Saturday, 30 May 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why won’t they talk to me?

I really need your help. Around September 2019 I was offered a flat for sale, so I asked a law firm to do the whole conveyance and bond registration process and to this day they haven’t done anything to show progress and I apparently cannot get another firm until I get my file from the first firm. They are not giving me any reasonable explanation as to why a process that should have taken a month to complete now has over 7 months. Before the lockdown I asked them to return my files so that I could get another law firm, they had promised to give me the files before the lockdown but never came through.

Kindly assist me in any way possible. Any help will be welcome and thank you.

I have great respect for the legal profession. They perform an incredibly important role in any society. I’ve also been privileged to get to know some of them and a very select group have become very good friends. However, like any profession, you also get some crooks, shady characters and those that are just unreliable. Like these guys.

I know that any house purchase can take a long time. I’ve certainly been there myself. Something you suspect will take just a couple of weeks ends up taking months. However, you have a right to expect that any service provider, whether it’s an attorney, a bank, an insurance company or even a delivery company to keep you updated. In fact, the law now demands this. Section 14 (1) of the new 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 … the timely performance and completion of those services”. It doesn’t say what ‘timely’ means because that might vary enormously, depending on what services you’re buying, but I think we all know when something ISN’T ‘timely’, don’t we? Seven months without an update is certainly NOT timely.

However, the law goes further. It also says that a consumer has a right to “timely notice of any unavoidable delay in the performance of the services”. In other words, if something is going to be delayed, they must tell you. Going silent on a customer is no longer acceptable.

I suggest that teach your attorney about the law. Yes, I know it’s meant to work the other way around, but clearly this attorney needs some tuition. You should also consider reporting them to the Law Society. That might add to their education.

MORE WARNINGS

We’ve all learned a lot of lessons from coronavirus and Covid-19 in the last few months. At least I hope we have. One particularly important lesson we all need to learn is the difference between science and pseudoscience, between real medicine and fake.

Unfortunately, there are several schemes currently doing their best to exploit the lack of understanding. For instance, distributors for Greenleaf told me that I “need” a very small range of their products if I have diabetes, cataracts, cardio-vascular disease, hypertension, various types of cancer, several sexually transmitted infections, leprosy and an enormous range of other disorders.

A distributor for AG Nutrition, who market a product called AG Cera, told me that it can “cleanse the body and improve immune system”. Others reported that it can heal cancer, diabetes, fibroids and asthma.

All of these claims are illegal. Making health claims about a product is forbidden by Sections 396-399 of Penal Code and by Section 83 of the Public Health Act.

It’s also incredibly dangerous. Most of us will be sceptical about non-specialists selling products they claim can treat or cure disorders that modern medicine has difficulty treating. However, some people WILL fall for their lies. People desperate to find a treatment for a disease they’re suffering or that someone they love is fighting might easily be persuaded by the dangerous and illegal claims made by charlatans.

Of course, these products are often just a cover story for a pyramid scheme. They’re often more about recruiting other people rather than selling their bogus products.

A presentation for AG Nutrition included the statement, “You don't have to sell in order to earn big money.”


The good news is that pyramid schemes are now illegal in Botswana and promoting them or even just joining can lead to a fine of up to P100,000, five years in prison or both. Is that a risk you’re prepared to take? Is it a risk that you want the people you care about to take? Please help spread the word!

Saturday, 23 May 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must they repair it?

I need your help, I bought a gearbox from a certain company in Mogoditzhane end of January, took it and looked for mechanic to fit it for me and we found its leaking. I went back to the them and they said they will repair it since they are imported as second hand. They said it was fine, but after fitting again it was still leaking. They said they will repair it again and still it was leaking and I went back to them and they kept on saying they will call me back until there was lockdown.

I will appreciate your help.


I have good news for you. And some bad news. Let’s start with the bad news. People like this mechanic are the bad news. They are very good at telling stories and making up excuses for why they fail to offer you a decent service. People like him rely on the rest of us giving up after we become too frustrated.

The good news is that the law is on your side. The new Consumer Protection Act gives consumers a number of very powerful new protections One of them is your new best friend.

One thing that the Act says is that the goods we buy must be of good quality. It says that “A consumer has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects, unless the opposite is clearly disclosed.” In your case, if the mechanic had told you that the gearbox he supplied was imperfect or likely not to work then he’d be in the clear. But he didn’t, did he?

However, not everything works perfectly, not even brand new items and Section 16 of the Act says when something goes wrong within six months of it being delivered, the consumer may return them for repair, replacement or a refund but it's up to the supplier to decide which of those to offer. That’s actually nothing new, the old Act gave us that protection. The new protection, the bit that will please you (and NOT please your mechanic) is that the law now says that if "within three months the same problem recurs" the supplier must offer either a replacement or refund. There's no second chance to offer a repair in that three months.

I suggest that you tell your mechanic this and see if he’s prepared to obey the law or maybe he’d prefer the Competition and Consumer Authority to force him to do so?

WARNINGS

Just because we’re all under lockdown, that doesn’t mean that scammers are as well. In fact, they’re still VERY busy, doing their best to steal our money. None of the techniques are new, we’ve probably all seen these things before but even if you and I have seen these scams before, that doesn’t mean our friends, family members and neighbours have. By the way, it’s not just “unsophisticated” people like you and me that fall for scams, some of the people we hear from are highly educated, smart professionals.

Several people have asked us if the emails they’ve received saying that their mailbox is full, or their mail account has been disabled, or their “account needs to be upgraded” are true. It’s simple. They’re not. These emails always include a link the recipient is asked to click on to fix the problem. That link will open a page that will look a bit like your webmail sign-on screen but in fact is a fake. If you look closely at the URL, the web site you’re visiting will have no connection to your mail provider. What the scammers want is for you to enter your email address and password. Within moments of entering your details they’ll have changed your password and will be stealing your identity and sending more scam emails from your address. Please don’t fall for it!

Unfortunately, coronavirus hasn’t killed off pyramid schemes. Two in particular are busy right now, desperately trying to recruit new victims. Crowd1 has already been outlawed in Namibia and the authorities in the Philippines, Norway and Paraguay have taken action as well, warning their people to avoid it.


Another, calling itself “Money In Crew” is identical, focussed only on recruiting other victims.

The good news is that pyramid schemes are now illegal in Botswana and promoting them or even just joining can lead to a fine of up to P100,000, five years in prison or both. Is that a risk you’re prepared to take? Is it a risk that you want the people you care about to take? Please help spread the word!

Saturday, 16 May 2020

The Voice - Consumers Voice

Where’s my money?

Please I need your help. I and my fiance have been saving some money in his little sister's account, who is an ex-UB student. The account she was using was a student account. It happened the card expired on the way, and they blocked her cellphone banking which she was not aware that they intentionally blocked it. She thought it might some technical errors. On the other side us we were able to pay the money in the account without any difficulties. Last year November she visited the bank to renew the card that's when they told her that they have blocked the cell phone banking because she is no longer a student. They asked her to change from student card to either a current or saving, when she tried to cash the money over the counter they told her that she can not cash the money since they are still investigating the source of the money. Until today they are still investigating the source of the money. She tried to explain to them that they investigate us since we were depositing using pay to cell. Please help me to get our money back.


Before we start trying to solve this problem I have a few basic questions. Firstly, why were you saving money in someone else’s bank account? You realise that, as far as the bank is concerned, that money now belongs to your fiancĂ©’s sister, not you, don’t you? Her bank account, her money. Were you perhaps saving it there to avoid bank charges? Were you exploiting the cheaper student account rather than using a more expensive account you might have? If so, the bank is likely to be unsympathetic to both you and the sister. Student accounts are meant solely for students, not for their relatives or friends. They’re not even meant for students once they’ve graduated.

You also probably bypassed the bank’s KYC rules, which is why the bank now wants to investigate the source of the money you deposited. Banks don’t force customers to go through the incredibly irritating ‘Know Your Customer’ processes because they want to, they do it because they are required to do by various regulators. I suggest that you write the bank a letter explaining where the money came from, showing them payslips if you have them or other proof of income if you don’t. Maybe you should think about opening your own savings account as well?

Where’s my filing?

I received a text from CIPA that I must pay my annual return by the 10th of this month and if I don’t pay they will deregister the company. I paid money to the guy who does consultant services. He is the guy who helped me with bank account opening. I paid the money on the 7th and the guy promised to send me the receipt but ever since I paid he doesn't take my calls nor reply my messages. Sometimes if he takes my calls he pretends as if its network problems. My biggest worry is that CIPA might deregister my company.

So now am stranded. I don’t know what to do.


I think the first thing you should do is call CIPA. They’re reasonable people who will understand that you’ve being messed around by a shady character. They’ll probably welcome knowing that a guy like this one isn’t the sort of person they want filing for companies on behalf of honest people like you.

At the same time you should contact the guy and tell him that he no longer has your permission to do anything on your behalf. Tell him that he has failed to deliver the services you hired him to do and you demand a full refund for everything you paid him. In your position I’d give him seven days to refund you.

Finally, you realise that these days it’s easy to file these returns yourself? CIPA offer lots of guidance on their web site about how to do it yourself and it’s even cheaper to do it online that to do it by visiting CIPA’s office. It’s also easy these days to open a bank account, particularly a personal account. There are even banks that allow you to open a bank account entirely from your cellphone, you don’t even need to visit a branch to do it.

Opening a business account is slightly harder but if you have all the right paperwork it shouldn’t take you long. I suspect you’ll find it a lot easier to do this yourself rather than hiring someone as unreliable as this guy who just takes your money and then disappears. I’ll contact him as well and try to persuade him to do the decent thing.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They want my ID!

I am kindly contacting you seeking help concerning emails that I have been receiving from someone, who claims that they are oversees and are willing to help me claim inheritance of a family relative in the USA. They want me to send a scanned copy of my identity card.

I think you probably know already that this is a scam, don’t you? I hope you do.

We’ve perhaps all heard stories of long-lost relatives dying and leaving their fortunes to their distant family members, family members who have never actually heard of them. But they’re just stories, the sort of thing we see in movies and read in romantic novels. They don’t happen in real life.

This is the beginning of an advance fee scam, there’s no doubt about it, I’ve seen many just like before. While the first contact says that you will benefit from your fake relative’s fake inheritance sooner or later they’ll demand money from you in order to get this fake money. Sometimes they’ll tell you that it’s attorney’s fees, other times a tax or duty to pay, sometimes an account opening fee. I predict it would have been P3-5,000, it’s always about that amount. Once you pay that, they keep inventing more and more payments you need to make until you get your inheritance. An inheritance, you should remember, that doesn’t exist.

They’ll continue to demand money from you until either you realise you’re being scammed or until you have no money left. Unfortunately, I’ve heard from too many people who given these scammers almost everything they’ve got. I really hope you won’t be another case like this.

The best thing you can do is delete all the emails you’ve received from these scammers and any further emails they send you. If you feel like being adventurous you can send them an incredibly rude email telling them what you think of them. Remember that scammers don’t deserve courtesy!

Where’s my furniture?

Last year I saw an advert for furniture on Facebook and I paid P600 for laybye of a double bed, head board and 2 sides, then on the 23 February I communicated with her that I will be coming to their offices to pay the balance and collect the furniture.

I hired transport to collect the furniture, when I got there I asked the guard even workers did not knew the name of the company I tried calling the lady but her phone was not going through. I tried the other number on the receipt but the guy said he works for the company but at Tswapong so he is not familiar with the one at Gaborone. I went back without the furniture that day. Thats when the lady communicated saying her phone battery died. I told her to bring my deposit or deliver the furniture at Lobatse because that is where I was taking the furniture to for free as their way of compensating me.

She agreed and she said their trucks will be leaving to South Africa they will pass bye to drop my furniture. I sent the balance P1356 and she even gave me the number for the driver to confirm if they are coming. Unfortunately that never happened. She started telling stories and I told her they should sort it out at their company.

During the week she called to say she managed to get a truck to deliver my furniture. I went to Lobatse to await it but again she disappointed me. The following day I went again to where she had directed me, she was not there. The guys at the warehouse said she doesn't have a supervisor to report her to is her own boss. Up to date she has not called so I’m kindly asking for your help.

The lady is telling that the only way I'll get the furniture is to pay P200 more on top of all the expenses I incurred for other wise I’m still going to wait. I asked her to send back my money she is refusing.


I contacted the company and their first response was “Yes she bought furniture from us. When we open after lockdown her things will be delivered” but then they changed their mind and became argumentative, suggesting that it was your fault that the furniture wasn’t delivered. So yes, I agree that it’s time for a refund. I suggest that you tell them that Sections 7(6) and 27(1) of the Consumer Protection Act both say very clearly that you are entitled to cancel the deal and get your money back. If they don’t agree to that and repay you then we need to escalate the issue further. We won’t give up!

Saturday, 2 May 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must they fix my damaged suite?

I have an issue with Lewis Rail Park. On January 21 I bought in cash a 3/4 and single beds for my kids. We paid and were promised to get the beds the same day and were later told it will be the next day.

One bed came with no wheel attachment and we dismissed it as minor. If was only today, due to the lockdown that we move the beds for the 1st time to put them on top of the other we notice that the beds are very poor quality and the mattress is not the changeable one. The top and bottom are not the same unlike we indicated when buying. The guys who delivered set up for us and we never paid attention. I checked the receipts and there is damaged written on the receipts and it was never mentioned. We are to blame for not paying attention but this is printed out. We wouldn’t pay 2.7 for a bed that is damaged when we could buy a good quality one at that price.

On the receipts. they have no contacts or name of the manager. I feel so cheated and keep blaming us but then who valued the beds to be worth 2700 each? How do I get my case to be heard?

All I want is beds worth 2.7 each.


There are several important lessons to be learned from this experience. Perhaps the first, and most important thing is never to sign anything you haven’t read. I suspect that when they delivered the beds, the delivery guys asked you to sign a delivery note. If you’d looked closely you would have seen the note saying that the goods were damaged and that would have given you an opportunity to reject them. However, all is not lost. I think you still have the right to tell the store that you didn’t choose to buy damaged goods, you had a right to expect goods in perfect condition. You should tell the store this in very simple terms. 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”. You should tell them that.

You should also make it clear to the store that they failed to make it very clear that the goods were damaged. Section 24 of the Act says “A supplier shall ensure that every term and condition in a contract is brought to the attention of the consumer, especially terms or conditions that … limit the liability of the supplier”. They were required to bring the fact that they were damaged to your attention, not hide it from you.

I contacted Lewis Head Office some weeks ago but I still haven’t heard back from them. I think we both need to be a little bit more assertive with them. We’re not giving up!

Must they fix my suite?

I have a matter I’d love to share with you. I bought a 3-piece lounge suite from a furniture store in Molepolole in 2017.The total purchase price was P20,654.15 on hire purchase. Now the suite is cracking and the coat eroding, even the one i don’t sit on. I stay alone. And even the piece I don’t use at all is peeling. It looks like cheap material. My efforts to call them are in vain.

How may I approach this matter? I feel robbed to be honest.


Here’s another lesson we all need to learn. Firstly, as I’ve mentioned many times before, hire purchase is a very expensive and high-risk way to buy things. You spent over P20,000 on a lounge suite. I guess that the cash price was probably half of that. Add in the profit margin that the store is entitled to make and you probably have an item that cost them just a couple of thousand to make. The lesson is that not only is it an expensive way to buy things, it’s also a very expensive way to buy very cheap things. Cheap things that don’t last very long.

That’s another lesson. How long these things last. It’s no surprise that goods you buy on hire purchase over two years only have a warranty lasting one year. That’s because the store doesn’t expect them to last more than a year because they know how cheaply they were made.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s anything you can do. The goods are now far out of their warranty and the store no longer has any obligation to fix them. I’m sorry, it’s a painful lesson.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Won’t they pay?

Please help me. I have insured my car and had an accident in Block 10 on the 13th of March. Now I just received an email that they cant help me because I was above speed limit. I was driving at 70. The police they said reckless driving. It was on a curve so someone was in my line with bright lights and I tried to move aside by the road then hit the drain. Is this really fair???


Firstly, I’m glad you had an insurance policy because it’s the smart thing to do. Even a basic vehicle insurance policy will cover you against potentially huge costs. I don’t mean the cost of any damage caused to YOUR vehicle by accident or collision, I mean the costs of damaging someone else’s vehicle. A few years ago we heard of a driver who caused a collision but who had no insurance. His car was destroyed but he also destroyed another driver’s brand new P750,000 Mercedes. Luckily for the other driver, he had an insurance policy so within a few weeks his insurance policy had paid for a replacement Mercedes. He was happy again. Unfortunately, the uninsured driver then received a demand from the victim’s insurance company demanding that he pay them back the three quarters of a million they’d paid out. Was this right, he asked? Yes, we told him, that what happens when you cause an accident and don’t have an insurance policy. You pay the bill.

In your case I think this all depends on what the text of the insurance policy says. Most insurance policies automatically reject claims if, for instance, the driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident. It looks like your policy says that claims are rejected if you weren’t obeying the traffic laws at the time of the incident. If you were charged by the Police they might consider that sufficient proof of this.

I’ll contact the insurance company for you and ask them to double check the small print and make sure they’ve taken the right decision.

Please help my sister!

My sister needs help. Sometime in 2009 she applied for a loan from her bank and cleared it in 2013/14. A month ago she applied for a facility to consolidate through another bank and was informed that she had been listed with CRB. Upon inquiring from the first bank, they told her that their records do not show that she cleared that loan. The say back in 2013/14 the loan balance was around 28k, and now it's at 43k

Unfortunately for her, it's been almost 7 years and she can't find her records so she is really at the mercy of the bank. They keep giving her stories that they suspect that the money was deposited into another account.

They are actually saying that they will give her a discount to pay the 43k. But why should she have to pay a loan twice when it is clearly their wrongdoing?

She says the bank never contacted her and she had never changed numbers since she started using it in 2008. They can't explain why there was never any communication from them.

Kindly advise what she can do.


The difficulty here is that it’s the responsibility of both parties to a loan, the borrower and the lender, to make sure that the loan is repaid fully and is settled finally. Very often we assume that the lender, in this case the bank, will get everything right and will keep full and accurate records. The bad news is that banks aren’t always as reliable as we need them to be. Like us, they’re flawed and lose things. It’s why it’s very important to keep bank statements, whether they’re printed or emailed somewhere safe.

I contacted the bank and asked them to take another look and see if they can trace any payments your sister made.

UPDATE: The bank assured me that they would investigate the matter urgently. I then heard from the customer that the bank managed to help her sister and they’ve cleared her name with CRB and emailed her a clearance letter.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can’t they refund me?

Good day Richard. Please help I sent my brother to a pharmacy in Mochudi to buy blackseed oil and he bought the wrong one. He bought the one for the hair but I wanted the consumable one now they are refusing to return it. I called the assistant who is taking the call and she is so rude. She refused to tell me her name and hanged the phone. I tried calling several times but she is cutting my call. Their boss also refused to take my call they are saying he is busy.

The lady later called saying the boss said they can’t give me cash back rather I take something in the shop. I told them that was the last money I had and I have to buy blackseed oil because I am using it for my sinus infection. I don’t have another money to buy blackseed oil again. I thought I didn’t open it they could refund me since there is nothing I can swap with.


Unfortunately, this is a painful lesson about consumer rights. Consumers don’t have a right to change their minds if they buy the wrong thing. We don’t have a right to take something back if we don’t like it. Most importantly for you, we don’t have a right to return something if we bought it by mistake. The only times we can demand that a store fixes a situation is when they mis-sold something or if it doesn’t work properly. Section 15 (1) of the 2018 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”.

However, in your case the store hasn’t actually done anything wrong. I know it seems difficult, but from what you say, it wasn’t the pharmacy’s fault that your brother chose the wrong product. Of course, a store owned or operated by kinder people would probably be more helpful. As you said, you didn’t open the packet so there’s no good reason why the pharmacy can’t just put it back on the shelf. Unfortunately, not all store owners and managers are as pleasant as we’d like them to be.

Here’s one other minor issue. There is actually no reliable scientific evidence that black seed oil has any real medicinal benefits. Once the lockdown is over it might be worth talking to a doctor if you have persistent sinus problems.

If you send me the contact details for the pharmacy I’d be happy to get in touch and see if they can’t be a bit more charitable.

How can I make him pay?

I need your help regarding someone who has been toying with my emotions while they owe me since last year February. I gave him money to buy me a car from Durban. At first he brought me a rundown Vitz and I didn't accept it upon viewing it. He then took his time until around December (this was supposed to take 3 weeks at most) when he brought me another rundown car that I only used for 2 days and returned it back to him upon which I told him to refund me because I didn't want to deal with him anymore. He had asked for 26k for him to buy me the car. But I had to report him to police at that point because he just took his time to refund me, excuse after excuse. Then when the police called him and he paid 19k and promised to pay the balance within a week but he is now left with P2,500 to pay he keeps saying he will pay. He had promised to pay last Friday but he just does not respond to my calls or messages. He is ignoring me basically but he has the nerve to tell me its nothing but still he is not paying it. Can you please assist me because I don't want him near me any more. I thought of blasting him on the Consumer watchdog page but I know you don't usually encourage that so I kindly seek your intervention here.


I think the key thing here is that you already involved the police. I would go back to them and see if they can’t make another phone call or two and apply some pressure to this guy. However, there are limits to what they can do. They might easily argue that this is a civil matter between two people and that no crime has been committed. You can argue that he obtained “by false pretence” but, to be fair, the Police probably have other things on their agenda right now that they’ll consider more important.

I’ll be happy to get in touch with the guy and see if the knowledge that readers of The Voice are interested in the way he does business motivates him to do a little better.