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?

Saturday, 21 December 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Shall we name this dressmaker?

In September, I passed by a tailors in Mogoditshane inquiring about the prices for making a dress for a wedding. I showed him the piece of cloth i had, then he told me that he had the material in his storeroom and would charge me P650 if he provides the material. On 21st October, I went back to him with a P300 deposit. I told him I wanted the dress on the 10th November. I asked him when I should come for fitting then he said there was no need when I come on the 10th I will find my dress ready.

On 11th November I passed and he told me on the phone that he wasn't around and the lady he was working with won’t be able to see the dress because they just rearranged their work area. One lady that I found there also who happened to be my home girl told me to check him daily because he isn't a trustworthy person.

[The consumer then tells a VERY long story about this tailor telling her a series of lies about where the dress was and offering a long list of excuses.]

When I told him i wasn't happy with his customer service he told me if I have "the customer is always right mentality" that is not how he operates. Then I asked if he can give me back my deposit because he isn’t able to provide the service I wanted he said he would not do that because he has bought the material with the money.

When I asked for his full names from the lady he was working with, she told me that there was no need to give me because they know him at Mogoditshane kgotla because a lot of people report him there many times. She said if I say I have come to report him they will know who I am talking about. I didn’t hear from him after that, When I called him later that I want my deposit back he told me that he is not going to do that and I can take the matter to court if I want to.

My request from your office is to help me get my P300 deposit back from him and maybe teach him a lesson on the poor service that he is giving.

Clearly this guy is a terrible dressmaker but a highly accomplished liar and cheat. If he’s such a popular figure at the kgotla, that’s all we need to know about him.

I contacted him and asked for his reaction to your allegations and he gave me the silent treatment as well. So, it’s very simple. I will be naming this dressmaker on Facebook the day after this article if published unless he sorts this situation out promptly. Let’s see if he wants to be famous there as well as at the kgotla?

Forex trading warning.

We’ve been asked several times recently about our feelings about forex trading. Is it a good idea?

Firstly, I’m not talking about the foreign exchange business conducted by banks and bureaux de change that we use when we go to another country if we want foreign currency before we travel. I’m talking about foreign exchange trading where people like you and me buy and sell currencies online, betting that we’ll be buying currencies that will increase in value compared to the currencies we used to buy them.

If you’re on Facebook you’ve almost certainly seen posts and entire pages and groups devoted to persuading us that this is a way ordinary people like you and me can make lots of money by trading forex. Be careful. Be very careful.

This is an incredibly high-risk activity. I have met a few people who make a little money from it but I haven’t yet met anyone who makes a living from it. Instead I’ve met a lot of people who have LOST a lot of money. Firstly, that’s because the risks are very high. Secondly, it’s because forex trading is a hugely competitive business. Every time you sell a foreign currency, someone else must buy it. Every time you want to buy, there must be a seller. And while these other people might be just like you and me, they could also be a bank, a pension fund or a specialist forex trading company. It could even be the company you’re using to do the trading.

And then there are the scams. The forex trading industry is dominated by scammers doing their very best to steal our money. In the past month I’ve heard from someone who lost P36,000 in a forex scheme. That was surpassed by the story I heard from another consumer who “invested” P500,000 in a forex trading company based in Gaborone but which subsequently disappeared.

I’m sure there will be people who contact me saying these are exceptions, that there are people making money from forex trading and that might be true. However, the truth is that forex trading is fine if you treat it as a hobby and you only use money you can afford to lose without tears. Otherwise it’s a very good way to lose a lot of money very quickly.

Monday, 16 December 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my ottoman? Where’s my refund?

I ordered an ottoman amounting to P2,659 on 11th of September 2019 which was supposed to be delivered within 6 weeks, Unfortunately after making payment my order was never placed. I called three weeks after payment following up on the order and was informed it would come 8 weeks later, I didn't get it. I called and it turns out my order was never placed in the first place. They tried to make me get a display model whilst I await the one I had initially ordered and I refused. I told them I want my money back. Unfortunately you can't get it there and then so they make me fill in some forms and ask for my id and official banking details which I gave after giving them a hard time since I was never requested all these things when I was making the purchase. 7 days later no payment no feedback. I literally had to call and nothing has come through till now. The documents for the refund were sent on 14 November.

It’s a fundamental fact about human beings that we all make mistakes. We’re not robots, we’re not computers, we’re fallible. We forget things and we get things wrong. We’re human. Unfortunately, the store you’ve been dealing with seems to be VERY human. They seem to make a LOT of mistakes.

As a consumer you have a right to expect the store to fix their mistakes and then not to make any more of them. Section 14 (1) of the new Consumer Protection Act says that consumer have a right to expect “services in a manner and quality the consumers are reasonably entitled to expect”. We can’t expect miracles and we can’t expect stores never to make mistakes but what I think that means is that we CAN expect a supplier to fix mistakes promptly when they happen. Clearly this store has failed to do that.

I contacted the store and they responded quickly. They told me that you had refused to give them your ID documents but then went to say that “this does not stop us paying her”. We have to ask why they asked for them if they never really needed them?

They continued to say that they would get their Account Department to refund you as soon as possible. Please let me know when that happens?

Where’s my loan?

Help me here sir I’m frustrated. I applied for a loan from my bank around 18th and even today the loan has not been credited. The first week the excuse was that it cannot be approved without digital account opening. I spend two weeks without that account because apparently the system was down. Finally they gave me the debit card but now we are going to the end of another month. Our services in Botswana kills a lot of people dreams. Knowing that normally a loan doesn’t take more than 5 days I laybyed some material for 2,000. I am on the verge of losing that amount because the bank is busy frustrating me. Please help if possible.

The first thing everyone should understand about getting a loan from a bank is that it’s not a right, it’s a commercial decision that a bank takes once they’ve balanced the opportunity of making some money from their customer and the risk of losing money if the customer doesn’t make their repayments. Quite often we hear from customers who have failed to get a loan and complain that the bank was unfair by not lending to them. I often respond by asking them if they are required to lend their money to any friend or acquaintance who asked to borrow money?

However, in your case, they clearly HAVE approved your loan. They gave you a debit card attached to the loan account which suggests to me that they’re prepared to lend to you, but they’re taking their time finalising the process. It’s really not good enough. I’ll contact your bank and see if they can’t speed up a little.

Meanwhile, forgive me for telling you off, but it was very unwise to commit yourself to the lay-bye before you received the loan in your account. Even if you were sure that the loan would be approved, which is never certain, you must always assume that there will be delays before you get the money in your hands.

With luck, the bank will do its best to be more helpful when we contact them.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What are my rights?

I would like to make a formal enquiry regarding some goods I purchased on credit. My question is that if the goods get repossessed am I still liable to pay for them? I have asked the store where I purchased them for the contract that we signed when I purchased the goods but I have been told that I will not be furnished with a copy of the contract.

I'd also like to find out if it is legal for them to personally come to my place of employment to collect payment? I have recently moved employers and I hadn't had a chance to update my details however it has been 2 times they have come to my new place of employment. As you can imagine, this was very embarrassing. I made the deal to purchase those goods at the store, not my place of employment.

I would like to find a suitable way of relinquishing the goods if I have to but I'd just like to know what my rights are as a consumer.

Your first question is a simple one. Are you entitled to a replacement copy of the contract you signed? Yes, I think you are. If you were given a copy when you first signed it, then it’s only courteous for the store to offer you a copy. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. If they didn’t give you a copy at the time then yes, you are certainly entitled to a copy with no fuss or argument. If you like I’ll contact the store\s head office and encourage them to be more reasonable.

Next question. Are they entitled to come to your workplace and hassle you and your colleagues? No, I don’t think they are. Section 6 of the new 2018 Consumer Protection Act says that a supplier “shall not use force, coercion, undue influence, pressure, duress, harassment, unfair tactics or any other similar conduct against the consumer, in connection with … the negotiation, conclusion, execution or enforcement of an agreement to supply any goods or services”.

There are some strong words included in that section, things like “force” but I also think that terms like “harassment”, “pressure” and “coercion” apply to this situation. The store is certainly entitled to collect the money you owe them, there’s no doubt about that, but the new Act is very clear that they have to be reasonable when doing this. I’ll also contact them about this and explain that things have changed.

Finally, it’s important that you understand that relinquishing the goods is perhaps the worst thing you could do. The store will auction them for a small fraction of the money you still owe them, and once they add interest, penalties and legal fees, you’ll still owe at least as much as you do now, possibly a lot more.

I suggest that you contact the store and see if you can negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford.

Can they change the date?

I need your advise. I have a loan and the bank used to deduct the monthly instalment as and when my salary was paid. Even when it was way earlier than the date I agreed to on the debit order form. I did not mind until about 3 months ago when I changed jobs. Then they decided to deduct the instalment on the 27th of every month. My new job only paid after the 27th of every month. Due to this, I experienced hefty bank charges of about approximately P500 for 3 months until I went to the bank to enquire. Only then I was told they had decided to deduct on the 27th and I was requested to sign another debit order form.

Is it possible to demand a refund on the bank charges, because I did not consent to the date of the 27th and it greatly inconvenienced me.

This is probably going to be complicated. I know how frustrating it is when a bank decides, without consulting us to change an agreement like this. It’s really not good enough. However, I think the time to object to the bank doing this was when they first did it. Of course, they really should have asked you for permission to change the date but that was the time to contact them and tell them that it wasn’t what you agreed.

As you said, this only became an issue when you changed jobs and the date became a problem. Regrettably, I don’t think the bank can be blamed for this. They had been deducting on the 27th for some time and I imagine they thought this was ok with you. It wasn’t their fault that your circumstances changed.

Nevertheless, I still think it’s worth raising the issue with the bank and getting a commitment from them that the date will be one that works for you, rather than just for them.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get my money back?

May I please have your advice. I bought a refurbished iphone 7 from one lady in August. The phone overheated and blacked out and now it will not switch on.

I took it to her technician and he said it is dead but told the lady I was impatient and did not give him time to check the phone. I then took it to another technician I know and he said the cpu is dead and needed replacing.

I have asked the lady for a refund because I currently don’t have a phone and I am very frustrated because she is not taking my calls properly and giving me late responses when she feels like it. What should I do?

Unfortunately, I suspect this might be a difficult problem to solve. Firstly, there is always a risk when you buy something second-hand, particularly if you buy it from an individual rather than a company. It’s perfectly possible that the woman who sold you the phone did so in good faith, believing the phone to be working properly. You might find that hard to believe, and perhaps she’s lying, but we can’t prove that, can we?

It also depends on how long it was between you buying the phone and it failing. If it failed the next day that might hint that the phone wasn’t “of merchantable quality”. If it failed three months later, that’s a different story.

The lesson is a simple one, for both the person selling a second-hand item and for someone buying it. Get it in writing. It doesn’t need to be a lengthy legal agreement, it can just be a simple statement that both parties sign, describing the item being sold and the condition it’s in. At least that way, both parties know what they’re committing themselves to and what they should expect.

Can they force me to pay?

Hello, I need advice on an issue I have with Banc ABC. I took a loan in 2011 and in 2013 I did a top up. Today they called me saying I owe them around P1,900 as interest from that loan. They said its interest for the first 2 months, they call it grace period, and I should have been told about it that sometimes during the cause of my payment that money would be deducted. They admitted that it was their fault, they should have informed me about it and the money be deducted from my top up loan. None the less they failed to do so now 6 years down the line they want me to pay the money. I told them that I can't be made to pay because of their negligence. So I'm I wrong to refuse to pay that money or I'm obliged to pay? Thank you in advance.

Unhappily, you’re not the first person to approach us about this issue. Several others have told us the same story. When they first took out the loan, many years ago, like you they were offered a so-called “grace period” of a month that would enable the customer to arrange the stop order needed to pay the loan instalments. However, the repayments during that period weren’t excused or forgiven, they were just delayed. They still had to be paid sooner or later. What then happened was that the bank apparently neglected to include those delayed payments before people believed they’d finished. People like you walked away thinking that the debt had been settled and the bank was, I think, careless in forgetting. And then even more careless for forgetting for so long. This is an issue they should have told you about within days or weeks, not years.

Unfortunately, the bank’s forgetfulness doesn’t mean you can walk away from the debt. Every loan agreement I’ve ever seen made it clear that the customer is also responsible for ensuring that the debt is repaid, not just the bank. That’s a really important lesson for all bank customers to understand and accept. No matter how inept a bank might be, we customers are also responsible for checking if mistakes happen, whether they’re ours or the banks.

However, given that the bank was the party that made the mistake, I think it’s up to them to be a little flexible about how and when you pay off this debt. They need to offer you the time to pay in a manner that doesn’t cripple your finances.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get my deposit back?

Good day kindly assist here

On the 27 July I paid a lay bye for a 55 inch LED television valued at an amount of P3,200. I paid a deposit of P200 for the television. The months for lay bye was indicated to be six months. Later around the month of October I went back to them and indicated that I want to cancel my lay bye as I don't think I will be able to pay the outstanding balance.

I further requested that I rather use the money I had paid as a deposit to buy something else, an electric fan to be precise, but they explained that they are not going to refund, nor exchange for the lay bye I have made.

Kindly assist.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can be of much help.

When you buy something using a lay-bye, the store effectively puts aside the product for you until you’ve paid the full amount by way of instalments. The store is taking a slight risk because they could sell it to someone who has all the cash. They will also be concerned that you might fail to pay the full amount, delay the payment or cause them trouble some other way. In your case I assume they’ve now stored the TV for four months, incurring costs they hadn’t planned for.

What’s worse is that the receipt they gave you made it very clear that no refunds or exchanges would be possible when you first started the lay-bye. From what you say it seems that you’ve only lost P200 which, while it’s obviously irritating, isn’t a crisis.

The lesson? Always make sure you fully understand the obligations associated with what the law sometimes calls “deferred payment” schemes such as lay-byes and, even more importantly, hire purchase. And if you don’t understand the terms of such an agreement, don’t sign anything and don’t hand over any money!

Why can’t she return the TV?

I would like to enquire from you, My sister bought a television for my mother from a store at Gaborone station and when she arrived home she found that mother have already bought herself one. She went back to the store to exchange the television with a fridge but they refused. They said it is already second hand they can not take it. They won’t exchange with a fridge.

Today I called the manager and he asked me who I am to ask him why they won’t exchange for her. He said he won’t talk to me but rather Consumer Affairs.

Kindly help us on this matter.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can offer you very good news either. Clearly the store manager needs to learn some diplomatic skills but did the store do anything wrong when they sold your sister the TV? From what you say, they sold her a TV in good faith, they didn’t lie to her about its condition, its features and the functions it offered or the terms of the warranty. They didn’t deliver a TV that was faulty or that didn’t work properly for the duration of the warranty period. As far as I understand, they stuck to all the laws that protect consumers to the letter, didn’t they?

If they had done any of these things your sister would certainly have a right to return the TV for one of the three Rs, a repair, replacement or a refund. But they didn’t do this. The inconvenient truth is that consumers don’t have a right to change their minds. Of course, there are some stores that allow you to return certain items without any fuss but that isn’t a right, that’s just very good customer care. That’s also why their products are more expensive.

Like I said, in your case I don’t think there’s much you can force the store to do. They’re right when they say that the TV is now second-hand and there’s no legal way they can sell the TV as new and get a full price for it. Has your sister considered selling the TV herself? I suspect she get a good price for a TV in its original, good as new state? It’s probably worth a try.