Saturday, 31 January 2015

Why do you trust?

Why do you trust certain companies? What is it about them that earned your respect and loyalty?

In our recent Honesty Survey we asked several hundred people how much they trusted certain industries. We asked them about banks, insurance companies, furniture stores, micro-lenders, cellphone network providers, all sorts of difference companies.

The results weren’t particularly surprising. Although there were no industries that did particularly well there were some clear winners and certainly some clear losers. Top of the list were new car dealers (who almost reached “slightly honest”) and banks and supermarkets which both only barely achieve trustworthy scores.

There were no surprises at the bottom of the list. Furniture stores and micro-lenders were firmly in the “slightly dishonest” category but bottom place went to second-hand car dealers. I don’t think that’s a surprise, do you?


Most worrying for me was the bulk of industries in the middle. Remember that no industry did very well but the bad news was that most of them were seen as being close to “slightly dishonest”. This included a number of industries that you might expect would want to be seen as better than that, notably cellphone network providers, newspapers and attorneys.

However what worried me most of all was the score received by the insurance industry. They scored halfway towards “slightly dishonest”. This scares me because insurance is such a critical service. If you don’t have any form of insurance you need to ask yourself some serious questions. What would happen if your car was stolen or if you crashed it? Who would pay for it to be repaired or replaced? How well would you cope if there was a fire in your house? How would your studies or your business cope if your laptop was stolen? What would happen to your children if you suddenly died? Would they be able to pay for the funeral? Would they be able to live without your salary?

With insurance you might be able to survive these disasters. Without it you’d almost certainly suffer. Worse still, your children might.

So it concerns me to think that if our research is correct 60% of people think the insurance industry is dishonest. Only one in five people described the industry as honest to any degree.

So how does a company make itself appear honest? What can they do to improve the way the public perceive them?

I think it’s a lot about education. Customers are more likely to trust an organization that is not only open about the nature of its products but also goes out of its way to educate them on their industry, the fine details of their products and the impact they can have. A good example is the Madi Majwana project financed by Barclays Bank. This series of mini radio plays has been broadcast on various radio stations and has covered everything you can think of about money, how to handle it and how to protect it. As far as I’m aware at no point have any of these programs suggested that listeners should buy a Barclays product, they’ve just raised awareness about matters of critical importance to us all. Barclays also went out of their way to educate the public on security issues with their recent series of workshops on card fraud.

It’s also about maturity. I was with a senior manager of a well-known company recently and he told me that there was a crisis developing in his company. There was soon going to be some public embarrassment about a product they were about to launch. It wasn’t exactly their fault, it was in fact their supplier who had deceived them but that doesn’t matter. When the news hits it’s going to embarrass this company, not the guys behind the scenes. To his credit he had already realized what to do. Be honest. Customers would much rather listen to a company being grown up enough to admit they’d made a mistake and try to remedy the situation than to try to cover it up and make excuses. Customer appreciate a little humility sometimes.

However all of this requires that the senior leadership is mature enough to admit failure. And that’s not always the case. All too often the executives in a company prefer either to go into denial, make things up or just slam the door in customers’ faces

We were contacted recently by a variety of customers of Ellerines and Beares who had responded to a special offer they heard advertised on the radio. This offered massive discounts on various products of up to 50%. Customers turned up, selected the item they wanted, paid and went home to await delivery of their discounted goodies.

But not everyone ended up happy. It seems that what they had misunderstood was that the offer was only valid for one specific day. Many of the customers had actually turned up the day beforehand and even though they’d paid the money, got receipts and the staff in the stores had said everything was fine they were later told that it was just too bad, they couldn’t have the products. You can understand why they were upset, even angry. They’d paid for something and were now told to come back and pick up their money.

Unfortunately the management weren’t as flexible as we would have hoped. Once they’d stopped blaming their stock control systems, shortages and customer confusion for the problem they eventually conceded that this was a breakdown in communication. But no, they wouldn’t bend the rules, even though a legal sale had probably been made. Instead of doing the mature thing and making an exception for those decent customers who just wanted what they thought they’d bought, they stonewalled. Customers could just go away.

So maybe this begins to explain why furniture stores are among the least trusted companies in Botswana?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is X-Treme Fuel Treatment a scam?

I have recently to join marketing network for a company called Syntex Global. They sell a product called X-Treme Fuel Treatment. Please advice if this is a genuine proposals or its one of those scams?


No, I wouldn’t say it’s a scam but it isn’t exactly what you might have been told.

A number of people have come to us over the last year asking about this product and the business opportunity the company claims it offers and frankly I’m deeply skeptical about every aspect of it.

Firstly there’s the product itself. Syntek and their distributors claim that their product will loweryour fuel consumption, prolong engine life, reduce emissions and improve vehicle performance. But is there any evidence of this? I mean real, scientific evidence?

No. None at all. Several of the distributors have tried to persuade me that there’s evidence but so far everything they’ve sent me hasn’t been evidence at all, just a number of dubious, unscientific tests and testimonials. That’s not scientific evidence. If this product really does all the things they claim then the evidence needs to be very clear. What’s more, anyone who “quotes scientific or technical data in support of a claim unless the data can be readily substantiated” will have broken Section 15 (1) (b) of the Consumer Protection Regulations. Until they supply genuine, independently conducted, scientifically controlled, reproducible evidence we have to assume the product has no effect.

Then there’s the business opportunity they sell. On Facebook you’ll hear about distributors getting a “salary of $1,500 per month” and an "Audi of your choice" but that’s simply nonsense. All those distributors you see with a new Audi are buying it themselves, with their own money.

My advice is simple. Like all the other multi-level marketing schemes out there, the only people who’ll make any money from it will be those at the top of the pyramid, it’s never the people like you and me who are recruited later.

Please don’t waste your time and money.

Will they repair my keyboard?


On the 7th October 2013 we bought a keyboard for P9,700. Afterwards, still in 2013 it developed an audio problem and we sent it back to them. They attended the problem and the keyboard worked well for the next 3 months. After that the same problem surfaced. When we took it back to them they refused to assist us saying it is no longer under warranty. They say we have to pay for the repair service now. We feel we have been unfairly treated since the keyboard was having the same problem it has been having all along.

I suspect this all depends on the dates.

I’m assuming that the keyboard came with a 1-year warranty? What that effectively means is that if there’s a problem with the keyboard within the first year then the supplier or manufacturer will repair it free of charge. After that year it’s up to you to pay for repairs. However what often happens is that when a repair is done under warranty then that repaired component is also warrantied for a period. For instance if the store repaired one component after 11 months and said the repair was warrantied for 3 months you can take the keyboard back for problems with the same component until the 14th month. So I suppose my answer isn’t actually very helpful. It depends on the dates.

Feel free to send over the details and I’ll let you know what I think.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Dynapharm (or Dangerpharm?)

Why do we allow companies to sell products they say are "Anti AIDS"?

Several people have posted advertisements on Facebook for products from a company call Dynapharm.

Dynapharm's web site offers a range of products in various categories:
  • CLEANSING - DETOXIFYING
  • COSMETICS - PERSONAL CARE
  • DIET - WEIGHT MANAGEMENT
  • HEALTHY PLANTS - FERTILISERS
  • IMMUNE BOOSTER - ANTI AGING
  • MENTAL - PHYSICAL - SEXUAL HEALTH
  • NATURAL RELIEF
  • NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS
Amongst all the usual nonsense about "personal care", "cleansing" and "nutritional supplements" there are some more worrying things.
For instance, their "Bee Pollen Capsule" offers a range of benefits:
"Traditional uses 
Improving endurance and vitality, Extending longevity, Recovery from chronic illness, Adding weight during convalescence, Reducing cravings and addictions, Regulating the intestines, Building new blood, Prevent infectious diseases like colds and flu (has antibiotic properties), Overcome retardation and developmental problems in children, Protect against radiation, Protect & whiten skin, Prevent anemia, Improve nervous system, Anti-cancer qualities, Anti-allergy, Anti-asthma, Prevent prostate enlargement"
Look closely at those claims.
  • "Overcome retardation and developmental problems in children"
  • "Protect against radiation"
  • "Protect & whiten skin"
Those are fairly ambitious health claims. But it gets worse. Much worse.
Whoever invented their "Total Health Package" deserves a Nobel Prise for Medicine if what they claim is actually true. They describe it as follows:
"Removes accumulated waste & toxins (free radicals, uric acid, nitrogenous wastes from the body. Replenishes loss during the cleansing phase and boosts the immune system. Builds a protective barrier against viruses and bacteria and prevents proliferation of diseases."
And what do Dynapharm say you can use this "package" for?
  • Strengthens heartbeat
  • For Digestion/diarrhea
  • Anti-blood clot
  • Anti-stroke
  • Anti-cancer
  • Anti-aging
  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cholesterol Control
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Anti aging
  • Anti AIDS
  • Anti-tumor
  • Anti-radiation
  • Anemia
  • Stroke protection/ therapy
  • Senility/ Alzheimer’s
Did you spot it? Let's overlook blood clots, aging, anemia, and diarrhea (sic). Let's look at the big one.

"Anti AIDS"

That's just scandalous and Dynapharm should be ashamed of themselves. So should all of their distributors. In fact they should be locked up because advertising such products breaks Sections 396-399 of the Penal Code which outlaws "prohibited advertisements" specifically for a range of conditions including cancer.

The local distributors I've spoken to claim that their products have been "approved by the Ministry of Health Botswana" which I find difficult to believe.


When I asked to see this approval I was told that it would be sent to me.


Strangely enough, this never happened and instead I was told a series of stories about why I wasn't allowed to get a copy of this "approval" from MOH. The conversation went like this:
Teddy N. Kgasa: I will send it to you Sir
Richard Harriman: When?
Teddy N. Kgasa: Come to the office KB mall
Richard Harriman: No. Please email or fax them to me a you agreed to do earlier today.
Teddy N. Kgasa: What do you want to do with it? Come see it
Richard Harriman: I want to read it. Why won't you send it to me?
Teddy N. Kgasa: The rules of the company
Richard Harriman: What do these rules say?
Teddy N. Kgasa: They do not allow me to send it to you
Richard Harriman: So if I come to your office can I take a copy of the document?
Teddy N. Kgasa: You can just see the document
Richard Harriman: Can I take a picture of it with my cellphone?
Teddy N. Kgasa: Not allowed
Richard Harriman: So basically your company refuses to offer any proof that you have such "approval" from the Ministry of Health?
Teddy N. Kgasa: You can come see it but you can't take pictures. We don't know what you are going to do with it
Richard Harriman: Is it secret?
Teddy N. Kgasa: It is not secret
Richard Harriman: Then why won't you publish it? Instead, can you tell me what it says?
Teddy N. Kgasa: It allows the products to be given to people
Richard Harriman: What are the exact words?
Teddy N. Kgasa: It is a long document
So Dynapharm is advertising products that are ineffective, illegal and massively abusive in my view.

Why are they still allowed to trade here?

Update

Teddy later gave me a contact for someone who he said would be able to provide me with more information on the evidence that Dynapharm's products can do the things they claim, including Teddy's claim that they "counter the effects of HIV".

The contact is a "Dr John" who can only be reached, it seems, at his Yahoo email address. I emailed "Dr John" asking for the evidence and also for his credentials as a doctor. This is the reply I received (verbatim):

"Hi Richard ,

I received your email and I read your blog on dynapharm products.
Whereas am not the appointed spokesperson for Dynapharm , I am in a position to ( although not obliged )

1. Offer scietific evidence as you requested
2. Respond to any other queries as you may inquire for the benefit to you and your readers.

Therefore on the HIV issue , I will respond soon.
However ,I will do that on my own capacity not as a representative of the company .

Much as I appreciate the consumer oversight ,its strange to write an article and outrightly tell your readers how the products dont work ,yet you could have inquired further so as to have a balanced reporting.

Distributors are not representatives of the company and have no right to speak on behalf of the company.

I further need you to know that the person you were talking is not a representative of the company.

You will within 3 days receive a full attached response on your specific inquiries and the issues you raised on your blog!

Thanks in advance.
Dr. John."
You'll see more when he replies.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Who do you trust?

Which industries do you think are trustworthy? Which of them tell the truth? On the other hand which industries do you think contain more than their fair share of liars?

Now we know.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been running an online survey on honesty, asking members of our Facebook group how they rated the honesty levels of a range of industries. To ensure some democracy we also questioned hundreds of people on the streets of Gaborone as they went about their daily lives. Our online survey and researchers asked people to say whether industries we named were very honest (+2), slightly honest (+1), neither honest or dishonest (0), slightly dishonest (-1) or very dishonest (-2). These results were then compiled, average honesty scores calculated and our honesty league table constructed.

Maybe the surprising news is that none of the industries were thought to be completely honest. The highest score for any industry as a whole was +0.6. It seems that there are no industries that we all trust completely.

Top of the league were new car dealers, who were rated as +0.6, just below slightly honest. This probably isn’t much of a surprise because new car dealers are very aggressively monitored by the car manufacturers they represent. Standards are set and policed and dealers who fail to meet the standards are very quickly sorted out.

Neck and neck in second place right in the middle of “neither honest nor dishonest” range were banks (+0.2) and supermarkets (+0.1). Again this shouldn’t particularly surprise anyone. Banks are quite heavily regulated by the Bank of Botswana and they all know the rules they must play by. However I think it says something about their reputation that they are in the “neither honest nor dishonest” category. I don’t think that banks always help themselves by not being quite as open and transparent as we deserve them to be.

The same goes for supermarkets but I think in their case it’s much more to do with the effect of competition. Most of us in Botswana have the luxury of choice of supermarket so they’re going to do their best to offer us the best deals. However the concerns we all have about food hygiene and pricing probably explain why they aren’t seen as more honest.

Just below zero and also firmly in the “neither” category were electronics and computer stores (-0.1).

Then there was might be a surprise. Attorneys, as an entire profession, scored -0.2, just the wrong side of zero. What is it about attorneys, one of the most aggressively regulated professions that stops them from appearing trustworthy? I think it’s simple. Apart from issues like house sales, executing wills and obscure bits of corporate law, the legal profession is about argument and half the time they’re not going to be on your side of the argument. Some attorneys will even admit this to you, that some of the time they don’t believe what their own client is saying or they don’t believe they have a valid argument but they are being paid to represent them so they’re happy to be “flexible”. It doesn’t actually mean that they’re dishonest but I don’t think that helps their reputation.

In a similar place are newspapers who score -0.3. I’m in a good position to comment about this, having worked with newspapers in Botswana for over a decade. The vast majority of reporters and journalists in Botswana are honorable, patriotic, honest people who just want interesting stories but there are some who are much less trustworthy. Yes, I DO mean you, the reporter to whom I gave a quote for publication a couple of years ago and who instead wrote an entirely fictitious comment from me. Even though an industry is dominated by good people, a few “bad apples” can ruin its reputation for honesty.

Entering the “slightly dishonest” category were cellphone stores (-0.5) and cellphone network providers (-0.6). I don’t think there are any surprises here. We’ve all heard of people buying cellphones that don’t work, who are told that there’s no warranty or who buy phones that turn out to be second hand. We’ve also heard too many stories about consumers’ confusion about airtime, special offers that turn out not to be special and vastly over-priced data bundles that disappear almost immediately. I won’t suggest that this is actually dishonesty but I can understand why people confuse the lack of education and clarity with dishonesty.

Then we get to the one I find most concerning of all. Our survey suggests that insurance companies aren’t trusted (-0.7) and that’s a real worry for me. Insurance can save your home, your business and your livelihood from disaster so it worries me that people will be suggesting to their loved ones that insurance providers can’t be trusted. It’s a real concern. Maybe it’s time for the insurance business to start educating the public a bit more?

And now the lowest three in the perceived honesty league table and there are no surprises.

Third from the bottom are furniture stores (-0.8) who, with their impossible to understand hire purchase schemes, secret contracts and repossession rules probably deserve this reputation.

Second from last are (yet again no surprises) micro-lenders (-1.0). What do I need to say? Rarely has there been an industry with such a large proportion of crooks, cheats and swindlers.

And finally, it’s official. The least trusted industry in Botswana is second-hand car dealers (-1.1). Is anyone surprised? I’m not at all. At least part of this must be due to the activities of the very dubious car importers we all know but also it’s the rather shady local types we all know.

So what do you think? Is this fair? Let us know what you think!


Note: the graph shows the average score for each industry. The vertical bars show the variance from average, one standard deviation above and one below the average. This should give you an impression of how consistent (or not) respondents were in their scores. As you can see there is considerable variation, not everyone's perception are the same.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

I want my Blackberry back!

Last year around the first week of December, my Blackberry Bold 9900 died and a friend managed to connect me with a guy who was said to be really good with Blackberries. Indeed he is good because he fixed the phone that several technicians said it cant be done. Around the 15th of December he couriered the phone back to me in Francistown and upon receiving it I noticed the speaker wasn't working. I called him back and because it was still under the agreed 3 months warranty, he requested that I send it back to him of which I did and by the 19th he told me he is done with it and will courier it back to me and he never did. Since then he has been taking me from one pillar to another post, doesn't answer my calls nor respond to my texts. First week of January I called him with a different number and he answered and I requested that he send the phone back even if he hasnt fixed the speaker, we agreed, and it is now 2 weeks later, still havent received the phone.


It’s such a shame that someone who started so good has turned out to be unreliable.

I think it’s time to stop being nice and start giving him some deadlines. I suggest that you write him a letter giving him 14 days to return your Blackberry otherwise you’ll take legal action against him to recover both the phone and the money you have wasted by hiring him to fix the phone.

If he doesn’t respond in that time you should then go straight to the Small Claims Court with all the facts and seek an order against him.

Meanwhile we’ll get in touch with him and encourage him to do the right thing.

How do I get my money back?

I need help, I took clothes in one of the shops on credit and I failed to pay the installments. Last week I received a call from one of the Debt collectors asking for payment and they told me that I can't get any assistance from the banks if I need to apply for a loan because they have blacklisted me and my name has been submitted at ITC. I want to know whether it's possible for them to ask for payment and blacklist me at the same time, because to me it's like a double punishment.


I’m sorry, this is how things work if you fall behind with store credit payments.

The bad news is that you are in breach of your store credit agreement because you did fail to pay your installments. The company is entitled to record your failure to pay with credit reference agencies like Transunion so that other companies can assess how good a risk you are before they decide to lend you money. They feel (and this is often true) that someone who fails to pay off one debt is very likely to fail to pay off another. The sad news is that you have become a bad risk.

The best thing you can now do is contact the debt collector and meet with them to agree a repayment plan. It really is in your interests to do this as soon as possible. Debt collectors aren’t unreasonable, they’ll agree to a plan that you can afford. I’ve even known debt collectors reduce the total amount to be paid for people who are open and honest with them.

When you’ve finished paying them you then need to get something in writing confirming that you’ve paid off the debt. You should then ask the store to make sure your record has been updated to show that you eventually paid off your debt. They won’t remove the record of the debt but they will show that you paid it off. This might take a few weeks but it’s in your interest to know that your record is now complete.

Then promise me that you will do whatever you can never to buy anything on credit again? It’s such a dangerous way to buy things.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Syntek Xtreme Fuel Treatment - where is the evidence that it works?

Recently you'll have seen advertisements posted all over Facebook inviting people to come to presentations where they can learn about Syntek's "Xtreme Fuel Treatment" product.

One says:
"Extreme Fuel Treatment is here. No more spending in Fuel. Save your money and place an order with [XXX]. You can also join to become a distributor and start making lots of money."
Another says simply that:
"our product save petrol"
Their South African web site makes a number of claims about the product including that it:
  • REDUCES HARMFUL EMISSIONS AND POLLUTANTS
  • IMPROVES VEHICLE PERFORMANCE AND POWER
  • PROLONGS ENGINE LIFE AND REDUCES WEAR
  • INCREASES FUEL MILEAGE AND ECONOMY
Another, rather more eloquently but also more incoherently, explains that the product is:
"An advanced burn-rate modifier and combustion surface modifier catalyst, which, when combined with gasoline or diesel fuel, increases the rate of the combustion reaction and changes the surface structure of the fuel to achieve a more efficient combustion process."
But is there actually an evidence that this product works?

The first, skeptical question to ask is this. If this product really worked don't you think the entire company would have been bought by one of the petrol companies by now? Either to make their fuel go further and reduce their production costs or, if you prefer a cynical point of view, to kill the product as part of their evil plan for world domination.

Meanwhile, is there actually any evidence that it does what they say it does?

I've asked various distributors in Botswana on numerous occasions to supply some evidence that the product does something. Some of them have taken the time to email me various documents but so far there's not been one actual piece of evidence. Not a shred.

Yes, they've sent me details of one report that suggested that there was a minor increase in the energy release from fuel combustion when their product was used but this study was enormously unscientific. My concerns about the test were that:
  • there was no indication of the margin of error understood in these tests,
  • the tests appeared to be single sample, unrepeated tests,
  • the absence of any indication of the statistical significance of the difference in results,
  • the absence of any indication of impartiality or of the funding of the examinations
  • the absence of peer-review
These are all fairly basic components in any scientific experiment, whether it's testing a fuel "treatment", a medicine or the existence of the Higgs Boson.

Another, more senior distributor sent me a huge quantity of material about various tests of their product they claim were made on a range of vehicles. One was done using a Dodge pickup.


But look a little more closely at the bottom of that page. Scientists among us will recognise that this is not an independent test,
The test was done, and presumably paid for, by the manufacturers of the product. That's not independent.

This particular test, like all the others I've read (and I admit I haven't read them all) have the same failings. For instance not one of them was scientifically controlled. Specifically the tests were not conducted “blind” or even “double-blind” as real scientific research requires. They also didn't actually measure fuel consumption and appear only to have used one test modality, the “carbon balance test” which does not actually measure fuel consumption but measures another factor which is taken as a proxy for fuel consumption.

In short this isn't evidence that it reduces fuel consumption at all. Not even close.

Since seeing that documentation nobody from Syntek has been able to send me anything more persuasive, nor have they been able to assure me that any such evidence even exists. All they can offer testimonies and we all know that testimonies don't count as evidence in science.

Sadly for the distributors of this product, until they produce such evidence I think it's safe to assume there is none and Syntek's distributors need to be cautious when making any claims relating to a product that cannot be substantiated. If they do they’ll likely be in breach of Section 15 (1) (b) of the Consumer Protection Regulations which says that:
"A supplier of a commodity or of a service shall fail to meet minimum standards of performance if" ... "the supplier quotes scientific or technical data in support of a claim unless the data can be readily substantiated"
All I'm asking for is something really rather simple. I want what a pharmaceutical company would be obliged to provide before marketing a drug: real evidence that it works. Not testimonies, not anecdotes, not stories but real evidence. Until that appears it's safe to assume the product does nothing at all.

By the way, it's a Multi-Level Marketing scheme as well. Did I mention that?


Are they honest or not?

How honest do you think businesses are? How well do you think we can trust the companies that sell us things? Are there industries that lie to us? Are there other industries that always tell the truth? Or is it more complicated than that?

It’s certainly easy to become rather cynical about ethics in business, particularly if you spend a lot of your time helping consumers fix the problems they’ve experienced. There certainly are some individuals I’ve encountered in the last few years who are no more than liars, cheats and fraudsters. The way they make money is by telling lies to people and stealing their money. But they are individuals who act that way. Is it possible that there are certain industries that are dishonest? Or others that are honest?

Like all things in life, it’s not as simple as that.

To begin with I think that on many occasions we confuse dishonesty with the results of a lack of education and clarity.

Let’s start with the insurance industry. We’ve heard from many customers of insurance companies over the years who have accused their insurance company of being dishonest. “I claimed on my insurance policy and they refused to pay me!” is a fairly common complaint. However, when we probe a little more deeply we often find that dishonesty is not actually the problem. One customer made this complaint but it turned out that the reason they refused to pay following his car accident was that he’d caused it because he’d been drunk. He’d even been charged with drink-driving. Their policy in fact made it clear that if you were involved in an accident and it turned out you were drunk at the time you would get nothing. So rather than being dishonest, the insurance company was actually just sticking to their contract. Probably the only real criticism that could be made against the insurance company was that they didn’t make this absolutely clear when they sold him the policy.

The lack of customer education also leads consumers to some other serious misunderstandings. We frequently hear from consumers who have had a funeral or life insurance policy for a long time but who have never made a claim. For whatever reason the policy lapses or is cancelled and then the consumer then becomes incredibly angry when they don’t get a refund, thinking that because they never made a claim they’re entitled to get their money back.

But that’s just not how insurance works. During the period of the policy the customer was getting something: cover against risk. If something bad had happened during the period of the policy the insurance company would have paid up. If a relative or the policyholder himself had died then the policy would have paid out. I sometimes wonder if such consumers would rather that someone had died so they got something tangible for their money.

A more complicated situation came up recently. Two different people contacted us about a company that sells satellite TV decoders that can receive various SABC TV stations. Both claimed that they could no longer receive the TV channels they’d bought. However the two cases were very different. In one case the decoder had stopped functioning and the company were taking way too long to fix it and they were being a little difficult to reach, not answering calls from the customer until I got in touch with them. The company was being somewhat dishonest about their willingness to offer their customer what she deserved. In the second case the dishonesty was the other way round. That customer’s failure to receive TV was actually because she hadn’t paid for four months. She was the one who could be described as dishonest, not the company.

Meanwhile the company is being fundamentally dishonest because they’re product is based on a lie. They register people who live in Botswana to receive South African TV channel in South Africa, not in Botswana. Presumably they can only do this by lying when they do the registration? Their business is a lie.

One of my least favorite industries is micro-lending mostly because they have more than their fair share of liars. I know that since NBFIRA appeared things have become a lot better but there are still lying micro-lenders out there. We still occasionally hear of lenders who don’t think they need to be registered with NBFIRA or who think they can charge whatever they want in interest, ignoring the “in duplum” rule. That’s the rule that says when a debt is settled the interest may not be greater than the outstanding capital amount.

Another thing I despise is hire purchase. I’m not suggesting that stores that sell on HP are liars but there are some that are certainly “economical with the truth” preferring to hide the nasty things they don’t want their potential customers to know in tiny text hidden in the middle of a VERY long contract written in language that very few of us really understand.

So who are the honest and dishonest industries in YOUR opinion?

We’ve recently been running an online survey on honesty and members of the Consumer Watchdog team have also been out on the streets asking shoppers who they think can and cannot be trusted. It’s only a very simple survey, it’s certainly not scientific and it only measures perceptions of honesty, not whether companies really are honest or not but I think it will give us a clue of how people perceive the trustworthiness of a range of industries.

So who do you think people trust? More importantly who do you think they don’t trust? The results aren’t in yet but you can see them here in Mmegi next week.