Saturday, 18 September 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can they repair it?

Hello I need your help. I bought a cellphone at a store at Rail Park Mall. The next day I realized that the battery died, the phone loses power so fast I have to charge it every hour. I went back to the store and they refused to change the phone instead they offered to repair it which is going to take 7 days. So what does the law say?

The law is actually very simple in circumstances like yours.

Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a consumer "has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects". That's simple, don't you think?

Section 16 goes on to say that if the goods fail to meet that standard, the consumer may return the goods to the supplier. It then says that the supplier is entitled to "repair or replace the defective goods" or to "refund the consumer" but it's important to understand that they can decide which they want to do. They are entitled to try to repair the phone before they choose to offer you either a refund or a replacement. I know it's frustrating to spend a lot of money on a new phone and then wait for it to be repaired but that's what the Consumer Protection Act says they can do.

However, there's something that suppliers often overlook. Section 16 of the Act also says that if a supplier repairs an item and "within three months the same problem recurs in the goods" they're not allowed to repair it a second time. They can now only refund or you give you a replacement.

My advice is to allow the store to try and repair the phone but make sure they understand that they get just one chance to do to. Just one

Scam warning

We've been contacted by many people in the last few weeks who have fallen victim to scams. The really bad news, the upsetting news, is that scammers seem to be working even harder during Covid to steal our money than ever before. They realise that we're all short of money these days and many of us are desperate to make some more. So desperate that we make some foolish decisions.

Let me give you an example. In fact, it's the experience of several victims. They were approached by people on Facebook claiming that they had a remarkable "investment" opportunity called Marginbase. Specifically, they said that if someone invested P3,800 with their scheme, they would earn P53,950 within 7 days.

Just think about that for a moment. They say you can multiply your money by 14 times in a week. If that was true and you invested your P3,800, multiplied it 14 times in just a week and then repeatedly reinvested the money, after 5 weeks you would have more than P2 billion. After three months you would have more money than has ever existed in the history of the world.

Obviously, this is a scam. It's all a trick to get the P3,800 and it's not the only scam like this operating right now. They all make promises of fantastic profits and all demand between P1,000 and P5,000 to join. It's important to know that the joining fee is just the beginning. Once you've invested, a fake web page will show that you're making lots of money and they'll encourage you to invest even more and who wouldn't be tempted? They say you're making amazing amounts of money and you want to make even more.

Of course, the problem comes when you try to withdraw your money. That's when they'll put up barriers. They'll either say that you need to pay a commission or premium to get your money or they'll claim computer problems or that their systems have been hacked. They'll do their best to keep your money, all while reminding you how much money they claim you're making.

The lesson from this is never to believe anyone who promises you fantastic profits on a relatively small investment. No genuine investment makes miraculous profits and anyone who says they can is either lying, insane or misguided. Please don't waste your money because a stranger, or worse still someone you know, suggests that you can make a fortune. You'll never see the profits they promise and you'll never see the money you gave them again.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my sister's money?

Hello Richard. Please assist me here on behalf of my older sister. This what happened. My sister visited a certain garage at Francistown as she wanted a car. So she was told to pay clearance money of 35k and she did that. Upon the arrival of the car she noticed mechanical faults with the car and she did not take it. As a result she demanded her 35k back. And the garage owner said he will repay her after he sold his faulty car.

My sister ended up purchasing a car from a different garage while waiting for her refund from the first garage. The faulty car was sold but up to now the garage owner is playing hide and seek on refunding my sister. He will say he will pay tomorrow. Next week. Next month. Please help!! What can she do? Its almost 8 months now.

It's people like this guy that give car dealers a bad name.

I know for a fact that there are plenty of second-hand and imported car dealers who are honest, hard-working and committed to serving their customers to the best of their ability. Just not this one.

I've heard too often about people like this guy who insist on trying to sell a faulty item before they can refund someone who gave them a lot of money. It's not acceptable. Was it your sister's fault that the vehicle was faulty? No, it was his and he should face up to his responsibilities to your sister. He took her money, tried to give her a faulty vehicle and then kept her money. Not only is that a gross breach of her consumer rights I suspect it's almost theft.

The time has come for your sister to be much more assertive. She needs to make some demands and give him a deadline. I suggest she contacts him and says that unless he refunds in full within seven days she'll take legal action against him to recover the money he owes her. If he fails to do so, it's time to get even more assertive and get a lawyer involved. He has a choice. Pay up or pay her lawyer's bills on top of the P35,000 he already owes her.

Shouldn't they clear my name?

Can you please help. I have a credit card. In April this year the bank phoned to say that I owe them P1,200 for the card because they were not able to deduct as we have agreed from my account because their system was down. I paid the money in June. Recently I went to the same bank to apply for a loan in the same bank and they declined the application saying that they have blacklisted me even though it proves that I don't owe them after checking.

Are they not supposed to clear my name?

The first problem is that banks aren't perfect. They make mistakes. Their systems sometimes let them (and us) down. Clearly that happened when they failed to deduct your monthly credit card payments. Surely their expensive computer system has the ability to tell both them and you that there's been a problem and then to send a reminder that a payment failed and someone needs to take an action to keep your payments up to date?

However, it was also your responsibility to ensure the payments were made. I know it's easy to overlook this because we trust our banks to get things right. But they often don't so it's up to us to check.

Secondly, the way credit reference bureaus work is that they record facts. The bank will have updated the system to say that you fell behind with your payments and then later updated it again to say that you'd caught up. However, and this is the important point, those updates stay on your record for up to two years. That enables the bank and other potential lenders to see your recent history and make a judgment on whether they think lending money to you is a good or bad risk.

Given that it's the same bank that made the mistake that has since declined your loan application I think it's worth reminding them who actually caused the problem in the first place. Maybe they should take some share of the responsibility for the situation?

Saturday, 4 September 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

I want a working phone!

I bought an iPhone 12 Pro for P17,000 in April from a store in Game City, I kept the phone without using since I didn't have Wifi to register Apple ID, I used the phone end of May but it had a problem with the speaker, at first I thought the problem was because I have not updated the software since the phone kept reminding to update software, at the time I did not have Wifi again. In July I managed to update the software and the problem with the speaker still persisted but I could not return it as I was alone at work however I returned the phone on the 22nd August. They called me after a few hours saying the phone was fixed it had moisture and dirt, however I tested the phone and it still had the same problem and I left it so they can fix it.

They called again on the 24th August saying the phone is fixed but still when I called with it the person on the other side could not hear me so they took it for the third time saying they will fix and call on 26th which they never did. On 27th I went to their store and asked them to give me a new phone or return my money. They told me it will take 14 days for them to fix and they can't give me my money back or a new phone rather they guy said he will give me his phone which he is using.

Please help me 17k is a lot of money.

You're right. P17,000 is a lot of money. You might argue that all customers are equal but let's talk facts. If you've spent P17,000 on a cellphone you deserve to be treated like royalty. You deserve a comfortable chair when you arrive. You deserve a cup of coffee and a biscuit. You deserve to be treated with respect. Yes, I obviously believe that you should be treated with respect if you just spent P17, but I'm sure you know what I mean. Someone who spends P17,000 on a phone is a premier, prestige, elite customer. You certainly deserve better treatment that this store offers.

I think the store need to understand when they sell something that is faulty, they have three options. They can either repair the phone, refund you or replace it. The critical thing is that the store can decide which of these things they want to do. They can choose to repair it if that's what they prefer. That's what Section 16 (3) of the Consumer Protection Act says. However, and this is the important bit that stores often overlook, the Act then says that if "within three months the same problem recurs" then they lose the chance to repair it again. They can only now replace it or refund you. There's no second chance to repair it.

Let's explain this to them and see which option they prefer.

It's not me!

This is my story. This December money has been debited off my bank account. It was a stop order and I didn't know what it was about. I went to my bank to enquire then they assisted me told me it's a furniture store. I went there and the lady who assisted me told me to go to the store in Tlokweng because the person purchased goods there. When I got there they told me that they had been a mixup of accounts and I asked them what I should do with the bank charges that accumulated. They told me that the person would have to refund me but I don't even know that person. I even told them that its their responsibility but even now there's no help. I even closed the account.

So far you've done everything right. You were right to speak to your bank and then right again to contact the store about this. Yes, clearly there's been a mix-up and they need to fix this urgently. Then they need to refund you everything, including any bank charges you've incurred if their mistake took you overdrawn or meant you couldn't make any payments.

You should also demand that they confirm that your credit history hasn't been affected by this at all. Normal practice when you get a loan or buy something on hire purchase is for that deal to be registered with credit reference bureaux. We need to make sure this hasn't happened this time because it would be false. You don't want their mix-up to haunt you in the future.

Update: I contacted the store and they promised to investigate and fix it as soon as possible.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why can't they fix it?

Can I ask for an honest opinion. I bought a PS5 with controllers from a local retailer lest than six months ago. It was brand new with receipts and everything.

Then after few months noticed that the other controller had problems. I then contacted the seller and they advised I bring it back so they take it to Sony in South Africa for fixing since its under warranty from the manufacturer.

Yesterday I called the seller telling them its been 3 weeks without feedback on the progress but to my disappointment they tell me Sony states that they can not fix it and in short he can not help me in that regard. Apparently Sony SA states that they can not fix the joypads and he said customers have been complaining world wide about the controllers being faulty and he said Sony does not have a solution regarding them.

So I'm asking how do I go about such case because we buy these things expensively to be told we can not help you while there is a warranty/guarantee in place still valid. 

What's a polite way of saying 'silly'? 

Ok, let's not even try to be polite. The store is being silly. Very silly. It really doesn't matter whether Sony can or cannot repair the controller, Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that consumers have "the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects" and that if a supplier fails to offer this then we can return the goods. It then says that the supplier must "repair or replace the defective goods" or "refund the consumer the amount already paid as consideration for the goods".

In your case it's very simple. Apparently they can't repair the controller so they have just two options left, replace it or refund you.

And there's one last thing. They're lying to you if they suggest that Sony doesn't have a solution. Sony is an incredibly powerful brand that wouldn't dare to treat its customers this way.

I'll get in touch with the store and tell them what I think they should do.

Update: The customer had what he said was a "heated conversation" with the store manager who first demanded that he pay for a new controller. He stood up for his rights and eventually got a free replacement.

Will they refund me?

I cleared a loan from company X through a loan from company Y beginning of June. In mid June and end of June I was refunded the May and June instalments which I understood because the payroll was already closed. I hoped the last deduction would have been June but that was not the case. In July they deducted again and I had to wait for 2 weeks to be refunded after several daily calls. Even NBFIRA I reached out to them. Its August they have deducted again, the second mistaken deduction. This time around I want to take action against company X for the financial embarrassment and inconvenience they have put me through, also my credit status is in disrepute, not to mention the inconvenience because they take long to refund. I'm thinking of going the legal route, please advise.

You've been very tolerant. Perhaps even too tolerant!

You were tolerant and understanding in the first couple of months when you were beyond the payroll cycle deadline but it's not acceptable for this Company X to take so long to stop the deductions from your salary. It's really not that difficult to do, it's something that happens all the time.

You can of course follow the legal route but I don't think you'll need to go that far. I'm sure we can avoid the costs and bother of taking Company X to court. What scares smart companies more than legal threats is the thought that they might lose customers because of their incompetence. They really don't want you discussing their failure with your family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and random people you meet in the street. That's what really makes them anxious. I'm sure this will get sorted out quickly.

Update: The customer contacted Company X again and made sure they understood his rights. They promised to refund him within days. Let's see if they can keep their word.

Saturday, 21 August 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my money?

Afternoon Mr Harriman I need your help. I got a loan last year from my bank then they took 3 to 4 months without deducting then this end of July they deducted P1000 on top of the instalment saying they are paying arrears without my consent and my salary was P300 and they are saying the same thing is going to happen this month end.

Unfortunately, I don't think I have any good news for you.

The bank is entitled to catch up on the late instalments because that's what you agreed they can do when you signed the loan agreement. I bet if you look closely in the agreement it says that if they are so useless that they neglect to take the instalments when they said they would, they can catch up whenever they feel like it. That's how banks work.

It's also up to you to make sure there's always enough money in your account to honour your debts. I'm sorry if it sounds unsympathetic but it was also up to you to make sure that the instalments were paid. It would have been sensible to put the money somewhere safe when you realised the instalments weren't being paid. It was unwise to spend it when you knew the bank was owed that money.

The lesson from this is always to make sure that your bank takes the money you owe on the date you agreed it would be taken. If they fail to do so, you should contact them, give them a piece of your mind, remind them that Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that when "a supplier undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of a consumer" the consumer has a right to "timely performance and completion" of those services and "timely notice of any unavoidable delay". You also have a right to "performance of the services in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect".

In 2021, I don't think it's too much to ask for a bank to take deductions when they agree to do so. But it's also up to us as consumers to make sure they do because if we don't, we're the ones that suffer.

Where's my refund?

I need your assistance. A few months ago I visited a local branding shop for their printing services. So they helped me and I then paid up front and waited for my order to be ready. When I was supposed to go and collect they always came up with excuses telling me that they are not done yet and will sort that out. I went to their office more often but still no sign of my order. Nowadays they don't take my calls or respond to my texts. They always do this to their clients and I'm not the only victim. The company has cheated many people and they gave up and lost their money. How can you assist me or refer me to relevant authorities dealing with this kind of businesses?

Here we go again. Yet another company that takes your money and fails to deliver the products or services you've paid for. I'm sure they'll come up with some excuse about Covid affecting their business, something to do with imports being difficult or being let down by ither suppliers.

But I don't care and neither should you. The impact of Covid should make us sympathetic to the difficulties businesses face but it shouldn't make us forget our rights as consumers. We have a right to get the products and services we've paid for and if there are delays we have a right to be told about them so we can decide if we want to wait or take our business elsewhere.

I contacted the shop and asked when you would receive what you paid for. They quickly responded saying that your products was being sourced from South Africa and "it got interrupted with our supplier's inconveniences". He went on to say that they are "a small company and sometimes when such company matters arise it becomes difficult to solve them on short period since his not the only one affected by such an outcome."

He ended by saying that he would get you a refund within days. Let's hope he does.

Saturday, 14 August 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They let me down!

May I kindly ask if Consumer Watchdog is able to assist in getting funds back for services not rendered.

Me and my husband met someone 5 years back and he stated to offer architect services and we paid a deposit but he failed to provide the plan and he then agreed to pay us back. However he never paid and his mobile number isn't going through. We tried to trace him but up to now nothing.

We have then engaged someone different and we have now started building. On the 24th June 2021 we then paid a one supplier around Gaborone who has also failed to honour as agreed. They have given us a notice that they will have paid back the money by Friday 31st July but he has not paid. His mobile rings unanswered and we reported to the police whom he never showed up.

I'm really sorry for your run of bad luck with suppliers. Building a house is stressful enough without having to deal with untrustworthy suppliers like these.

I also think we have a neighbourly obligation to prevent anything like this happening to other customers. In my experience people who behave like this will continue to do the same to other victims until someone stops them. Maybe that's our job?

Send me the contact details of both of the shady characters that took your money and let's see if between us we can teach them the error of their ways. Who knows, maybe we can achieve some good and prevent further abuse?

They won't fix my car!

I need your advice on this matter. Around 18 July 2021 someone rear ended my vehicle causing damage to my rear bumper and door. The driver was apologetic about the accident and offered to fix the vehicle without involving the police. I agreed to this. We made a written agreement for the driver to have the vehicle fixed before end of July 2021 as they were waiting funds from a business deal.

I provided 3 quotations from different panel beaters to the driver.

As we speak the driver has been promising to give me feedback and is not doing so. I've run out of patience as I want my car repaired, what avenues can I pursue here? 

Congratulations. You deserve a prize for doing the smartest thing a consumer has done all week. You got the person who damaged your car to sign a document admitting their fault and promising to pay to fix it. That was a remarkably smart thing to do and I wish more consumers would do things like this.

The bad news is that I suspect they now regret signing it because they're trying to avoid their obligations. So now it's time to get serious.

Given that you have a written agreement I suggest you consider legal action to get your money. How you do that depends on how much you're owed. If it's below P30,000 you should approach the Small Claims Court and present them with the signed agreement and the three quotations. If it's more than P30,000 you'll probably need to consult an attorney.

However, before you do either of those things, try one last time to get them to do the decent thing. Let them know you'll be taking legal action against them unless they fix the vehicle within 7 days. If you're feeling generous, make it 14 but however long you give them, if they let you down again you need to use the law to enforce your rights.

Saturday, 7 August 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They blocked me!

Five months back I bought a couch at a shop at a cost of P8,800 but until now I haven't received my couch they have been giving me stories after story saying they are waiting for orders. I finally gave up and bought another couch from a different store. I have been asking them to refund me for months now but they always give me excuses and now the lady of the shop has now I think blocked me. She is not even taking my calls. Please help me. P8,800 is a lot of money. I just can't let it go like that.

Do I care that this shop is "waiting for orders"? 

No, I don't and neither should you.

What I care about is you getting the refund you deserve. As I've said many times before, we all understand that things have been difficult for suppliers over the last 18 months and many of us have been forced to be a little more tolerant of the delays they've experienced. However, waiting for a couch for five months is silly and it's even sillier that this shop has decided to go silent on you. In fact it's more that silly, it's crazy. Do they want their reputation to be ruined? Do they want everyone to know that they treat their customers like this?

I'll get in touch with the shop and ask them if this is what they want.

I want a new trombone!

I need your advice. Around March 2021 I called a certain music shop in Gaborone looking for a trombone silver in color. They assured me that they have it in stock and I can lay-bye it, I did all of this over the phone since I stay in Mahalapye and the shop is at Gabs. On July 2nd I visited the shop to pay the last instalment and collect it. The shop assistant opened the package and told me that the trombone doesn't look new, upon a close inspection I also realized that it has a lot of scratches, they offered to give me the old trombone and discount P100. I didn't agree to that offer and we agreed that they will contact me the following week and they never did. On the same day the shop manager notified me that if they find a new one it means the price is going to increase since my lay-bye was done on March before price increases.

I think this store needs to learn some basic lessons on customer service. And another series of lessons on the Consumer Protection Act.

Firstly, this store needs to learn the difference between new and used items. Section 5 of the Act says that a supplier "shall not, in relation to the marketing of goods or services, by way of words or conduct falsely represent … that goods are new or reconditioned". From what you've told me, when you first started paying for the trombone the shop didn't tell you that the trombone wasn't new? They didn't mention that it would be a scratched, obviously second-hand or damaged trombone?

Clearly they misled you. Clearly they also broke the law.

And then, after lying to you, they want to charge you more money to get the thing you paid for? Are they serious? Section 23 (1) of the Act says that a supplier may not enter into an agreement with a consumer that allows them to "unilaterally amend the terms of the contract or agreement". A store can't just change the price of an item because they feel like it.

Do you think they realise that the maximum penalty for breaking the Consumer Protection Act is a fine of up to P100,000, a term of five years in prison. Or both.

Shall we educate them about this?