Saturday, 22 February 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my money?

I need your assistance. In 2018 we engaged a company/individual. He was supposed to provide us with a backdrop and carpet at our wedding on the 17th December 2018 both a cost of P2,500. He did not honour his promise. We informed him that since he didn’t provide the service he should refund us since we had paid up front. He agreed. We have been chasing him the whole of 2019 and even up to now he has not given us the refund. He keeps on saying he is expecting some money and he will give us our refund. We believe we have been patient enough with him and we now think it’s time to take action. We believe he is deliberately not honouring his promise as on his Facebook page he posted up recent deliveries he made to clients. He is surely making money. We need your intervention in the matter.

I know I’ve said this many times before, but I’m constantly surprised by how badly many people in the wedding industry behave. They don’t seem to understand, or perhaps they just don’t care, that the work they do is for once-in-a-lifetime events. They have been hired to deliver products and services for extremely special occasions. Sometimes it’s people like your supplier who are offering to supply material things, other times it’s caterers, sometimes cakemakers, most often it’s photographers and videographers. Either way, on the big day, they frequently leave their customers with a key part of their occasion missing, forcing them either to go without completely, or spend even more money finding an alternative supplier at the last minute.

I suggest that you email or message this guy making it very clear to him that he owes you P2,500 and that you are absolutely NOT going to let him get away without refunding you. I’d tell him that he has seven days to repay you or you’ll be going to the Small Claims Court for an order against him. I’ll also get in touch with him and make sure he understands that you’re serious about this. Maybe between us we can force him to do the decent thing?

My house is a mess!

Please I need your help or advice. I bought a lounge suit in 2015 and when i bought it I told the shop assistant I need a leather lounge sofa and she showed me a sofa costing P27,000 in black and told me and my hubby it was leather. With the description she gave us about how to identify leather we paid P20,000 that very day. I told the lady shop assistant that I want to take it to my new house and its has to stay new. Mr Richard I moved my tv to the bedrooms to save my lounge. We have never sat In that lounge as family because we were saving it so only visitors will sit on it. Last year we realized it was peeling off so we just thought maybe the kids are not cleaning it properly. Towards the end of year I told the lady who sold it to me the problem I have and she told me a lot of people who bought were complaining and she said she will come and see it. I later went to see the complaints manager who sent people to come and see it. Still no help. I went to the manager who also came to see it and its now 2 weeks since they said they will get back to me. Please help me because its killing me and my house is in a mess.

There are several lessons to learn here. Firstly, you need to be very careful when you spend a lot of money on furniture. Very often furniture stores sell vastly over-priced but poorly produced products. Here’s a tip I suggest everyone tries. Before you purchase any item of furniture, ask the staff in the showroom to turn it upside down so you can inspect the quality of the materials and the workmanship. You’ll be surprised how poorly some items have been made. You don’t need to be an expert carpenter to spot poor quality materials and assembly.

The second lesson is always to ask for advice on how to maintain products that are made of leather. My limited understanding is that it’s not a material you can just ignore and hope it will stay in perfect condition. It probably needs regular love and attention to keep it at its best.

Thirdly, you can infer a lot from the length of a warranty. If an item has a one-year warranty, and almost all furniture sold by furniture stores does, that’s how long you can be confident it will last. Unfortunately, in your case you are now way beyond the warranty period and the store has no obligation to assist you any longer.

Realistically, I think the best you can hope for from this store is advice on how you can repair the damage or “wear and tear” that your sofa has experienced.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

A 5-day warranty?

Good day sir. I need help. I bought a charger at some computer shop in December and after 3 weeks it stopped working. When I went there to complain they claimed I had damaged the charger which I didn’t. I even showed them the compartment which didn’t work they were raising their voice and telling me how new their chargers are. They said I should pop out P50 and me being impatient and needing to access a very important document in it I did give them the money and got a new charger. Now after 3 weeks the charger dies again and I call them and tell them then they give me attitude and say they cant help me because their laptop charger warranty is 5 days and it has been more than that. I’m wondering if any action can be taken because this is the second time this has happened even if their warranty is long over.

I think this computer shop needs a little education on consumer rights in Botswana.

Section 15 (1) of the 2018 Consumer Protection Act says that a consumer “has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects”. Clearly this shop finds that a difficult thing to understand.

Section 16 (2) of the Act goes on to say that a consumer “may return goods to a supplier in their merchantable or original state, within six months after the delivery of the goods, without penalty and at the supplier’s risk and expense” if the goods fail to meet the requirements of Section 15.

So their five day warranty is, how shall I put this politely, “very silly”.

I suggest that you go back to the store and explain this to them and if they give you any trouble, maybe you should suggest that the get themselves a copy of the Consumer Protection Act, or, if they need advice, they are welcome to contact us for advice. For a fee!

Is it roadworthy?

Hello Mr Harriman, I bought this vehicle from this guy based in UK but he has company partners in Gaborone who receive these vehicles on arrival. I have used this guy before to buy another vehicle but this time around the vehicle I got is so rusty that I ask myself how it passed the roadworthiness test at transport.

The vehicle is rusted underneath so much that the chassis is rotten with rust. I have shown him images I took but he just told me UK vehicles are rusty. I don't dispute that but this one is rotten with rust, and he was the one in UK who could have told me about the vehicle situation so that I could have told him to keep looking for better vehicle. I bought it for P70,000 though at BURs he claimed to have bought it for 950 pounds. What are my rights and what can I do, it's been less than I month that vehicle is in my hands?

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of problems like this with imported cars and it’s a very good example of why I urge people to be extremely cautious when buying cars from overseas. The problem is that buying a car from another country usually means you can’t inspect it or test drive it. You have no real guarantee that the vehicle that arrives will be roadworthy or in the condition the seller claims. Yes, they might have pictures but can you be certain they’re really of the vehicle you want?

Obviously this doesn’t apply to an imported car that is already in Botswana. At least then you can test drive it and either inspect it yourself or ask a friendly mechanic to do so for you.

There are several things you can do. The first thing you can do is tell the seller that they failed to honour Section 5 of the Consumer Protection Act which says that a supplier may not “falsely represent” that goods are of a “a particular standard, quality, value, grade”. I don’t think it’s fair to deliver a vehicle that is so rusty. Like you, I would also question how it received any roadworthiness approval in such a state.

However, the most powerful weapon you have is the value they declared to BURS. If the importer told BURS that the vehicle was worth just £950, which is about P13,000, and then sold it for more than five times that amount, he was clearly trying to avoid paying tax. The Voice reported just three weeks ago that BURS had “discovered many cars were being undervalued during their clearance at the time of them arriving into the country”. I suggest that you contact BURS and see what they have to say about this!

Saturday, 8 February 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get a refund?

We kindly need help with the following:

A day care centre in Orapa is refusing to refund us back the registration fee of P500. We paid in December 2019 and in January when we went to view the school facility we were not impressed with the reception of the owner gave us as he was too casual, not welcoming and did not give us any attention. We decided that it was not the school we were looking for and asked for the refund which we were only told today on the 29th January 2020 after 3 visits that we will not get. Their reason is we denied another potential kid space.

Please help us, advise us because in our view they were not disadvantaged by our change of hearts it was also influenced by their poor reception. Furthermore if we were informed either in writing or word of mouth that the fee was not refundable we would have paid with upfront knowledge but now the no refund is announced as an after thought and we feel it is not fair hence our cry for help.

Unfortunately, I think this is going to be difficult. The bad news is that it is normal practice to pay a deposit to reserve a place in a private school or daycare center and these deposits are usually non-refundable. That’s because the school sees that payment as a commitment from the parents that their child will be attending and that therefore reserve a place for them. It’s possible that they will have turned away other potential parents as a result.

I hope you won’t be offended when I say that it was unwise not to have visited the school before you paid the deposit. Obviously that way you would have discovered how unsuitable the center was for your child before you committed yourself.

However, I think this depends very much on what you agreed to. Did you sign anything when you paid the deposit? Were any terms and conditions shown to you? Did they send you any documents? If not, you might have a chance of persuading the owner that you never actually agreed to the non-refundable nature of the deposit. However, I don’t think you should be optimistic. I’m certainly not.

Can I get a refund too?

I need help because I don't know what to do. I bought a fridge on credit and I was supposed to pay in 12 months but I cleared my account in November 2019. In December they deducted the stop order, yet I had paid off the account. I've been going there, calling them demanding my refund. They told me they are not able to process the refund because the money the system shows I'm owed is lower than the one they deducted. Therefore they have to amend what their system reflects, that's when they can be able to process my refund.

This is the second month now, and I'm still told the same thing. What do I do in situations like this?

What should you do? I think it’s time to lose your temper.

I understand that mistakes happen, that’s because we’re human, not computers. Failing to correctly terminate your stop order was a mistake but I would be content to overlook that if they hadn’t then been so useless.

This business about the refund they owe you being less than the last instalment they took is just silly. Who cares? Why is that your problem? Why are they bothering you with their inability to do the simplest thing? How difficult can it be to update their computer system and give you the money you’re entitled to?

I think we should both remind this store that Section 14 (1) of the new Consumer Protection Act says very clearly that a supplier must offer services “in a manner and quality the consumers are reasonably entitled to expect”. That means we can’t expect miracles from any supplier but we are entitled to expect reasonably good service. A series of pathetic excuses about why their systems are too difficult to update is not reasonably good service.

I’ve emailed their Head Office and let’s see what they can do to help you.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is it real?

I need you help sir. I received an email last week from Reid Hoffman who claimed to be the CEO for LinkedIn claiming that as the LinkedIn management they saw it worthy to donate $500,000 to my bank account for charitable work. And they stated that I will have to divide the 60% by 40% in which 60% has to be used for charity then 40% I have to use it for the business of my own. But the problem I have now, they sent me all documents and certificates which they claimed to be proof for the donation and they asked me to provide them with my bank details so that they can deposit the donation. But now they are saying for them to transfer the donation into my account I have to pay $235 as a transfer fee.

My question is am I supposed to pay for any donation sent to my account from someone who volunteered to sponsor my project? And lastly my fear is that I gave them my bank details but they are not sending the money in which I suspect they might play some tricks to steal from my account.. Please help me out.

I think you know by now that this is a scam, don’t you?

The simple truth is that total strangers, whether they claim to be the orphaned children of West African billionaires, companies running lotteries in faraway countries or the leaders of famously successful and wealthy companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook or LinkedIn, don’t approach people offering them enormous amounts of money. They simply don’t.

When these emails arrive, the story always eventually reach the point you’ve reached. In order to get the money they’ve promised to send you, they tell you that you have to send them money first. Sometimes it’s a legal fee, other times they’ll call it an account opening fee or like in your case, a “transfer fee”. This is what the whole thing is about. It’s why these deceptions are called “advance fee” scams, it’s all about the fee they want in advance. Nothing is genuine about this situation. There is no donation and it’s certainly not anyone from LinkedIn you’ve been communicating with.

I know you’re concerned about having given away your bank account details but I don’t think there’s anything wo worry about if you’ve just disclosed the account number and your name. I hope you haven’t disclosed anything more than that? Either way, I think it’s worth contacting your bank and telling them what happened if that makes you any more comfortable. Whatever you do, do NOT send these scammers any money. You will never see it again and scammers don’t offer refunds!

Who must I pay?

Hello Mr Harriman. I had a loan in 2015. I took P25 000 from Get Bucks and I was paying P1,300 every month as instalment. in March 2017 my contract came to an end so I didn't update them after that. So 2017 September I got employed again and went to them. We agreed to pay P900 instalment because I was payed less than before. Even now am still paying. So my worry is I am being called by Norman Bisset everyday telling me about my account with Get Bucks. They are saying my account is sold to them by Get Bucks. I asked them why Get Bucks sell my account to them without notifying me. They tell me that its how its done by the laws. Today I told them that I can't stop salaries office to stop deducting money using Get Bucks because there is no any agreement between me and Norman Bisset. They told me that I will pay for the airtime that they use to call me everytime. So is this how it is in cases like this?

Unfortunately, yes, this is how these things work. If you stop paying your loan instalments without communicating with the company that lent you money, they’ll go through the process described in the loan agreement you originally signed. That agreement probably said that if you stop paying, the lender is entitled to engage debt collectors to recover the money you owe them. The debt collector very often does this by buying the debt from the lender. You then owe the debt collector, not the company you originally borrowed the money from. In your case it probably is Norman Bissett that owns the debt. It’s them you have to pay.

However, you are entitled a full statement of the debt and I think that should be the first thing you should ask for. Then check that they’ve calculated everything correctly. You then need to speak to the original lender to see what they’ve been doing with the P900 instalments you’ve been making. Have they passed them over to the debt collector? If not, what have they done with them?

If you have any difficulty with either company, let me know and I’ll ask them both some questions.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can’t I get my refund?

Please advise. I booked and paid for a return ticket from Gaborone to Joburg. The departure date was 29th December and return on 1st January. However, a few days before departure I was told that I might not use the same transport for my return trip and that they will make arrangements for me on a different bus and relay the information to me by 30th December, which they didn't, despite me making follow ups with them. I checked on them again on the morning of 31st and when they did respond I was told I had been booked on a bus that will be leaving Joburg at 12:30pm, something which didn't sit well with me since I wanted an earlier bus. I told them that I will make my own arrangements and requested for a refund but my request was declined, citing that it's against their policy, and that I will use the ticket next time I travel with them. The thing is, I have no plans to travel to Joburg anytime soon and definitely not with them. Now my question is, are they right to refuse me a refund?

Are they right to refuse you your refund? I think that depends very much on the conditions you agreed to when you bought the ticket. If the Terms and Conditions say clearly that no refunds are payable, and you acknowledged them before you agreed to buy the ticket, then that’s how things must be. But did you actually agree to these conditions?

(I asked this consumer whether she had actually seen the terms and conditions and she said:

“I was told about the receipt having the T & Cs just 2 days before departure and I was in Francistown by then and was only going to arrive in Gaborone on Saturday evening for the Sunday morning departure. I was initially told that I will be sent the receipt after I made the payment, so I guess I could have been aware of the T & Cs well in time should they have done so.”

It seems to me quite clear. How could you have agreed to these conditions when you weren’t aware of them? The good news is that Section 25 of the new Consumer Protection Act says that a supplier must give the consumer “a copy of the written contract, at the time the transaction between the supplier and the consumer is entered into”. Not the following day, not a week later, at the time you agreed to it. Those terms and conditions were critical parts of the contract you signed with this bus company and they failed you by not telling you about them on the day you bought the ticket, instead of some days later. I suggest you tell the bus company this and see if they want to face a fine of up to P100,000 or serve a term of up to five years in prison. Or both!

Was it just my mistake?

I made a stop order of P100 from my current to my savings account in June 2013. I erroneously wrote a wrong account beneficiary account number by 1 digit. The money went to the person I don't know. I have been checking the account and just thought the stop order didn't materialize up until I realised this in 2019 and reported the matter to the Bank. After a long investigation the bank has written to saying that can't refund me. What's painful is that they know the person who got my money. They told me that the person is saying he can only give me P100 per month for 6 yrs. Please on how I can go about this case. I have already reported to the police and they are also taking too long to help.

I agree with them that yes I have made a mistake. My worry is why is the bank not accepting that they are also at fault because they have 2 people who checked and approved the application. Why could the fail to check that the beneficiary name and account number doesn't match.

I agree with you that the bank should obviously have checked that the beneficiary name matched the account number you gave. However, it’s not the first time I’ve heard this. In fact I’ve heard of similar situations many times. Here’s a question for all the bankers reading The Voice this week. Is this normal practice? Is it so difficult to check that the name on the instruction is the same as the name in your incredibly expensive, top-of-the-range computer system? You know, the system WE, your customers paid for?

I’ve contacted the bank in question to see what they say. Yes, you made a mistake when you completed the stop order instruction and you made an even bigger mistake by not checking your account for six years, but this could easily have been avoided if the bank had spent just a couple of seconds helping you to prevent an expensive mistake!

Saturday, 11 January 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my charger?

I took my laptop to an IT shop in Game City to get the charging system replaced. I was charged P800 which I paid which was said to be price for the new charging system and installation. When I came back the following day it couldn't switch on and when the assistant used a different charger it switched on, which meant that my charger was also dead. I was told that the new Dell charger was P350 which I did not have at the time. Later I went back and bought a "supposed" Dell charger for P350 which was said to have a 1 year warranty. I insisted it got tested and my laptop could not switch on, after the new charger cable was changed it switched on. When I got home my laptop couldn't switch on, I went back to the store the following day and I told the owner the problem and he tested it and it did not switch on. He tried different chargers but it still could not switch on, I asked the shop owner why the charger wasn't written Dell and he said it's because it is a replacement, something he did not write on the receipt, on the receipt he wrote a Dell charger.

I told him that I needed an original Dell charger and that my laptop has never been ok since he replaced the charging system and the charger. He said that I could've read his terms and conditions which state that there isn't any warranty for technical issues.. I told him that I would take legal action against him and he said he has terms and conditions but we ended up reaching a conclusion that he checks what the problem is and if it is with the charging system he would replace it and if it isn't he would not be liable.

I said if it has any other problem that would be a result of the charging system then he would be liable and he said that the law cannot do anything to him and I did not know how the Consumer Protection Act protects me.

I keep calling one of the shop assistants to ask if my laptop is fixed yet but it is said to have not been touched ever since I dropped it off. The shop owner does not pick my calls. Please assist me in this matter. Thank you.

I contacted this store and explained a few things to them.

I started by reminding them, because I’m sure they knew this already, that Section 17 of the new Consumer Protection Act states that
“A supplier shall give a warranty on every new or reconditioned part installed during any repairs or maintenance work, and labour required to install it, for a period of three months after the date of installation of the part". 
I suggested that it is therefore unacceptable to deny that a warranty is not offered on any goods or services that are repaired.

I went on to remind them that Section 23 of the Act also states that a supplier
"shall not enter into a contract, agreement or any other arrangement with any consumer … which … requires a consumer … to • to waive any right” or “to waive any liability of the supplier”.

I then asked them if it was true that the charger she believed was from Dell was in fact not manufactured by Dell because that would also be a breach of the Act?

They offered her a new Dell charger.

Can they copy my card?

Microlenders and cash loans have a trend of asking their customers to provide a copy of the ATM card and the copy usually has both the front and the back part. Isn’t this illegal? Isn’t this almost the same as taking the card itself?

I think it’s so close to being the same that it’s wrong. Possibly even against the rules.

The danger is that even though the lender doesn’t have the card and can’t use it in an ATM as some microlenders used to do, they still have all the information necessary to transact online. They have your full name, card number and the CVV number and there’s nothing to stop them using that information to spend all your money online. It’s a massive breach of card security and if they were to misuse your card, you bank wouldn’t help you. You disclosed the information to a third party and it’s therefore your fault, the bank would say, if the money was spent inappropriately.

(The text below was taken from the NBFIRA web site showing the rule that micro lenders are not permitted to take a borrower's card.)

So here’s a request. If this has happened to you, please get in touch, send me the details and we’ll see how interested NBFIRA are?

Monday, 23 December 2019

BitClub Network - $722 million gone missing, prosecutions beginning

A couple of years ago I was on radio and mentioned Bitcoin. I warned people that I thought it was an "economic bubble" and that its rapidly increasing price was very likely to come crashing down soon.

Later that day the station called me saying that "Bitcoin" had asked to come on air to provide another side to the story. I mentioned that there is no company called "Bitcoin" so I didn't see how they could send a spokesperson. They gave me the number of the person who had called and it was actually someone from BitClub Network, an obvious pyramid / Ponzi scheme. They claimed to be major Bitcoin miners but there was NO actual evidence of that being true.

They said:
“With BitClub Network you earn daily profits from our shared mining pools. We also have a referral program so you can get paid for anyone you refer.”
In fact, their main motivation was to recruit more and more people, a major clue that all was not as it seemed.

The people behind this scam are now facing prosecution in the USA but the sad thing is how many people fell for the lies told by BitClub Network recruiters and who collectively lost £722 million.

Please, let's not fall for another BitClub Network, Eurextrade or MMM Global? Let's make that a New Years Resolution for 2020?