Monday, 18 June 2018

Press Release - Government and parastatal tender scams

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

18th June 2018

Consumer Alert: Government and parastatal tender scams

Consumer Watchdog would like to alert consumers about a growing number of scams pretending to be invitations to supply goods to Government and parastatals, including Botswana Power Corporation, Botswana Railways and PPADB.

These invitations appear to be official documents and suggest that the victim’s company has been directly appointed to supply specialist goods to the inviting entity. They encourage the victims to contact a specific supplier, usually in South Africa, who they imply is the only supplier they are prepared to accept.

Once the victims contact this supplier, which is actually a fake company, they demand a deposit before the fictitious goods can be shipped.

We have heard recently from several companies who have asked us to investigate the legitimacy of the invitations they received and of the suppliers. In most cases we have been able to prevent any money being lost but we have also heard from victims who have already transferred the fake deposits. In one case the victim transferred over P200,000 to the scammers.

Even though there were clues in the invitation documents suggesting that they were false, they are nevertheless convincing enough to have already fooled a number of victims. The fake suppliers have even taken the time to create web sites to help them appear legitimate.

We urge companies to be vigilant and always to contact purchasing authorities in the Public Service and parastatals to confirm the legitimacy of any invitation to supply goods they receive before they pay any deposits. They can also contact Consumer Watchdog for free advice. We can be reached by phone on 3904582, by email at watchdog@bes.bw or via our Facebook group, Consumer Watchdog Botswana.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 11th June 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Winter Wonderland – latest update

The Winter Wonderland event was originally scheduled for just before Christmas 2017 but it was postponed until Easter 2018. However, the event was then cancelled. In March 2018 the Grand Palm Hotel, where the event had been meant to occur issued a Media Statement confirming that:
“the Winter Wonderland event has been cancelled by the promoter of the event. Tickets for this event were sold by its promoter, who is an independent third party, and in no way affiliated to or employed by the Grand Palm Hotel.” 
They suggested that customers should seek refunds from the promoter and concluded by saying that:
“The Grand Palm was not responsible for any ticket sales and therefore, regretfully, cannot make any refunds.”
Later, the promoters of the event stated that:
“the event has unfortunately been postponed yet again pending confirmation upon erection of the ice plant and assorted equipment [...] We've been inundated with operational challenges due to supplier and technical partner issues [...] In an attempt to salvage the event and not abandon the initiative (which really would change the entertainment tourism sector nationally) we've decided to resolve issues with suppliers and completely localize the venture, as opposed to being a promoter for an Expatriate company. [...] We have a database of all customers, those whose refunds are pending and those still awaiting confirmation of deployment.”
I think the promoters are missing the point. People don't want the event "salvaged". they just want their money back and they've waited a very long time already to get it. I think that the time to talking is gone. The time is now for action. It's time for these abused consumers to seek the support of the Consumer Protection Unit and the Small Claims Court.

2. How long is the warranty?
“On 25 May 2018 I returned my hair clippers with the receipt to the store at Airport Junction where I bought them but they refused to replace my clippers stating the purchase date of 17 May 2016 meant it was out of warranty. I informed the staff that when I purchased the clippers I asked about the 5 year warranty on this item and had been told that they would honor this warranty.”
The 5-year warranty is actually hard to miss. It's there on the box.

The Consumer Protection Regulations are quite clear about this situation. Section 17.1.d forbids a supplier from “causing a probability of confusion or of misunderstanding as to the legal rights, obligations, or remedies of a party to a transaction”. Section 17.1.e forbids “disclaiming or limiting the implied warranty of merchantability and fitness for use, unless a disclaimer is clearly and conspicuously disclosed”. Finally Section 17.1.f forbids entering “into a transaction in which the consumer waives or purports to waive a right, benefit or immunity provided by law, unless the waiver is clearly stated and the consumer has specifically consented to it”

It's not complicated. A 5-year warranty is... a warranty that lasts 5 years.

3. Insurance (again)
“Hello Mr Richard. I have surrendered my funeral policy and they tell me stories of being given a month notice adding that they won’t refund me. So where can I get help? Mind you the policy was for five years.”
Insurance is about "transferring risk". It doesn't matter whether it's a funeral plan, a vehicle insurance policy, life cover or a household scheme, in each case you transfer the financial risk of an unfortunate  from yourself to the insurance company in return for a monthly payment from you to them. If the unfortunate event happens (a death, a car crash or a burglary) the insurance company pays the bills, not you.

The question is this. If the unfortunate event doesn't happen, are you lucky or unlucky? You're lucky than a bad thing didn't happen but unlucky that you didn't get a return for the premiums you paid. Would you rather the bad thing had happened?

4. Plastic bags - BANNED

The “Waste Management (Plastic Carrier Bags and Plastic Flat Bags Prohibition) Regulations 2018” have been passed and this means that with effect from 1st November this year, plastic carrier bags will be banned. We have been warned!

5. The Lioness of Africa
“Last month I got a call from SA from a man called Clinton Vurden saying I have won a Woman of Africa Award. I accepted the award winning because I once entered a competition through WIBA. As times goes on they wanted me to pay for advertising my company. I don't have that kind of money.. Now they are on my back with payment and even threatened to sue me. How can I settle this issue and I want to know if their business is a scam or what.”
The award being offered is apparently called the “Lioness of Africa - The Fire of Botswana 2018” and comes from the Africa Business Investment Group.  All it takes to receive this "award" is a payment of R35,980. However, I can find no evidence that the award has any real validity. They say that they're backed by “Brodder Family Trust” but there's no trace of such a thing. None.

Is this just another award scam?

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 4th June 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. The crooked husband

A woman's husband asked her to co-sign a loan application form but she refused because they were already in debt and he hadn't discussed it with her. She told us that
"He is so desperate that I think he might even forge my signature. I went to the bank to ask them if its possible to block him from processing this loan since I don’t agree and I suspect that he might even forge my signature. The loan sales personnel said there is nothing they can do to help me and if he forges my signature the loan will be successful. Please help me, what can I do to block this loan. Is it ethical for the bank to say they will process the loan even if the signature is forged?”
Ethical? NO WAY! If she's right and he forges her signature he could go to prison for up to seven years. Even if she trusts him so little that she thinks he might do such a thing, she's got problems.

I suggested to this lady that she needs to find a better husband.

I also suggested that she contacts the branch manager at the bank and warns them about the risk they're all facing from his potential conduct.

2. Is this real?

In comes a message:
“I have a problem and I don’t know if you can help me. My friend sent me a parcel from the UK and it is now in South Africa. From January until now they have been asking for money to clear the parcel by sending them money and I have sent them P3,000 but until now its not here and they are still asking for more money. The parcel is at the South Africa airport now. What must I do as its been a long time? Please help me and another thing is that they sent me to the Bank of South Africa as my money is there and said they want me to send them another R10,000 to my account. Is this right what the bank is doing?”
Nothing is real here. There is no friend, there is no parcel, there is no authority in South Africa demanding money, there is no "South Africa airport", there is no "Bank of South Africa". The only thing that's real is the money that this victim has sent to the scammers. It's an advance fee scam and unfortunately, scammers don't offer refunds.

3. Winter Wonderland - an update

MANY people have asked us about this event that was scheduled for late last year at the Grand Palm Resort but was postponed until Easter this year and then cancelled completely.

One message said:
“I bought family ticket for this event at Grandpalm last year, it was cancelled and announced to be this year Easter. Even now I have never heard from them. I called a number of friends who also bought the tickets, they are just as worried as me. I have called Grand Palm, they seem not to take responsibility.”
In March 2018 the Grand Palm issued a Media Statement that:
“confirms that the Winter Wonderland event has been cancelled by the promoter of the event. Tickets for this event were sold by its promoter, who is an independent third party, and in no way affiliated to or employed by the Grand Palm Hotel.”
They advised affected consumer to seek refunds from the promoters themselves. They concluded by saying that:
“The Grand Palm was not responsible for any ticket sales and therefore, regretfully, cannot make any refunds.”
I contacted the promoter who told me:
“Yes the event has unfortunately been postponed yet again pending confirmation upon erection of the ice plant and assorted equiptment (we cannot communicate a date to customers yet again, prior to actual erection).

We've been innundated with operational challenges due to supplier/ technical partner issues. In an attempt to salvage the event and not abandon the initiative (which really would change the entertainment tourism sector nationally) we've decided to resolve issues with suppliers and completely localize the venture, as opposed to being a promoter for an Expatriate company. This has tied us up in quite a bit of red tape we're trying to expeidately resolve. Kindly be advised, these set backs are in no way shape or form a result of any local partners particularly The Grand Palm Hotel & Resort as they were venue / food - beverage and accomodation sponsors.

We have a data base of all customers, those whose refunds are pending and those still awaiting confirmation of deployment.

A full refunds recon has already been advised to technical partner as well as attendance list. We're awaiting transfer of bulk refunds capital, the deployment/ erection of said event possibly just before winter's end this year; and finally the launch of the international operation spear headed from Botswana.”
I think the promoter misunderstands a few things. People don't want the event "salvaged", they're not concerned whether the organisers are local or expatriate, and they have no interest in "confirmation of deployment". They just want their money back. The question is when they'll get it. It needs to be soon.

The other question is whether the Grand Palm has any responsibility for the situation. I suspect not. Can they be held accountable if someone rents a hotel room and sells drugs from it? Or if a financial advisor hires a netting room and then steals people's money? I think not.

4. Travelling to London?

In April 2018 we heard from a passenger who was refused entry to UK because her boyfriend who lived in the UK couldn't prove that he had have enough money to sustain her during her stay. Ethiopian Airlines told us that they had been charged a detention fee of P7,000 by the UK Immigration authorities and wanted to pass that on to the customer.

We heard this week from a travel agent who forwarded us an email sent out by Ethiopian Airlines. It said:
"Kindly note that some passengers (Botswana citizens) visiting to LHR, still come to the airport without the minimum basic required documents of the LHR immigrations, of which most passengers ‘claim’ they were not advised of such when they purchased the tickets. Be advised that, there is a detention fee of GBP10.40/per hour if the immigration authorities decide to return the passenger, which the passenger must settle.

The required documents being:
* The passport copy of the person they are visiting
* The bank statement/pay slip of the person they are visiting
* An invitation letter, stating the purpose of the visit, the addresses of who they are visiting, also the duration of their stay.

NB: Please also advise customers that they should have enough cash in hand (minimum GBP300) for any cases that might arise in the airport including REFUSAL OF ENTRY BY UK IMMIGRATION. Kindly advise our esteemed passengers in order to avoid inconveniencies and for our smooth operation."
5. Looking for clues

We saw an advertisement on Facebook for the "Africa Service Excellence Awards" to be held at the Cresta President Hotel in Gaborone on 29th June. The ad said:
"Enter Into This Year's Awards And Get A Chance Of Getting A Top Award In Customer Service Awards Entries Now Open"
Does that mean that you must spend P800 to attend and then you get "a chance" of winning an award? You're paying for the possibility of an award?

This event is being organised by the "Chartered Institute for Customer Management" which their web site claims is
"a renowned customer service and call centre organisation with its head offices in the UK and regional head offices for Africa in South Africa."
I was curious so I took a look at the addresses they give for these offices in the UK and South Africa.

This is their UK office, an address that also hosts several other companies.


This is their South African office.


It's possible this is perfectly legitimate. Just be skeptical.

Friday, 8 June 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why won’t the bank take me seriously?

My husband gave me a loan application consent form to sign but I did not agree to sign because we didn’t discuss it before and we have other debts that we are still paying off so I didn’t agree with taking a loan now. He was so desperate that I think he might even forge my signature.

I went to the bank to ask them if its possible to block him from processing this loan since I don’t agree and I suspect that he might even forge my signature. The loan sales personnel said there is nothing they can do to help me and if he forges my signature the loan will be successful. Please help me, what can I do to block this loan. Is it ethical for the bank to say they will process the loan even if the signature is forged?

Ethical? I think the only ethical element to this story is your behaviour. You’ve shown that you are prudent and don’t want to get into greater debt. You’ve shown that you’re prepared to disagree with your husband and stand up for yourself. You’ve shown that you’re prepared to take action to protect your interests and even those of the bank by contacting them. You have my respect.

I probably shouldn’t say too much about your husband, other than observe that he seems to need some personal financial education. You also need some protection against his potential recklessness. Sooner rather than later.

Finally, there is very obviously an ethics shortfall at the bank. Given that you’ve warned them that you suspect your husband might be about to commit a serious fraud, something for which he could easily go to prison for a long time and which might lead them to a serious financial embarrassment, I think its shameful that they aren’t taking your warning more seriously. At the very least I hope they’ve made a note on your file and that of your husband that he poses a risk to them.

I suggest that you write the bank a confidential letter explaining your concerns and deliver it personally to the manager of your branch. Make sure they take your warning seriously.

Is this real?

I have a problem and I don’t know if you can help me. My friend sent me a parcel from the UK and it is now in South Africa. From January until now they have been asking for money to clear the parcel by sending them money and I have sent them P3,000 but now until now there not here and there still asking for more money. The parcel is at the South Africa airport now. What must I do as its been a long time?

Please help me and another thing is that they sent me to the Bank of South Africa as my money is there and said they want me to send them another R10,000 to my account. Is this right what the bank is doing?

Readers of The Voice will know exactly what I’m going to tell you because they’ve seen this story before, many times.

I have bad news for you.

Unfortunately, nothing you have been told is true. There is no parcel waiting for you in South Africa. There is no bank holding the money you’ve already sent and which is now demanding more. Worst of all, there is no friend in the UK. This is all a scam.

Specifically this is an “advance fee scam”. This always involves a story about something valuable, either an inheritance, a lottery win, sometimes a job offer or very often a shipment like this one. However, just before the victim expects to receive this thing, the scammers demand a fee in advance. Sometimes it’s a duty or tax, other times an account opening or attorney’s fee. In cases like yours it’s a shipping cost. Whatever it might be, it’s money that will never be seen again.

I’m really sorry that you came to us after you’d sent them so much money but I hope you understand not to send them anything else. Remember that scammers don’t offer refunds.

Friday, 1 June 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay?

My kids were chased out of school last term for late payment of school fees. One in January and the other in February/March. Now the issue is that they are asking me to pay the balance for last term yet the kids did not attend the classes. Is it fair to pay for the service that you never received? And why chase them out of school when at the end of the day you are still going to ask for the balance? Please help with advice.


I suspect that this depends entirely on what it says in the agreement, the contract you signed with the school when you first enrolled the children. Unlike government schools, privately owned schools rely almost entirely on the school fees that parents pay for their children to attend. The salaries of the teachers and other staff, the power, water and internet access, the books, tables and chairs are all paid from that income. That’s why private schools often include in their contract a termination clause that says you must give at least one term’s notice if you decide to remove your child. That’s often the time it takes to find a child to replace yours. That’s how they guarantee they continue to have a steady stream of income.

Your case is slightly different. As you say, it wasn’t your choice to remove your child from the school, they forced your children out because you were late paying. That’s why it’s very important that you take a careful look at the contract. I’m not an attorney but if the termination clause only refers to a term’s notice being payable if you decide to withdraw your child then there might be some “wiggle room”. Otherwise you might be out of luck.

It might also be worth asking the school whether they actually suffered financially as a result of them ejecting your children. If they were able to find other children to take their places with no gap then you might have a moral argument, if not a legal one.

Why won’t they refund me?

Hello Richard. Kindly assist me. I bought these two lipsticks at a pharmacy by Block 7 only to find out later that they are on special at another shop for a price less than I paid. I purchased them today in the morning. I immediately went back to the shop with receipts for a refund and they are refusing to assist even though I have the receipts and the goods are still sealed and still in their packaging. They say its an over counter purchase they don't return and its not even written in their receipts.

Let’s start with the basics. Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that goods must be “or merchantable quality” which means “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased”. If a store sells goods that aren’t of merchantable quality then they obviously must fix the problem by offering one of the three Rs: a refund, a repair or a replacement.

However, in this case, were the lipsticks of merchantable quality? From what you say, there’s no evidence that they weren’t. So you have no right to return them for this reason.

Were the lipsticks second-hand, used or had they deteriorated? Section 13 (1) (c) forbid the store from selling such things as new but that didn’t happen here, did it?

Other sections of the Regulations forbid a store from deceiving you or from exploiting your ignorance about the product or the conditions of sale but again, I don’t think they’ve done this. From what you say, they didn’t deceive you at any point when they sold you the lipsticks so you can’t use that argument either.

Here’s another thing. Something that the Consumer Protection Regulations don’t mention, a right you don’t currently have. You don’t have the right to change your mind and that appears to be what you’re asking for. I know that the lipsticks are still in their packaging and that you haven’t used them but the store didn’t actually do anything wrong, did they? Did they break any of the rules that would permit you to return them? I don’t believe so.

There are of course some stores that DO allow you to return unused items but that’s not a consumer right, it’s just good customer care. That’s why prices at those stores are often a little higher than at stores where they aren’t as generous. I’m sorry but on this occasion I think you’re out of luck.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my bed?

We bought a bed at last year around June. In January the bed was not comfortable so we reported it and they said their vehicle was not available. We kept on reporting but no one showed up. In March I went to see the manager and she said they will sand someone to come get it but that didn’t happen. The first week of May I went there and found another manager and I explained my issue to him. He checked on their records and saw that for real we long reported the issue. He then said the bed we chose was for kids not adults. I was not there when my wife chose it and I don’t know if the sales who was helping her explained that to her. He then promised that he will send someone before end of week and yes they came to fetch it.

Now they are saying the bad is beyond repair and we should fix it with our own money even though we still have a warranty and we are still paying for it and its them who delayed to assist us before their bed got damaged more. We are sleeping on the ground as we speak its a week now. Now they are planning to give us second hand bad while still paying. Can you help us on how to resolve this issue?


This is a complicated one. Firstly, I’m glad you kept paying your instalments because that’s a common mistake that people make. They think that because they no longer have the goods they can stop paying but that’s a huge mistake. When you stop paying you immediately become the person in the wrong and from that moment the store isn’t obliged to do anything to help you.

In your case, even though you’re still paying the instalments, it’s still complicated. They’re saying that you bought a bed suitable for a child, not an adult, but can the store prove that you knew that? Can you prove that you didn’t?

I suggest you accept the second-hand bed as a temporary solution but make sure you don’t sign anything saying that this concludes the issue. Make it clear to them that you are only accepting it as a short-term solution. Meanwhile we’ll contact the store and see if they can’t be a little bit more helpful!

Must I pay the fee?

I have a question. My husband bought a car from a dealer in Mogoditshane. I didn't have enough cash so we used a credit card to pay. The car dealer did not have a swiping machine therefore he asked another shop to do the transaction. Now we are told we have to pay bank charges amounting to P1,950. The car was P58,000. Is this fair?

If I go to a supermarket and purchase goods with a credit card, they swipe what appears on the price tag. Any interest the bank will take care of. In this case why should I be charged bank charges separately?

Unfortunately I think you must pay the charge. When a company swipes a debit card or credit card they’re charged a fee by the bank. When we go shopping at a supermarket or a filling station, that fee is usually quite small and is included in the price of the purchase. Because it’s so small, customers don’t notice that they’re paying it. However, if you buy something as expensive as a car, the fee becomes enormous, like in this case and no company wants to pay a fee as high as this one.

To make matters worse in this case, the company who swiped your card were just doing you and the dealer a favour and they certainly don’t want (and nor should they) to be forced to pay P1,950 for doing you that favour.

Credit cards can be remarkably useful tools for certain types of transactions. You should certainly always use a Visa card if you’re booking a flight because Visa offers free travel insurance but you should always do your very best to pay off the balance you owe as quickly as possible because the interest rates are extremely high. Buying a car for P58,000 using a credit card when you don’t have the cash is going to be an extremely expensive way to do it. You’ll pay a lot more than the P1,950 transaction fee in interest payments. I suggest you find a way to pay off the card as soon as it’s possible to do so.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 14th May 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Events – can we ever do them right?

Exhibit A. Hamptons Festival

The original event was postponed, and tickets were offered to the rescheduled event. However, some people either couldn’t make the rescheduled date or just chose not to.

But for some of those people, refunds were very slow to arrive.

Exhibit B. Gaborone Motor Show.

Following the sale of many tickets, some of which included entry to a raffle, the Motor Show organisers posted the following message:
“NOTICE: Our raffle has been cancelled! All persons who bought our P100 Raffle Tickets should claim their refund at our entrance points at the 2018 Gaborone Motor Show… We would like to sincerely apologize to all affected customers for this cancellation we were unable to get registration in time!”
However, several people were disappointed. One commented:
“The prize car for the raffle was not a brand new vehicle; the raffle itself was cancelled; and some issues arose with the young ladies tasked with working at the event. As per the post, I tried to claim my full refund at the entrance of the event and they told me the rules had changed and that they no longer give full refunds. Even after showing them this very post, they refused to give a full refund and stated that those will only be possible after an audit was carried out.”
The law is simple. All competitions, including raffles, must be approved by the Gambling Authority and that takes a while, it's not something that can be done quickly. The Motor Show organisers had plenty of time.

The lesson is to read the small print on tickets. Always ask about cancellation terms before you buy the ticket.

2. Jamalife – is it legit?

Jamalife describe themselves as:
“an online cum offline network marketing organization and was born out of the need to build up people financially all across the globe to the point of experiencing high quality life in all areas of living”. 
That's meaningless gibberish. Describing their products they say they have offer “Human Capital Development”, “Food Security”, “Online mail”, “Flight and hotel booking”, “Assets and Property acquisition” and “Financial empowerment”.

More meaningless gibberish.

What Jamalife really offers is multiple layers of recruitment. They call them Builder, Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald, Diamond, Crown Diamond, Ambassador and finally Crown Ambassador. Each of these layers include at least another two layers. Jamalife claim that once you reach the top of Crown Ambassador level, they promise that you can get R3,900,000 and a Range Rover worth R2,210,000.

But here's a question. To get to that level, how many people would you need in the pyramid beneath you?
16,777,214.

The difference between a Multi-Level Marketing scheme and a pyramid scheme is simple. A pyramid scheme is focussed primarily on the recruitment of people rather than the sale of products. Jamalife say this:
"any rewards or earnings that are offered from Jamalife Helpers Global through the Business Plan is the result of members referring or signing up other willing members."
Their own words...

3. Where’s my policy?

A customer started an education policy in 2015, paying P300/month. This was meant to mature this year but:
“I was told I have closed the account in 2015 and it stopped deducting. Now they say I have to pay all the instalments in order for me to resuscitate the policy yet they don’t have any proof that I instructed them to stop the policy. They closed it because they say i wrote a letter instructing them to close it but they can't provide the stated letter.”
The important thing is that it is a customer’s job to monitor the payments, not their employer or their bank. It's the Custoemr's job to check bank statements and payslips to check they are making the payments they must.

In this case, the solutions is to pay the missing instalments. She still has the money after all.

4. World Ventures (yet again)

“Is it legit?” The Norwegian authorities say not. They found that 95% of all money earned is from recruiting other people. It's another pyramid scheme.

World Ventures base their pyramid on supposed travel discounts but discounts aren’t products. And anyway, there's no need to pay to join a discount when hotels give them away for free. You can get discounted hotel stays in South Africa but visiting booking.com, bid2stay.co.za where they give away discounts for free. Or consider something like Airbnb.

Regarding World Ventures, the latest income figures they published for the USA showed that two thirds (actually 68.7%) of all the income went to the 3.7% at the top. The median annual income was a mere $33 (around P330). And that was income, not profit.

5. How to complain (in 2018)

A customer had a problem with a takeaway.
“I was contacted by one of their managers for the poor service I had received. When I got their I ordered the same food and asked to see the manager. The lady took her time and I went to buy a drink, I came back she still took her time and when she came she did apologies for the mistake they did but she was not interested in helping me and started interrogating asking silly questions about why I had to run to social media and wat not. I received no help concerning the poor service I had received. These people have no respect for us as consumers. Now I think it's time I took my case to consumer affairs.”
It’s 2018. How should we complain?

However the hell we want to!