Saturday, 16 January 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

When should they take my money?

Please educate me here. I have a policy with an insurance company and I signed that they take their money every last day of the month. For the past few months its not been the case, they take their money around the 5th, 8th, 10th which is not part of the agreement. The other month they did the same and found nothing in my account and my bank penalised and charged me P150 for that and still I had to pay them premiums. Can you explain to me why this is happening?

I'm sure many readers of The Voice will have had exactly the same experience. Maybe not with an insurance company but perhaps with their bank, network provider or any other company that takes regular payments from their bank account.

I suspect this all depends on what it says in the contract you signed with the insurance company. What were the precise words in the section about payments? Did it say the exact date that the payment would be taken? Or was it a bit more flexible than that? Did it say that payments would be taken on a specific date unless there was a reason not to? Did it perhaps say that the insurance company will normally take it on the agreed date unless they want to take it on some other date?

Regardless of what agreement says, there's a bigger issue. Simple courtesy. If a supplier such as an insurance company or bank needs to take money earlier than expected they should at least have to courtesy to tell me first. Or perhaps even to ask me if it's ok? Or to check whether it's going to inconvenience me or cost me money. The simple fact is that the insurance company were rude to you and that's not acceptable.

We should both contact them and remind them that courtesy costs nothing but brings forth respect.

A bed or a refund?

Hello Mr Harriman, I paid for a bed worth 1.5k in December 2019. I left the bed at the shop because I didn't have transport at that particular time. In February 2020 I found transport and told them that I am coming to pick the bed but the lady gave me endless stories that she is not at the shop so no one will help me, So I gave in. In September I called her again that I am coming to pick the bed she gave me a screenshot where she asked her boss if the bed is available and he said no and she told me it will be available after a week. I reached her after a week and she told me the bed is not available. In October I called her again that I am coming and she told me the shop has moved to a different place and i asked for her boss's number. She gave it and I asked for a refund and he also gave me endless stories and empty promises up to this date they are failing to refund me. I am so disappointed in them and if supporting local mean this its a problem now.

I can understand your disappointment. You paid for a bed more than a year ago and you still don't have it. That's completely unacceptable. You have every right to cancel this deal and walk away with your money refunded to you in full.

The bad news is that I've heard very similar complaints about this company before. They have a long history of mistreating customers like you and failing to deliver decent products in a decent way. That doesn't mean we can't get you a refund, it just means that this might be a bit of a struggle. However, it's a struggle I'm looking forward to!

The unfortunate fact is that some companies don't deserve to succeed, they deserve to fail. Those companies that sell decent products at decent prices and serve their customers with respect and care deserve to become fabulously successful. The others, the ones like this company deserve to lose every customer and shut down. It seems harsh but that's how business works. This company should close as soon as it's met it's obligations.

Like giving you a refund.

Saturday, 19 December 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my money?

I've been scammed of P36,000 by a furniture store in Francistown.

At the beginning of November I had identified a lounge suite at their store. They had the maroon and dark brown colours on display. The staff then informed me that they do sell this sofa set in black too. Towards the end of November I went back to the store to confirm they still had the black one, they insisted I pay ASAP as the sofas are running out.

I then decided to purchase the black leather lounge suite from them on the 27th of November. After having sent the money directly to the company account they informed me that they do not sell a black version of the sofa set even though they had been telling me for weeks before that they did.

I then asked for a refund and they have been sending me back and forth between their head office in SA. It's now 2 weeks later and we still have not received our money. They have also been trying to convince me to accept a different sofa set of which I did not want.

I have now already gotten another sofa at a different store and I would just like my money back.

What actions can I take to ensure I get my funds back?

You can complain. Loudly. Very loudly.

You don't need to be an attorney to understand that you had a contract with the furniture store which both parties agreed to and which THEY then broke. They agreed to supply you with a black lounge suite and took a huge amount of your money in return. Then they broke that agreement.

They also ignored their obligations under the Consumer Protection Act. Section 7 (6) and 7 (7) of the Act says that when "goods or services are not availed as advertised, the consumer shall have the right to cancel the contract" and that "the supplier shall refund the consumer the amount paid". The Act does NOT say that they are permitted to take two weeks to do this. It does NOT say that they can keep your money for as long as they like.

I've contacted the store's Head Office and I'm confident they'll see that their store has badly let you down and get you your refund very soon.

Where's my money too?

Late January somebody hit my car from behind. They had insurance and in early February I was asked by the insurance company to take my car for assessing at a repair shop. I did this and delivered the quotation for just over P13,000 to their office. I was asked to submit all my KYC documents online which I did. I have been following up constantly with them by phone calls and emails since May but still am waiting for the claim to be paid. I have called over 30 times to follow up but always get put on hold or am told they will return my call, which they have only done once but with no information to share with me. It has been 10 months now and I can't seem to get a result no matter how hard I try. Could you please help?

Someone who was trying to be difficult would argue that you are not the customer of the insurance company. The other driver, the one who paid for the insurance policy is their customer and their obligation is to help them, not you. But I disagree. Their customer damaged your vehicle and their job is to protect the other driver's interests by honouring their insurance policy and paying you what you deserve. If they fail to do so, you'll be entitled to take legal action against the other driver and demand payment from them, not the insurance company. Do the insurance company want their client being dragged to court because of their incompetence? Do they really want their customer to report them to NBFIRA for failing to honour their obligations? Do they really?

I've emailed the CEO of the insurance company to see if he can intervene and encourage his colleagues to offer a decent service. If that doesn't work then you and the other driver should combine forces and report them to NBFIRA.

Saturday, 12 December 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What should I do?

I need help. So I borrowed P5,000 from microlender last year November so on the contract I was supposed to pay P497 per month for the next 24 months. So for the past 4 months I haven't paid them or they haven't deducted money for my account so I was also at fault for neglecting to pay.

Now they have hit me with a notice last week saying that they will bring debt collectors at home or at work. I sent them an email trying to tell them they can start deducting double the amount till I cover my arrears but I got no response, I tried contacting them on Facebook and WhatsApp numbers but no luck. I do not have a phone at the moment so I can't call them. What's the next option for me because I don't want court stuff.

Firstly, you've done the right thing by not trying to escape your debts. Many people in your position go into denial and pretend that their debts don't exist and pray that if they stay silent long enough the problem will go away. However, they soon learn that this NEVER happens. Debts don't disappear if you ignore them, they get even bigger and will come back to make your life very difficult. Even more difficult than before.

The most important thing is to keep trying to contact them and when you finally talk to them, do your best to negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford and which the company can accept. The good news is that almost always a company like this will be prepared to talk terms with you. Yes, you've frustrated their plans to make lots of money from you by defaulting on your repayments but I bet they would prefer to get their money from you slowly rather than get nothing at all.

I'll also get in touch with them and see if they can contact you to discuss this further.

The bigger lesson is to avoid microlenders at all if you can. They can be an extremely expensive way to borrow money. For example, from the paperwork you've sent me, I can see that you borrowed P5,000 last year and have so far paid them a total of P4,473. However, once you add in the interest they were charging you have only reduced the principal amount you owe to P3,200. If nothing had gone wrong and you repaid everything on time you would have aid them a total of P11,928 to borrow P5,000 over just two years.

You've only paid off P1,800 of the amount you owed and you've paid them an extra P2,673 in interest and fees. And then it gets worse. Once you add in all the other things you owe them because you defaulted, your outstanding debt is now P5,989.94. That's a very expensive way to borrow money.

Where's my refund?

I made a purchase of a couch at a furniture store on the 1st of August this year 2020 for P5,519 and they failed to deliver. I requested a refund on the 8th October and they failed to refund me til now. What can I do?

You can lose your temper, that's what you can do.

Obviously I don't mean you should be aggressive or rude but you are entitled to be angry. You're also entitled to express that anger. You're entitled, I would even say you're obliged to stand up for your rights.

The simple fact is that you paid them a large amount of money more than four months ago for an item that hasn't been delivered. I know the store will probably talk about Covid and border problems and those are reasonable observations but that doesn't excuse them from keeping you informed. In fact, they had an obligation to do that.

Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act requires a supplier like this store to deliver goods in a timely manner. It also says that the supplier must give you "timely notice of any unavoidable delay". Clearly they need a little education about their obligations to keep customers informed. I also believe that they should deliver the refund in a "timely" manner.

Let's help educate them, shall we?

Saturday, 5 December 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get a refund?

Good afternoon. I bought a demo vehicle from a dealer in Gaborone in February 2020 and have never had peace with the vehicle. My major problem with the vehicle is the excessive wear and tear of the tyres, especially the front ones. I had immediately reported the matter to the dealer and only now they want to replace the tyres, with the same brand, which I am not comfortable with.

Furthermore, I had wanted to test drive a similar car to compare the ride comfort, something that has not happened up to now.

I have now reached a stage that I don't want the car anymore as it is not satisfactory. Please advise if it is possible to claim back my deposit of P100k that I paid when purchasing the vehicle.

I don't think you have a right to demand a refund. At least not now. Yes, I understand that the car has given you problems but the dealer is within their rights to do their best to repair the problem you presented. Once. 

The Consumer Protection Act says that when a product such as a car like yours has a problem during the warranty period the dealer has a right to decide what they want to do, choosing from three options. They can offer you a repair, a replacement or a refund, the three Rs. Clearly any sensible supplier will choose the simplest and cheapest option for them which is to try and repair the problem. They have the right to do that and I think that's what you should allow them to do. Give them that chance.

Then things change. If a supplier repairs something and the same problem reoccurs within the next three months, the dealer then only has two options. We're down to just 2 Rs, a replacement or a refund.

I suggest you let them try to fix the problem with the tyres and then keep an extremely close eye on the tyres for the next three months. If there's even a hint of the same problems go back to the dealer for a much better solution.

Can I get a refund too?

I want to know like when you ordered something online and you went to the agents but they tell you that your goods are soon to arrive and now the month is about to end and still nothing pops up can you like ask for refund? It was supposed to take 3 months to arrive but after 3 months when I asked them they said there were some delays. Mind you this 3 months ended in September so even today when I ask they still say maybe end of month.

Yes, you certainly can ask for a refund. Eventually.

Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act says that when 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 what "timely" means exactly and actually I don't think the law should say what it means. Things vary. Fixing a gearbox takes longer than selling airtime. Getting a home loan takes longer than getting cash from an ATM. However, I think we all know when something is NOT timely.

We all know that things have been difficult for everyone this year and in particular for deliveries from overseas. We all understand this but the Consumer Protection Act goes further than just saying things should be delivered in a timely manner. It also says that a supplier must give you "timely notice of any unavoidable delay". It also says that when "a supplier fails to perform a service to the standards" the consumer has a right to a very simple thing. A refund.

Let's both approach this company and make it clear that they've had enough time, they haven't cared for you in the way they should and they owe you your money. It's not too difficult to understand.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my refund?

I paid for material on Monday 16 November. The material was available and I arranged for collection on a later date which was supposed to be 18 November after making transport arrangements. When I went to collect it the lady at the till told me that they had sold my material and when I asked them if they would deliver they said we would have to call the shop owner on that. We called the shop owner and he cut the call short and also switched off his phone. When I asked the supervisor to give me back my money as well as my transport cost he refused and told me they don't have money in the store to give back to me. I'm running a project in Jwaneng and the material is needed here urgently.

This is unacceptable. Not just a little bit unacceptable but completely unacceptable. It's also incompetent, disrespectful and useless.

You paid for something and had a right to expect what you paid for. That's not difficult to understand. The fact that they later sold the items you had paid for to someone else is a sign of their incompetence and lack of respect. The choices they face are simple. Either they give you exactly the products you paid for or they give you a refund. No excuses, no stories, no fooling around. And the manager refusing to take your calls? It's simple. Never buy from them again and make sure all your friends, relatives, neighbours, workmates, people you meet at parties, passers-by in the street and complete strangers know about your experience. They should only buy from them again when YOU have decided to forgive them.

Meanwhile, let's both attack them from both sides. You keep trying with the manager and the other staff and I'll do the same. Let's get you what you deserve.

Update: It didn't take long. I messaged them explaining how they had let you down and they responded, saying "Tnk u we will refund".

They blacklisted me!

I need your help. I just found out that I have been blacklisted by a furniture store for P15,000. I'm surprised because I have never had an account with them. I decided to check with their branch in Molepolole where I was told the account belonged to another person. The retail store that blacklisted my name is at Palapye and the record even shows an id number that is not mine. This id number belongs to the said person.

I need your intervention because my credit record is ruined by a retail outlet that I have NEVER set my foot in.

Again, this is unacceptable. It's also remarkably simple. Or it should be.

We all understand that mistakes happen, we all make them sometimes and the same is true for the companies we buy things from. They make mistakes too because they employ imperfect human beings like you and me.

However, it's 2020 and I expect there to be ways for companies to prevent mistakes and to fix them when they occur. Surely there are ways of checking who a company registers with a credit reference bureau? Surely they double-check people's identities before they register them? Surely they take a little care before ruining someone's financial reputation?

I contacted the furniture store and alerted them. Obviously they need to check the truth of this and double check their records but I expect them to fix this quickly. Not when they feel like it. Quickly. Hours, not days, not weeks.

They also need to make sure that your credit history isn't just updated, it needs to be cleaned so no record of this mistake can ever be seen again. Your reputation needs to be restored.

Saturday, 21 November 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where are my bags?

I need your help here. My bags got lost in a bus in September and the conductor told me not to report at their office because he was not told to help anyone to offload. So he promises to help me locate my bag till today. Then on the 3rd week I searched for their office number and got hold of someone there he promised he will assist. I waited for whatever the help he was to offer but nothing happened. I then decided to call them again and they told me to quantify my clothes of which I did and promised they will pay me. It was after 4 days of me calling them again to ask how far and he told me they can't help because they don't have insurance over whatever gets in their bus.

The question that arises was why did they ask me to quantity and promised to pay then changed and never told me till I called. I told them why don't you pay me and deduct from your conductor since he admitted its his fault. Again I was promised to be paid but never did. I called this morning and asked to talk to their supervisor and the man in the office said he will connect us after 1 but he didn't. I called and he was about to knock off and said he will give my supervisor my number but never did.

How do I go about this? I need your assistance here.

Clearly this company has a problem with communication. And with decision-making. And with taking responsibility for their mistakes. And with customer service. In fact, I wonder whether they should be in business at all.

Here's a serious question. Why don't they have insurance? Do they have any insurance at all? If not, are they insane? What happens if there's a serious accident? What happens if there's a tragedy and a passenger is injured or even killed? Do they have no insurance against that either? Frankly a transport company that doesn't have insurance shouldn't be operating.

And another thing. They should stop changing their mind. They said they'd compensate you and they should do that. They've recognized that it was their conductor's fault and they should take responsibility for that. Personally I don't think the conductor should pay, he's hopefully learned from his mistake and he was acting on behalf of his employer when the mistake happened. Obviously if he does it too often he needs to be dealt with but for now the company needs to step up.

I've also had trouble getting decent feedback from them but maybe seeing the story here will help them do the right thing?

Where's my phone?

I bought a Samsung J6 phone on the 18th May 2019. The price for the phone was P2,495. I used the phone for about six months then it froze while charging it. On the 5th December 2019 I went back to the shop and reported the problem. It was inspected and taken for repair by their technician. They promised that my phone would be fixed within seven working days or I will be given a new phone if fixing does not materialise. The phone was still under warranty of 12 months. From December last year up to date I have not received my phone. They are always narrating stories barring me from seeing the shop owner but failing to give me my phone or a new phone. I always call the shop and sometimes travel to Gaborone to pick up my phone but nothing has ever worked. The always make numerous excuses and promises which they never fulfil.

Please help me. I want my money back because I don't trust the company anymore.

This is completely unacceptable. They promised you a repaired phone within 7 days and instead, on the day this newspaper is published, they will have had it for 350 days. Three hundred and fifty days. That's FIFTY times longer than they promised. That's FIFTY times more useless than they should have been.

The time is now right to be FIFTY times more angry than you already are. I've also contacted the store and between us I think we need to be FIFTY times louder than you have been in the past.

The solution is simple. They promised you a solution with seven days, they've taken three hundred and fifty and now they have a new deadline. Seven HOURS from the time they read this column.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where are my bricks? And where's my money?

May you kindly assist me with this problem? I bought some stock bricks from a certain supplier in the village where am building. I engaged the inspectors from District Council who upon inspection said the bricks were not strong enough and hence not suitable for building. I informed the supplier

I had already paid a little over P12,000. He promised to refund me. Without my consent, he collected the bricks which I suspect have been sold again but to date I haven't received any monies. This happened in Jul. Kindly asking if you could help me get my money. Thanks in advance. 

There's a word for this. Stealing. You paid for those bricks so they now belong to you. Even though they have been declared unfit for use in your project by your local officials, they still belong to you and anyone who takes your property without your consent or legal authority is a thief. One option you might want to consider is to call the police and lay a charge of stealing. However, that might be a little too extreme and there's a chance that if you get an unsympathetic police officer they might just say it's a civil matter and they can't intervene.

The second option is to use the legal system to help you. You can approach the Small Claims Court about this and they might be able to assist. The good news for us all is that from 18th September this year the amounts the Small Claims Court can consider increased from P10,000 to P30,000 so you have a very good chance of getting your money.

Your third choice is to lodge a complaint with the Competition and Consumer Authority who have the power to demand they supplier fixes this problem or face a fine of up to P100,000, a prison term of up to five years, or both.

Or we could just write about in the nation's most widely read newspaper and then publish it in a Facebook group that has 147,000 members. Which option do you think scares suppliers the most? I think we all know the answer, don't we?

Meanwhile I've already contacted them for you. Let's see what choice they prefer.

P.S. Well done to the Small Claims Court people for increasing our access to justice, it's a great move.

My car is the wrong year!

I have an issue here. I bought a new car having been told it was a 2019 manufactured vehicle but to my surprise the car came as a 2018 model but the sales urgent continued to say it's a 2019 vehicle. Even the registration booked is registered as 2019. Also I insured it as 2019 vehicle. I was surprised to see manufacturer sticker after a year saying it's a 2018 manufactured vehicle. I now feel cheated.

What can I do?

You also have several options. Firstly you can complain to the Competition and Consumer Authority and suggest that this supplier broke Section 5 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act of 2018 when they represented that the vehicle was
"of a particular standard, quality, value, grade, composition, style, model, or that the goods have a particular history". 
You can also mention that they broke Section 10 (a) when they failed to 
"provide information which is accurate, clear and complete in relation to goods and services offered to consumers". 
Finally, if you saw an advertisement for this vehicle you can also claim that they broke Section 7 (6) when they sold you something that was not "not availed as advertised". Breaking all of these rules could get the supplier a fine of up to P100,000, five years enjoying His Excellency's hospitality, or to both.

Or we could just write about this in the nation's most widely read newspaper and then publish it in a Facebook group that has 147,000 members. What do you suggest?

Meanwhile I'll get in touch with them and see if they can't avoid such unpleasantness.