Saturday, 15 September 2018

The 2018 Consumer Watchdog Conference - Thanks!

The 2018 CW Conference - Thanks!

Having caught up on the coffee I missed during the event and getting some sleep, I think I’m approaching normality again. I’m now in a state to thank various people.


THE SPEAKERS

Potlako Mawande from the Gambling Authority and Renee Yezo from Ture Interior Architects spoke about the truly amazing space that they created for the Gambling Authority. Sorry Thuli Johnson and Potlako Mawande, I’ve been telling people to make up reasons to visit the GA to see how a parastatal can look. Maybe you should charge people for tours?

Cornelius Ramatlhakwane and Cliff Lekoko from BotswanaPost talked about how they transformed a parastatal into a profit-making entity for the first time in its history. Cornelius is an inspirational leader and he’s the sort I’d want my children to work for.

My dear friend and hero, Nkata Seleka from Sleek Foods told us about the progress they have made since she spoke at the 2016 conference. A massive deal with KFC Botswana, new products and a future involving exports to SA, she proves that we can make businesses and brands in Botswana. She’s an inspiration to us all.

We’ll overlook the next guy who spoke about social media and who then gave an update on the new protections the 2018 Consumer Protection Act offers us. He was terrible, we probably won’t be using him again.

Kabelo Binns from Hotwire was, as always, predictably inspiring, talking about the art of business and the qualities needed in creating a successful personal brand.

Uyapo Ndadi, another national hero and his associate Phatsimo Mphetolang spoke about the art of using the law to protect ourselves.

Professor Kiran Bhagat, doctor, scientist and passionate exponent of holistic medicine and friend asked about the Art (and Science) of Medicine and why a deeper understanding of health issues is needed. We shouldn’t just be treating the symptoms, but the causes of ill-health.

THE WORKSHOPS

Endless thanks go to the remarkable people and organisations that ran the workshops on Day 2 of the Conference.

James Fern and Toyin Omotoye from BDO talked about the art of creating a healthy attitude towards money. Donald Molosi led participants through some truly remarkable activities, exploring the link between theatre and customer service. Renee and Tumelo Yezo showed how it’s possible to create remarkable, uplifting, stimulating spaces that bring out the best in an organisation and its people. Mariam Sethi of IT-IQ and her team also explored how technology is enabling people to become so much more creative in the ways they work. Simba Mariri took delegates through a challenging, eyes-widening, thought-provoking exploration of The Art of Thinking. Nkata Seleka of Sleek Foods, Lebogang Mmono from Just Ginger, James Briscoe from The Daily Grind and Othatha and Bokang Mokgwathi from TsinaTota Honey showed that creating a proudly local brand is not only possible, it’s happened so many times. Finally, Mophato Dance Theatre, well, more about them below.

THE SPONSORS

We could have held a conference without the sponsors but it wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting, entertaining and successful. Vast thanks must go to those at Stanbic, Orange, Hollard, Multichoice and Cell City. Thanks must also go to Milky Lane for what they do best. Ice cream for everyone!

THE CREW

The Consumer Watchdog team led by Thato Mbikiwa were, as always, remarkable. We couldn’t have done it without you. JP Glanville and the team from Showgroup were, yet again, amazing, giving us light, sound, video, music and a stage from which to perform.

Bonni Dintwa is extraordinary. You can’t get a better MC than Bonni, perhaps because he’s even more insane than we are? He gets us, how we like to be different, how we like to challenge, disrupt and sometimes even amuse. He’s a star.

Finally, the glue that holds our conferences together, has always been the Mophato Dance Theatre. These extraordinary people are a national treasure. Their energy, passion, drive, imagination, creativity and flair are unbeatable. They are truly amazing.


The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why did they take my money?

I have run accounts with my bank for a long time and was credited with various debit and credit cards. All has been smooth for all the years until I failed for the first time to pay my loan monthly instalment and, within a week, they transferred all the balances into my loan account without prior communication. Let it be known that I had been in communication with the bank once I realised the difficulties ahead. I was made to write a letter which was never responded to. Please assist.


I’m sorry to say that there’s probably nothing that can be done to help you with this.

The reason I’m pessimistic is that this is how banking works. If you have various accounts with a bank and one of them falls into arrears or becomes overdrawn without approval, the bank is within its rights to move money between your accounts to remedy that situation. So if you fall behind with your loan or your current account goes overdrawn by P500 and the bank sees that you have P10,000 in your savings account, they can move the P500 from the savings to the current account without consulting you first.

The reason they can do this is simple. It’s because you agreed they could. You might not remember it or perhaps you didn’t notice but when you signed the loan agreement there was a clause saying that they could do this. This is common practice with bank loans. Obviously if the bank had some sense of customer service they would have contacted you first and asked what was going wrong and maybe offered you some help but they weren’t actually obliged to do that. In your case you say you alerted the bank to the problems you were facing but clearly that message ever got through to the right people. Or perhaps it did and they decided they didn’t care.

We can contact the bank and see if they can contact you and explore ways to help you but remember that bank aren’t charities. They want your money. Kindness is not on their list of priorities.

Why won’t they repair my TV?

I am launching a complaint about a television I bought not so long ago and upon returning the television I did not find help although I am entitled to the guarantee and warranty services that we had agreed.

I lay-byed the television just two months ago and as we agreed to the three months lay-bye policy I paid my TV in time until I finished it on the 23rd August when I then took it home for use. A week after the purchase my TV slightly hit a wall when it went dark. Two days later I went back to the store to inform them about the damaged product, they did not help me and so I decided to look for help were I could find it better, Consumer Watchdog.

I bought this television very expensively, P1490 and it's really sad and heart breaking to lose such much money on a product I never really used and enjoyed.

I really and kindly hope my request complaint will be met. Thank you.


I’m very sorry but I don’t have any good news for you. The warranty that comes with something like a TV guarantees you a solution if there’s either a manufacturing problem with the device or a subsequent fault during the warranty period. The warranty does NOT help you if the TV is damaged accidentally or carelessly after it’s delivered and that seems to be what happened here?

Think of it this way. Did either the manufacturer or the store break the TV? Did either of them do anything that led to the damage the TV experienced? Was it, in any way, their fault that the damage happened? I think not.

I know it’s too late for you in this situation but the best advice I can give you is to get a household insurance policy. Yes, this costs a little money but it would have paid for the repair of replacement of your TV when this accident occurred. It would also have covered anything else that might have been damaged or lost. Insurance might seem expensive but only until the first time you submit a claim. That’s when you realise that not having insurance can be a very expensive oversight.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should they refund me?

I need advice on this issue, my four year old child goes to a preschool and he has been going there for the past three years. I have always paid school fees on time and in most cases prepaid the entire term.

I have prepaid this term's school fees, this is the term beginning August 2018 and ends October 2018. My wife has been recently transferred and we told the school that we will be moving the child to a different school.

The head teachers has categorically refused to refund us the prepaid portion of the school fees. He refused to give reasons why as well. Please advise on the best cause of action.


Unfortunately, I don’t think I can give you any good news. Normal practice with private schools is that you’re required to give notice of your intention to cancel your child’s place at the school. Normally, it’s meant to be full term’s notice and I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Your child took a place that could have been offered to someone else’s child and if they refund you the fees you paid in advance, the school is going to lose out. Is that really fair on them? You’ll probably find something in the contract you signed with the school that describes this in detail. Any sensible school would certainly include such a condition to protect their interests.

This is very similar to the notice periods you’ll find in many other contracts, whether it’s a tenancy agreement, a contract of employment or a mortgage or bank loan. You can’t just terminate the contract without some sort of notice period or penalty. That’s why it’s so important to read any agreement thoroughly before signing it so you know in advance about conditions like this.

All I can advise you to do is to see if the headteacher of the school is prepared to be flexible, but I must warn you, don’t be optimistic.

Where’s my refund?

I bought a bed on the 16th July from a furniture store for P3,000 cash and they promised to deliver the bed immediately. A week passed and the bed was not delivered, despite the daily promises that the store made that they will deliver the bed every day when I called to make follow up. On July 23rd I asked for a refund because I had not received this bed which I had fully paid for. They asked for my ID and proof of banking details to facilitate the refund, which I submitted and they promised to make payment in a week’s time because a refund is a long administrative process on their side. After week and a half I made follow up about the payment, and I was told there were missing supporting documents that I had to submit.

I was very angry because I don’t understand why they had to wait for my call to tell me there were missing documents but I submitted the ID on the 8th August, 2 days after they had requested them. They then promised payment will be made but to this day I have not received my payment and they are taking me from pillar to post and there has been no feedback whatsoever on their side, I have to call them every day at my expenses and they are just not helpful. What can I do?


I think that the first thing you should do is to stop being so patient. It’s now time to become very, very impatient. You bought your bed almost two months ago, you asked for a refund shortly after that and there is absolutely no reason why it should take this long to be processed.

I think you should write the store a letter reminding them that you cancelled the purchase and exercised your right under Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations to demand a refund, explaining that they’ve completely failed to honour their side of the contract you both agreed. Make it clear to them that you no longer want the product. Tell them that if they fail to give you a full refund within a certain period, perhaps seven days, if you’re feeling generous, two if you’re impatient that you’ll take legal action against them.

Meanwhile we’ll contact the store’s head office and see if the Managing Director can’t accelerate things a little. You’ve been patient enough.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is Karatbars real?

I saw you removed an advertisement for Karatbars from your Facebook group. Is this because it’s a scam? Please tell me more because people are telling me about it saying I can make money from gold.


Let’s start with some history. We first heard of Karatbars in 2014 when people approached us asking about the scheme. We contacted some of the local organisers and they told us that the scheme had been endorsed by BURS, the Department of Mines, the German Embassy and even by Consumer Watchdog.


In fact, none of these things were true.



They were all lies.

The people recruiting people into Karatbars promised riches from investing in gold even though back then the price of gold had been steadily dropping for a long time. Also, the amount of gold Karatbars was offering was tiny and the price they were charging for these tiny amounts was about 60% higher than the real gold price at the time.


In fact, Karatbars was nothing more than a pyramid scheme exploiting public ignorance of the international gold market and the promise of making lots of money from recruiting other people. The authorities in Canada also started to take action against them and fairly quickly Karatbars seemed to disappear. I knew a few people lost some money by joining the scheme but it wasn’t as bad as some other pyramid schemes we’ve seen.

But now they’re back. They advertisement you saw in the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group announced that Karatbars was back and hosting the “Karatbars World Tour” in Joburg this week. So, has anything changed? Are they still selling over-priced gold in tiny quantities?


No, they’ve moved on. Now like all the other sophisticated scammers, they’re marketing a cryptocurrency they call the Karatgold Coin.


They say that this is “a blockchain-based cryptocurrency” that is “specially designed to be used as a generally accepted electronic payment means for all who consider gold as a traditional, true, secure and value-stable medium”. In other words they want us to use it as money. But that’s going to be a challenge when the currency they talk about doesn’t actually exist. Yet again, Karatbars is based on lies and experience shows that liars can’t be trusted.

If they approach you, please don’t get seduced by their sales pitch about gold and cryptocurrencies. It’s just more lies from a scheme with a history of lying.

Is the courier company real?

Hello, I want to know if this courier company from Nigeria exists, Fastway Courier Services. Someone said she sent me some parcels through it and I have to pay 2000 pula as the delivery fee as she didn't pay for it because she paid with a cheque and they don't accept cheques. They say I have to deposit the money on their FNB account. Please help me.


No matter what these people say, regardless of how convincing or demanding they might be, please do NOT send them any money. This is undoubtedly a scam.

Even though there seems to be some legitimate companies around the world calling themselves “Fastway Courier Services” this is certainly not one of them. Real courier companies don’t demand amounts like this. If there are duties or taxes to pay then the local tax authority will know about it.

Unfortunately, we hear all the time from people who, like you, met someone on Facebook who eventually offers to send a parcel of goods, almost always promising that they include valuable items such as laptops, cellphones, jewellery and often cash as well. However, the truth is that the parcel doesn’t exist, the courier company that claims it needs to be paid by the recipient and even the friend on Facebook are all fake. None of them is real.

In our experience the victim of these “romantic scams” is almost always a woman being scammed by a man but your case is one of the rare ones where the scammer is using a female profile to “seduce” a male victim. The Facebook profile used by this scammer is clearly targeted at men, showing pictures of a beautiful, curvaceous woman. What’s more, almost all of the Facebook friends of this profile are other men. Clearly they’re attracting a large pool of potential victims.

It just shows how scammers adapt and do their best to exploit anyone’s weakness. Nobody is safe.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay?

I would like some help or advice from you. My story goes like this: I once helped a foreign friend to buy furniture from a furniture store on credit. After that a sales consultant personally called me to help them again because they are their customers and they trust them they will pay and I did that. Unfortunately the gentleman fell sick and died in South Africa and I was not able to get hold of the wife and other family members. I went back to them and told them what has happened and I wanted to talk to the sales consultant on what to do because she was the one who talked to me and they said I can’t talk to her as she has been transferred somewhere. I kept on going to them and ask what to do and they kept on saying I must look for the deceased wife who has been signing all the paperwork at the shop of payments and all the staff.

Now I have been taken to debt collectors because the furniture is in my name. What should I do because I wanted the sales consultant to be involved but they are not telling me where she is. Does this mean I will have to pay even though they know the whole story and I don't have those things?

What should I do Sir?

This is going to be very difficult. You don’t need to be a qualified attorney to know that once an agreement is put in writing that’s all that matters. There’s even a name for it, the “parol rule”, which says that “when a transaction has been reduced into writing, the writing is regarded as the exclusive memorial of the transaction and no evidence may be given to contradict, alter, add or vary its terms”.

The problem you face is that the only written agreement is the one that says that YOU are the customer and that YOU are the owner of the furniture. YOU are the one that owes the company the money.

Of course, if there was a written agreement between you and the deceased South African friend, then you might have a way to get the money from his estate. Did you have such an agreement?

Whether you had such an agreement or not, you need to do your best to find the South African family and see if they can’t help you out. I’d be happy to try but if not you might need either to invest in tracing him or just accept that you’re the one who a dead man’s bills.

Is he real?

Hello Mr Richard. I need your help. I've been communicating with someone on Facebook claiming to be the Nigerian musician Davido. He asked me a few questions saying it was a competition. He just forwarded this. Is it genuine? “You've just won yourself a brand new apple Laptop iPhones8+ MacBook and a plasma TV as promised. Please to claim your prize you will whatsapp the FASTWAY COURIER NIG ENTERPRISES DELIVERY SERVICES on this digits: +2347080044292 also on whatsapp +2347080044292, and give him your parcel number [NIG6283ZAM] He's a disciplined and principled man just tell him you won a package from me and drop your parcel number.,NOTE they will charge you $100usd for transportation of your gifts to your various destination, Congratulations once again”

Do you think this is real?

No, I don’t think that this is real, I am 100% certain that this is a scam.

Firstly, why would a celebrity contact people like you and me about a competition? And why would they be doing this using Facebook? Remember that it is one of the easiest things to create a Facebook profile, even to create a profile pretending to be that of a celebrity. It takes just a few seconds to copy pictures and updates from a genuine celebrity and a few more to create some posts to make the profile look convincing.

I took a look at the Facebook profile account that sent you this message and it’s clearly fake. Why, for instance, would a famous Nigerian singer be so interested in Botswana? In fact, almost all the groups he’s joined or pages he’s liked are connected with Botswana and none seem related to Nigeria. This is a profile deliberately created to scam us in Botswana.

Then there are the usual clues. The number given is a cellphone number and I think it’s safe to assume that the courier company is fake as well. This is just about the $100 that the fake celebrity is demanding. It’s nothing but a scam.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 13th August 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Scam stories

A story was published entitled “Florida Woman Loses $1 Million In Online Dating Scam”. It told of someone who fell for a "romance scam" is likely to lose her home and end up $350,000 in debt. This is obviously a major example of these romantic scams but we're not immune in Botswana. We probably hear of them once or twice every week. Luckily we're normally intimate to prevent people giving away their money but not always. These scams usually originate on dating web sites or Facebook and end up with a fictitious packages of gifts being "held up" at a customs point in a foreign country. For victims in Botswana the claim is usually that the package is in Cape Town. Spread the word, people you meet on Facebook, no matter how charming they might seem, don't come bearing gifts. They come bearing theft.

2. They broke my phone
“I was in a supermarket and I picked a few items and I went to the till point to pay then I put my phone on top of the counter because I wanted to get money from my pocket. Then after she scanned 2kg washing powder she put it the counter and it pushed my phone and it fell and the screen got broken. I told the cashier she broke my phone and she said sorry and went on to say you were not suppose to put your phone on top of the counter. I said where is it written? She said its not written anywhere. That’s when I took the matter to the manager. So yesterday the manager called me and told me the fault is fine and they can’t fix my phone just like that. What can I do?"
So whose fault is it? The store? The customer? Actually probably a mixture. If you put a valuable phone somewhere where it's likely to be damaged you need to be prepared to take some personal responsibility.

3. Must I pay again?
"I have been dealing with a certain garage and I feel they are ripping me off. My car was spilling fuel and I took it to them they said it was a pipe that was loose. They repaired the pipe and charged me P950. A week later it did the same and I took it back to them and they said the pipes were blocked and they wanted to charge P300 which I contested and they let me go. Now it has done the same after a week of so. They now say the pipes need to be replaced. I bought the pipes yesterday and they now want to charge me P650 for replacing the pipes I bought for P60. My issue now is they are charging me for the job they have charged me for again. They could have noticed that the pipes were old the first time I took the car to them. Please advise?
Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that services must be rendered “with reasonable care and skill”. Was this truly on this occasion?

Section 15 (1) (b) says that the supplier fails "to meet minimum standards of performance" if they quote “scientific or technical data in support of a claim unless the data can be readily substantiated”. Was this truly on this occasion?

However, perhaps the mechanic was just doing his best? Diagnosis of problems in complicated systems such as cars, computers, cellphones can be very difficult.

Maybe there's room for a compromise here over price? Or go elsewhere.

4. Must they help me?
“I am tendering for suppling a [name of device removed]. The challenge is the company that supplies this equipment is not willing to help me with the quote because they are also tendering. Is this company allowed to deny me the services?”
Can you really demand that a supplier supply you with something if they don't want to? Do we have a right to demand to buy things? In a similar manner a supplier, a store, a restaurant can, in certain situations, decline to service us.
  • Examples of reasons that a supplier CAN refuse to serve us: Poor past or current misbehaviour, drunkenness, breach of a dress code, debt, previous financial behaviour, previous bounced cheques
  • Examples of reasons that a supplier can NOT refuse to serve us: gender (with very few exceptions such as bathrooms and changing rooms), race, religion, political belief
5. How to complain – Consumer Watchdog Official Complaints Procedure

The old Official 3-Step Consumer Watchdog Complaints Procedure was as follows:

1. Complain to the person who offended you.
2. Complain to the most senior person in the building. Their title will be something like "Store Manager", "Branch Manager" or "Restaurant Manager".
3. Complain to the most senior person in the entire organisation. Their title will be something like Managing Director or Chief Executive Officer, President or Pope.

This has now been replaced by the new Official 1-Step Consumer Watchdog Complaints Procedure which goes like this:

1. Complain however, wherever and whenever you please. That does include Facebook.

In 2018 consumers are in charge. There is nothing suppliers can do about it.

6. Pyramids schemes vs MLMs

Following a discussion in our Facebook group on the differences between pyramid schemes and Multi-Level Marketing schemes (following which a small number of people who insisted on trying to market both were banned people from the group), it's important to explain the essential difference.

Section 9 of the 2018 Consumer Protection Act says that “A person shall not directly or indirectly promote, or knowingly join, enter or participate, or cause any other person to promote, join, enter or participate in…
(a) A pyramid scheme
(b) A multiplication scheme
(c) A chain letter scheme”

These are each defined as follows:
  • Pyramid scheme – “where participants in the scheme receive compensation derived primarily from their respective recruitment of other persons as participants”
  • Multiplication scheme: – “offers, promises or guarantees … an effective interest rate that is above the market rate”
  • Chain letter scheme – “each successive newly recruited participant is required to make some form of payment which would be distributed to some of the previously existing participants”
So it's quite simple, according to Botswana law. If the scheme suggests or promises or even deliver a mechanism where the money offered or earned is "primarily" from the recruitment of other people, then it's a pyramid scheme. What could be simpler?

Saturday, 18 August 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay again?

I have been dealing with a certain garage and I feel they are ripping me off. My car was spilling fuel and I took it to them they said it was a pipe that was loose. They repaired the pipe and charged me P950, P650 being for towing and P200 for tightening the pipe. A week later it did the same and I took it back to them and they said the pipes were blocked and they wanted to charge P300 which I contested and they let me go. Now it has done the same after a week of so. They now say the pipes need to be replaced. I bought the pipes yesterday and they now want to charge me P650 for replacing the pipes I bought for P60. My issue now is they are charging me for the job they have charged me for again. They could have noticed that the pipes were old the first time I took the car to them. Please advise?

This might be a difficult one.

Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations requires that a supplier of a service must deliver those services “with reasonable care and skill”. The next section also states that the supplier has broken the rules if he or she “quotes scientific or technical data in support of a claim unless the data can be readily substantiated”. I get the impression that your mechanic might have failed to satisfy both of these requirements. He wasn’t able to fix the problem and is now making claims that he might not be able to justify.

However, the trouble is that he can claim, and this might even be true, that he was doing his best when he repaired the pipe and that he genuinely believed, based on his skills and experience, that it would fix the problem. I’m no expert on cars but I know that complicated technical matters can be very difficult to diagnose and fix. That goes for vehicles but also for computers, household appliances and even medical issues. The initial diagnosis isn’t always the final one.

I suggest that you should compromise. Why not suggest that, given that his initial suggestion didn’t work, he needs to be a bit more flexible rather than just run up a huge bill for you? If he fails to cooperate, then maybe we can escalate things a little.

They broke my phone!

I was in a supermarket and I picked a few items and I went to the till point to pay then I put my phone on top of the counter because I wanted to get money from my pocket. Then after she scanned 2kg washing powder she put it the counter and it pushed my phone and it fell and the screen got broken. I told the cashier she broke my phone and she said sorry and went on to say you were not suppose to put your phone on top of the counter. I said where is it written? She said its not written anywhere! I took seconds looking at the phone and the same cashier who broke my phone told me to move because I’m delaying people behind me who wants to pay. I told her how can you say that to me? You destroyed my phone what should I do she said she doesn’t know. Thats when I took the matter to the manager. So yesterday the manager called me and told me the fault is fine and they can’t fix my phone just like that. What can I do?

I suspect there’s not much you can do. I spoke to the management of the supermarket chain and their position was simple. They spoke to their staff and told me that because you were the one who placed your phone on the counter, a space reserved for shopping, that you were to blame for the damage to the phone. Their argument is that a consumer would have known the risk of putting a phone amongst shopping that was being scanned.

Unfortunately, while this might not seem very sympathetic by the store, I suspect it’s reasonable. The counter is a place for shopping to be moved around, not somewhere you place something as important and valuable as a cellphone. Sorry!