consumer has a right to … timely performance and completion of those services".
The Act doesn't say exactly what "timely" means but I think we all know when something is NOT "timely". This guy obviously doesn't know what it means.

The Act also says that as consumers we are entitled to "timely notice of any unavoidable delay". Again, I don't think this guy has a clue about this.

I really respect your investigative skills. More consumers should do what you did. Use another number to call someone who's let them down and see if they still exist. Then ask some questions to find out the truth.

I'll also contact this guy and see if he really wants a battle with you, me and the readers of The Voice. He needs to know he'd lose.

If you break it, you pay for it

A member of the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group recently posted a question about breakages. A store put up a sign near the plates they were selling saying "If you break, you pay". Was this fair? Was it legal? Was the store allowed to post such a warning?

Yes, they most certainly are.

I think it's quite simple. If you break something that doesn't belong to you, you replace it, don't you? If I came to your house and broke something, wouldn't you expect me either to replace it or pay you to do so? I don't see that it's any different in a store.

Obviously, a decent store with a compassionate manager might be tolerant of minor mistakes. They might think that a very minor financial loss is insignificant compared to their relationship with a customer. But that's just good customer service, not a consumer right. There are also circumstances when I think the store should be more relaxed. If they've stacked things in a way likely to make things get damaged, then they need to take some responsibility.

Some members of the group asked whether the store's Insurance would cover the damage. Yes, in principle it might but in practice it won't. Insurance policies almost always include an excess amount. This is an amount that the customer pays before the policy pays out. This is done specifically to prevent customers from submitting small claims and not swamping the insurance company with endless paperwork. Anyone with a home or vehicle insurance policy will know about this. You pay the first couple of thousand and the insurance company pays the rest. I suspect that if the store has an insurance policy they won't be able to submit a claim for just the price of a plate when their excess might be a few thousands.

The lesson is simple. Treat a store's property the way you would treat a friend's property. Even when they're not your friend.

Saturday, 4 December 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why won't they take it back?

Good day Richard. Kindly assist. I asked my sister in gabs to buy a TV. She managed to buy the TV but when she finally sent me the details I discovered that its FHD instead of the UHD. I asked her to return it and ask for a refund or because its not what I wanted.

Now they are giving her a hard time. They're saying they only return faulty products but the return policy says otherwise.

How do i get them to assist her accordingly because they are refusing to take it back.

Firstly, let's admit that you are one of the lucky ones. You chose to buy something from a store that has a generous returns policy. Most stores only offer what the law demands. That says that we can return items only when they are faulty or when the item was somehow mis-sold. They don't allow you just to change your mind if you don't like the item or it doesn't meet your needs.

But this store is one of the better ones. Some stores decide to go above just what the law demands and offer their customers something special. These are the stores we should support because they offer much more than others.

This store has a "7-Day Return / Exchange Policy" which says "if you are not completely satisfied with your products, we will gladly exchange them, or alternatively, refund your money, provided the original receipt is supplied, and that the goods purchased are not used, still in their original condition and packaging, and in a condition for re-sale".

I respect that. That's a real advantage to consumers like you and me. However, it seems that some people in this company have decided that they know better than the company policy and have decided you deserve less than they offer other people. In your place I would be very angry.

I contacted the store and asked them to look again at this situation and apply their own policies. Let's hope they can read their own policy and do the right thing?

Update: The store responded saying that the 7-day policy only applies to items that are faulty which is simply NOT what the policy says. I've tried to explain to them that the Consumer Protection Act is very strict and says a supplier can't just make things up if they feel like it. They also complained that you took 6 days to change your mind. It's a long time since I studied maths but isn't 6 less than 7?

Where's my CV?

I paid a certain document consultancy agency money for them to do a CV for me. They said that the CV will be ready in 24hrs which wasn't true. I had to keep calling them amd bothering them. Then finally they sent a CV that seems to be an edited version of someone elses CV, with wrong qualifications, mixed up details which i brought to their attention.

I brought it to their attention and they said they would fix it but nothing. Their phones are off. Is it possible to get my money back in this case since they failed to do their part? Not only that when I call they switch their phones off.

Yet again a company thinks it's ok to go silent on a customer who has paid them good money to perform a service for them. Why do they think this is a good idea? Do they really think we'll give up?

The Consumer Protection Act says that we are entitled to services that are delivered "in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect". I expect that if I pay someone to do my CV they should at least include my details, not someone else's.

I contacted the company and but didn't get a reply.

Update: They didn't reply to me but I understand they you your completed CV, this time with your details, not those of a stranger. I hope it's ok now?

Saturday, 27 November 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should I get my goods?

May you please help me get my money back from a company that advertises on Facebook. They scammed me of my heard earned P1,000 that I sent to them for quilt bedding sets on 8th September. I did a bank transfer and they did confirm receipt and later said they will send them after 5 days when they receive new stock because they were now our of stock of my bed size because I had paid for super king bedding sets.

I have tried to reach out to them but they no longer respond to my messages on Whatsapp and my number has been blocked.

I have bad news and good news. The bad news is that I've dealt with this company before on behalf of another consumer. They were not very helpful then and refused to even deal with her because she had criticised them on Facebook. They have a habit of going silent on people who dare to criticise them.

The good news is that this time they're talking to me. Maybe they developed a conscience? And maybe they realised that giving their customers the silent treatment doesn't help their business.

They responded to my messages and told me "I believe they all received a message from us that we had a delay for deliveries since we had closed down for almost a month. The team is working on re-delivering all orders that had returned back to the office, they should have received they order by end of this month. Thank you."

With luck this means you'll get what you paid for. If they let you down again, I think it's time to take the gloves off and report them to various authorities. We can start with the Competition and Consumer Authority who have the power to demand they do what the law demands. But maybe we should report them to a body that is even scarier, a group that genuinely can make or break a company? Readers of The Voice. Do they really want to take that risk?

Should I get a refund?

I bought an ice pop machine and the machine worked the day they trained us to use it but from then onwards the machine never worked. That was April, I reported the problem to the owner and he promised to give us another machine but till date no machine. In August after losing so much business I asked him to please refund me my money and take his machine.

He keeps on making me false promises. What do I do in such a case? He has even blocked my calls.

May you please advise me what do I do?

I really don't understand why some suppliers think it's a good idea to go silent on the customers they've let down. Do they really think that this will make customers give up? Will it really allow them to keep their customer's money and not give them the products and services they paid for?

No, it won't.

The Consumer Protection Act says a few things about situations like this. It says that consumers have a right "to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects". If they fail to do that, the Act says they must either "repair or replace the defective goods" or "refund the consumer the amount already paid". I don't think that's hard to understand.

I contacted the guy and he responded quite quickly. He told me that he'd already spoken to you and agreed to repay you P1,200 since you used some of the products that came with machine, the flavours, colours, chemicals and the icepop tubing. He also told me that you agreed he can repay you in several instalments. He promised me that he'll pay you P600 by 27th November and the rest the following week.

Let's see if he keeps his promise. If he doesn't, I think he might also need to face the wrath of Voice readers.

Saturday, 20 November 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's her pension?

I'm not sure if this is the right platform to seek help on but let me just try since I don't know what to do at this point. My mum retired last year October and it's been a year and a month now. She has not gotten her retirement package, she has made countless calls and visits to offices and she is told her file is going to BURS and even to date nothing has been done.

This has led to her not being able to keep up with payments for her policies and her credit card and loan that she should have cleared by now. Interest has been added and she gets calls from collectors. Her medical aid payments are also behind and her funeral policy. She is accumulating debt that could have been avoided. The administrators have been no help and the officer who is in charge of her file never picks calls or relays messages when she calls. We are left helpless now and I just resorted to this because she is getting old and this is taking a toll on her. We'll appreciate all the help you can give us.

This isn't the first complaint I've had about this situation and about this company. They seem to take quite a relaxed approach to processing retirement packages and have clearly forgotten that pensioners have a right to see things done properly and promptly.

I'm sure we all understand that there are procedures to be followed and BURS certainly have a role to play but that's no excuse for being so inefficient.

I'm no expert but I can't see why this process should take a matter of weeks, certainly not more than a year. That's just useless.

I contacted the pension administrators and they responded quite quickly. They said that "have escalated the complaint from the client to the relevant authorities. They will be assisted accordingly."

Let's hope that all the other retirement packages they're processing will be treated better. 

Update: The pension administrators tell me: "I have escalated the complaint from the client to the relevant authorities. They will be assisted accordingly."

Won't they fix my phone?

I need help with a phone i recently bought at Rail Park Mall. I bought an iPhone 7 128Gb end of September with 12 months warranty and on the 30th October the phone started glitching and showing lines in the screen. Also the touchpad wasn't responding. It was on a Sunday so I waited until Monday to take it back to them but what I am getting from them is a poor service and their technician is telling me that there isn't anything much they can assist me with as it seems like it's a manufacturer problem. But I bought it from them and it's still under warranty also at some point he was telling me he can refer me to another technician of which I will be the one paying if they manage to fix it.

The salesperson also suggested that I get help somewhere since they have lots of such complaints in their store.

No, No, and No again.

This is incompetence and neglect of the highest order.

The situation is actually very simple. They sold you a phone that should work. Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that we are entitled "to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects." This phone is clearly not that.

Frankly I don't care whether they think it's a manufacturer problem and neither should you. Section 16 (1) of the Act says that the "producer or importer, the distributor and the retailer each warrant that the goods comply with the requirements and standards". No longer can the retailer blame someone else and deny responsibility for fixing a faulty product. No more making excuses and passing responsibility to someone else. It's their job to fix it.

I think the best thing we can do is contact the store and make it very clear to them that they have an obligation to fix your phone and to do it quickly. No excuses.

Update: They're being a little slow to respond. We won't give up.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my TV?

Can you please help us locate the owner of a store. I long placed a TV order in March, and until now the owner hasn't delivered nor at least refunded us. We reported the matter to the Competition and Consumer Authority but they said they cant find him and he is not taking their calls. I call him almost everyday he doesn't take my calls, now he has blocked me. He even deleted the shop's facepage.

Maybe I have magical powers.

I messaged the owner of the store and he responded quite quickly, asking for your name, contact details and a copy of your receipt. I explained to him that I'm not sure that a receipt is necessary given that he has your name and cell number, I suggested that this should be enough to trace you in his records. That's assuming he HAS records.

It's quite surprising how often the smaller suppliers I contact with issues like yours don't seem to keep records, preferring to rely on nothing more than a receipt book and their own memory. I sometimes wonder whether it's just their way of keeping records out of sight from the authorities but maybe I'm being too suspicious.

Curiously, I checked out the company you paid and they are indeed a registered company but are owned by a parent company that was deregistered in July this year and therefore no longer operates. Maybe I'm being simple-minded but surely a company that is owned by a company that no longer exists, doesn't exist itself? The owner wasn't able to explain this to me.

I won't give up applying pressure to the owner, let's hope he does the decent thing.

Update: He's agreed to pay you P1,000 every two weeks until the debt is fully repaid.

Where's my car?

I ordered a car from UK worth 65k and have paid the 50% deposit last year September. I've been very patient with them since there were issues of lockdown but it's been 12 months now and they are not communicating. I've demanded my deposit but they tell me they can only refund when the car has arrived, which they also don't know when it'll arrive. Their last communication with me was a voicenote on Whatsapp on the 9 February saying the car is about to reach Durban. When I made follow up now the story has changed to saying they're checking at the port of loading if the car has been loaded. It's very frustrating and am thinking of taking the legal route.

I'm sure there are some respectable, reliable car importers that don't tell lies to their clients, I just haven't met many yet. But my experience is based almost entirely on the endless stream of complaints we receive, almost all of them telling stories very similar to yours. Some have waited even longer than you.

The last two years of Covid have made life very difficult for every company that moves goods from one place to another. We all understand that and I'm sure we've all been more tolerant of delays as a result. However, that doesn't excuse companies from their obligation to keep us informed. If there are delays the law says that suppliers should tell us about them. Often.

In your case I suspect we're dealing with something slightly different. He's not telling the truth. He claims not to know when the vehicle will arrive? I don't believe him. He later said he wasn't sure the vehicle had even been loaded? I still don't believe him.

I contacted the guy running the company and his response wasn't very helpful. When I mentioned that I'll be covering the issue in the media he said he'll be talking to his lawyer. Let's see what someone with an understanding of the law says to him. If the lawyer wants to talk, they know where to find me. If they want to get threatening, I'm looking forward to a good laugh.

If he doesn't cooperate, I think legal action might be the right approach but we can use various channels to make him do the right thing. We can involve the courts, the Police, the Competition and Consumer Authority and even the local Council to see if they want to renew his trading licence. I'm sure we'll find a way to make him to behave properly.