Saturday, 24 March 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why won't they fix it?

I need help. I bought a fridge and microwave from a store in Molepolole. The fridge has been repaired twice and today it still has problems. I have long reported this to the stock clerk but she didn't help. I went to the manager and he promised to send a technician to check it out but he never came. Months and months passed and still I got no help. When I went back to the shop to see him, I saw a new manager and reported to him and he promised he would get a technician but there is still no sign of a technician. I went back to the shop end of January 2018 and told the manager that am giving him the whole of February to get a technician but even today there is still no technician. I paid for a replacement, insurance including repairs and I have paid all the money. So what do I do?

What do you do? I think you should stop being so patient.

I'm not sure whether you bought these items for cash or on hire purchase but I don't think that should make any difference. Either way you paid, or are paying for a fridge that works, not one that doesn't. You've been very patient and spoken to people at various levels but nothing has worked so far. It's time to escalate. It's time to adopt the Official Consumer Watchdog Three Step Complaints Procedure.

I recommend that you use this procedure any time you don't get results. Ignore a store's complaints procedure and adopt this one instead. Remember that there's no law that says you have to obey someone else complaints procedure. Also remember that complaints procedures are ALWAYS written for the store's convenience, not for yours.

The first step is to complain to the person who offended you. If that doesn't work, go to the second step which is to complain to the most important person in the building. Their title will include the word "Manager". If that doesn't fix the problem for you then go directly to the third step which is to complain to the most important person in the entire organization. Their title will be Managing Director or Chief Executive O
fficer. If anyone tells you that you can't do this, just ignore them.

However, in your case we'll do this for you. We'll contact the Managing Director of the company. That should do the trick!

He didn't finish the job!

Hi Richard. I have a problem. I deployed a guy to do my kitchen and ceiling and he did the job. I am away from home and he called to say he's done so I paid him everything. When I went to inspect I found out that part of the kitchen and the sink were not fitted. I called him and he told me that they were stolen but there was no breaking in of any sort in the house. I asked him why he didn't tell me he said my phone was not available. He promised he will replace everything on the 20th February. He didn't honor his promise, he didn't call up until today. So I need your help as to what I should do now since I've paid him all the money for the whole job he did.

I suspect you don't need me to lecture you on what you should have done in this situation but forgive me for doing so anyway. Whenever you engage someone to do a job like this you must agree a payment schedule before they start the work. I understand that often small businesses need some money up front to buy the goods and I also know that they need a commitment from their customer but you should normally agree to withhold some of the money until the job has been completed. Personally, I would be uncomfortable paying more than 50% to any builder before they started work. If I was feeling generous I might agree to then paying the remaining 50% in two equal, staged payments but ensuring that the last one was only paid when I'd inspected the work. An alternative is to buy the materials yourself and then just pay the builder for their work.

However, in your case it's too late. I think you should write him a letter demanding a copy of the police report he filed when he found that the goods had been stolen. And if he didn't… then we can assume he's making that bit up, can't we? Tell him in the letter that he has 7 days or you'll report HIM to the police for stealing the goods. Make him sweat a bit!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

The beer has expired!

There is a bar in Mochudi next to the Engen filling station that is it selling expired Black Label beer. The words on the bottle say the beer Best before 09 Feb 18. I asked the cashiers why they sell the expired product and they told me the owner doesn't want them to remove it from the stock.

Please assist us.

Actually, the bar isn't doing anything illegal. That's because the bottle has a "Best before" date, not an "Expiry" date but you're not the first person who has confused the two different dates and what they mean.

The most important date you might see is the "Expiry date", sometimes shown as the "Use By" date. Any store that sells something after these dates is going to be in big trouble with the authorities because that's illegal, contrary to the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods Regulations. No store wants to do that.

However, what you saw was something different. The juice you bought showed a "Best Before" date. These dates are less strictly controlled because they're just advisory, informing the customer when the goods will be in their best condition. There's no suggestion that goods consumed after this date are harmful or dangerous. However, I still think it's a bad practice even if it's not actually illegal for a store to sell an item after the Best Before date. Who wants to drink beer that is no longer in the best condition?

I think you should speak to the bar owner and politely suggest that he or she needs to find a better way to manage their stock so that their customers don't have to drink old beer. I suspect there's no shortage of bars in Mochudi and you and your friends can easily choose a bar where they sell best quality beer rather than the old stuff. The bar owner needs to know that!

Enerprise corned meats
Source: Wikipedia

Readers of The Voice will probably have seen reports of the dreadful outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa. It looks like the outbreak which was traced to a Tiger Brands production plant in Polokwane caused at least 180 deaths and nearly a thousand other people severe food poisoning. Tragically it seems that many of the deaths were young children which is a common thing with listeriosis which often hits hardest amongst children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

The good news for us is that there's no suggestion that there have been any cases in Botswana but that's probably because we were lucky. Our Ministry of Health and Wellness quickly instructed all stores to remove the affected products (processed meat products such as polony, russians and viennas) from shelves. Consumers were also warned not to consume any of these products from the affected companies and if they had any, to return them to the stores for a full refund.

Meanwhile, just in case any store has missed it, or if there are some that don't care, please be vigilant. Until further notice please don't eat any prepared meat products from Tiger Brands, Enterprise Food or Rainbow Chicken. But you need to take a step further. Don't eat ANY polony, russions or viennas unless you can be certain they didn't come from these suppliers. That means any places where you can't see the original packaging and in particular it means street food vendors. For now, hotdogs are off the menu, ok?

However, there are some enormously important lessons we all need to learn from this tragedy. Firstly, we need to learn a lot more about food hygiene and safety. The scary fact is that one of the most dangerous stages in the route food takes from farm to table is the consumer. Yes, you and me, we're often the source of food poisoning, either because we don't refrigerate risky products adequately or because we don't know how to safely prepare the food we eat and that we give to the people who matter most to us.

And there's a final lesson, one that might make me very unpopular. We must take a critical look at the food we eat. Have you ever taken a moment to discover how products like polony are made? If you're feeling brave, search the web or YouTube for "mechanically separated meat". You might never eat it again.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why can't I get a refund?

Hi. I kindly plead with you to assist me getting back my money from my insurance company. I had a policy with them which I terminated last month so they are saying they can't refund me my money back but they have never handled any claim for me.

Can you please help?

I'm sorry but I suspect I won't be able to help. That's because this is how insurance works. When you open a policy with an insurance company, whether it's to cover your funeral, your life, your vehicle or your household contents what you're actually doing is paying the insurance company to take on the risk of these things being damaged instead of you having that risk. During the life of that policy, if something terrible happens then the insurance company pays to put it right instead of you. If someone passes away, if you have a car accident, if there's a break-in at your house or even if you die, the insurance company will cover the costs so you don't have to.

We're often asked by consumer the question you're asking. But what if I never had to claim? Doesn't that mean I should get my money back? No, because you got something during the lifetime of your policy. You got the absence of risk. The insurance gave you cover during that period. Ask yourself this. If you owned a house and rented it to a tenant for a year but at the end of the year they told you that they'd never actually moved in, would you refund them the rent they'd paid during the year? No, you wouldn't and it's the same with the insurance company. It wouldn't be your fault that the tenant didn't move in and it's not the fault of the insurance company that you were lucky not to need to claim. Would you rather there'd been a disaster?

Is this award genuine?

I received an email saying that my company has been awarded the Gold prize Century International Quality ERA Award from a company called Business Initiative Directions. Do you think this is genuine?

Here it comes again! Every year we're asked the same question by many people like yourself regarding these awards and the story is always the same. Many people had received surprise emails from BID over the last few years, announcing that they'd won an award and inviting them to collect it at gala dinners in exotic places such as Paris, New York and Geneva. This year it's supposed to be in Frankfurt in Germany. In all cases it's not made clear how these winners had been selected and what qualified Business Initiative Directions to award anything to anyone.

So my feeling is that this award scheme is deceptive. I believe that it's no more than a money-making scheme by the organisers.

Last year when I looked into the scheme BID was charging companies €4,200 (about P50,000) to receive the award and that doesn't include the travel costs associated with flying to last year's venue in Geneva, Switzerland. That amount only covered attendance at a gala dinner, a hotel room the winners had to share with colleagues, some certificates, a trophy and some photographs of people accepting these dubious awards. I did the maths and I suspect that BID makes a huge amount of money, last year probably about P30,000 from every "award" they give away and I believe that's what the whole thing is about. Making money.

The bad news is that every year companies fall for this silliness and spend large amounts of money on "awards" that are little more than hugely expensive pieces of paper, awarded effectively at random. Is that really what an award should be?

I can think of many better ways to spend the P75,000 that it would probably cost to receive this so-called award. If you genuinely believe that your company is doing a good job, is a great employer and treats its customer wonderfully then spend just a fraction of the money you'd spend on this bogus award on a huge party to say thanks to your staff and your customers. That would do so much more good than wasting your money with BID. Don't forget to send me an invitation to the party!

Friday, 2 March 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay him extra?

In 2016 I engaged a painter for my house and he gave me a quotation for P30,000 for supplying and fitting. He said I should pay 60% or P18,000 deposit. I also paid the P12,000 balance when he completed the project and invoiced me.

Later on he complained that he used a different material from the one he had quoted initially. He keeps phoning and visiting me demanding extra P10,000. So I want to stop him from following me as I have fulfilled the agreement. How can I stop him from pursuing me?

I think this painter might have been drinking some of the chemicals he uses to strip paint off walls. Either that or he's deluded. He certainly has no idea how business works. Maybe you were his first ever customer?

The simple facts are that unless you agreed to pay him the extra money then you have no obligation to do so. He told you in the quotation that the work would cost P30,000 and I assume the invoice he gave you when he had completed the work was for the remaining P12,000? If that's true then you've paid him the full amount that you both agreed you were meant to pay. You certainly don't need to pay for his lack of competence in estimating the materials he was meant to use.

I suggest that you write him a letter saying this and telling him to stop bothering you. If he doesn't stop then go to your local Police station and lay a charge of intimidation against him. If the Police have forgotten, remind them that his behaviour is contrary to Section 234 of the Penal Code of Botswana. If you think he needs some education, you might want to tell the painter that the maximum sentence for intimidation is three years of free accommodation courtesy of the State.

Must I pay interest?

I need your help please. I had a store credit card back in 2010 while I was still at tertiary. I had a balance of P1,500 when I finished school. Since then I never got anything income generating enough for me to pay them back they took my debt to the debt collectors. Now these guys are on my case telling me that I now owe them P3,000. Since I'm not working I will have to pay at least P100 monthly but then monthly there will be interest of P70 How legal and legit is this?

Unfortunately for you this is completely legal and legit. This is how debt often works. It doesn't matter whether it's a bank loan, a credit card, a hire purchase agreement or in this case a store card, if you don't pay the lender what you owe they're going to start applying interest and penalty charges to the amount you owe. As in your case, you can easily see your debt double over a couple of years if no payments were made.

Eventually they'll hand over the debt to a debt collector who'll chase you down and do their best to reclaim as much as possible from you.

However, the good news is that if you sit down with the debt collector they're likely to agree a repayment plan with you that both satisfies their desire for the money and your ability to afford it. No debt collector wants to take a debtor to court, they want to get their money as easily as possible.

I suggest that you agree a payment plan with the debt collector and then do your very best to stick to it.

And the lesson? Store cards are often marketed to us as something convenient for us, the consumers. In fact, it's just another way for stores to lend us money and then to charge us credit-card like interest rates. Please so your very best to avoid them!

Friday, 23 February 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's her refund?

My daughter deposited P56,000 into the account of the sole owner of Awiwi Holdings Pty Ltd to buy her a second hand Honda CRV of 2008 on the 9th December 2017. The agreement was that the whole process will take a total of 3-5 days and that the money paid will include purchasing, transportation and clearance. The company failed to deliver it and the said owner promises to refund the money but still he failed.

He said he has requested for a loan from a microlender yesterday and 2 weeks back he said he requested for a loan from a bank and he promised to pay before làst week Friday but he never did. I am pleading with you to help my daughter get her money back.

Why is it that certain industries have more than their fair share of crooks, liars and, in this case, unreliable business owners? We hear so often about unreliable suppliers in the wedding business, second-hand car dealers and even more often, car importers. Of course, in each of these industries there are some remarkably good, professional, reliable people, the businesses we should all support but clearly this guy isn't one of them. He's one of the unreliable ones. The great irony is that on the sale agreement your daughter signed with the company, it shows their company motto: "client's happiness comes first". Maybe if they lived that idea a little more he wouldn't end up in The Voice.

I contacted him to see if he'd be a bit more cooperative and he assured me that your daughter would get her refund. He told me that he had "promised her to return the money before Friday this week". That was LAST Friday, not this Friday and yes, yet again he's letting you down and now me as well. Frankly I don't care about whether he's trying to get a loan to repay your daughter, he owes her a lot of money.

I suggest that you write him a letter saying that unless Awiwi Holdings repays your daughter the full amount she paid him within 14 days you'll take legal action against him. I doubt anything else will make him do the right thing.

Should they glue my shoes?

I bought a sneaker at a certain boutique for P600 on the 2nd of February this year. I wore it only on that weekend and now its sole is parting with the upper part of the shoe. This morning I confronted the shop manager about the issue and she said the only way she could help me was putting glue in between the affected part and making it stick. So my question is what can you advise me to do because I did not get services and value for my money on the product.

I think the store owner needs to understand that Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations requires suppliers to offer commodities and services that are "of merchantable quality". In simpler terms, they should do what they're meant to do. A pair of shoes that only lasts a few days clearly doesn't pass this test. However, that assumes that you've treated the shoes with some care. If you'd misused them then it's a different matter. Nevertheless, from what you say it seems like there's a fault with this pair of shoes.

When something isn't of merchantable quality you're entitled to one of the three Rs: a refund, repair or a replacement but it's up to the store to decide which of these three to offer you. They're within their rights to try to repair them but just applying a bit of glue doesn't strike me as very impressive. I even wonder whether that complies with Section 15 (1) (a) which requires a supplier to offer services "with reasonable care and skill"?

But here's another question to ask yourself, Were these sneakers genuine? You don't mention what brand they are but it's perhaps worth contacting the manufacturer for their observations. A legitimate manufacturer will take care to maintain their brand's reputation if the shoes are genuine and will want to take action against the store if they're not. Send me the details and we'll see what they have to say!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Vortex Profits - Central Bank of Ireland warning

The Central Bank of Ireland has issued a warning about Vortex Profits.
"The Central Bank of Ireland (‘Central Bank’) today (19 February 2018) published the name of an unauthorised firm, Vortex Profits Limited (Ireland). Vortex Profits Limited (Ireland) is not authorised by the Central Bank as an investment firm, investment business firm or to provide investment advice."
Many thanks goes to our good friend James Fern from the SCI Group who alerted the Central Bank of Ireland to the issue.


The people promoting Vortex Profits claim that the company is “a remarkable investment platform … with an outstanding track record of 2 years for delivering best of class investment solutions and endless income-generating opportunity”. They suggest that investors can earn returns of between 2.5% and 4% every day by investing through Vortex Profits in Bitcoin, gold or oil.

These suggested earnings are clearly impossible, given that 2.5% per day implies an annual equivalent of over 800,000%. Even more unbelievably, a 4% return per day equates to an annual return of over 158,000,000%.

The facts are that the company was only registered in the Republic of Ireland in September 2017, contradicting their claim of a “track record of 2 years”. Furthermore, the physical address they offer is an accommodation address shared by hundreds of other companies and the telephone number they offer is not even in the Republic of Ireland but is in Sweden.

They claim to have been founded by someone called Griffin Wrights who they describe as a "renowned Entrepreneur" with "countless years of experience being a financial Planner". However, no trace exists of this person before or outside of Vortex Profits.

Given the contradictions and the ridiculous claims about the profits that can be made by “investing” in their schemes Consumer Watchdog suspects that Vortex Profits is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme and we urge consumers to exercise extreme caution when engaging with them.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 12th February 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. When a company goes bust

Two very similar emails arrived on the same day.
"I made a laybye purchase in a shop that was operating in Game City. Yesterday I went to the shop wanting to pay the remaining balance so that I could collect the bed I had purchased. Unfortunately I found the shop closed and locked with no sign of operation. I called one of the employees and he told me that the shop had been closed indefinitely and could not provide further details. I have paid P4,500 towards my purchase."
"I purchased a couch from a store in Game City in December 2017 and till this date they have not delivered the couch to me. They keep telling me that the owner of the store has fled the country so they have closed up all his shops as well as his warehouse therefore they can't deliver the couch. This is so unfair to me as I have fully paid for the couch so please assist me on a way forward regarding this matter."
Both related to the same store at Game City. So what can these customers do? If the company has no assets left there'll be nothing to seize, nothing to claim against. Probably best to instruct attorneys and see what they can do.

2. Whose car was it?
"I sold my car. The next day he called me and says my car is overheating. He demands his money back and he says I should take my car back, I told him thats not possible because I have already spend the money. We did not make a written agreement it was verbal. He then called me again complaining that the signatures on the blue book are not the same with the ones on my id copy so they declined to help him change names at transport. The signature is from the previous owner not me. I never changed it when I bought it from the previous owner and never made a written agreement with the guy before. I would really appreciate a way forward to this because this guy is really bothering me."
Who actually owned the car? There was no sale agreement when this guy bought the vehicle and the vehicle registration documents were never updated to show him as the owner. So did he actually own it? Is it possible that it's still owned by the previous owner? If so, was he entitled to sell it? Given that there's no proof of sale, and no updated blue book, who knows?

The danger is that the new "owner", the guy that doesn't want it any longer could get the current "owner" into a lot of trouble. Maybe he could even argue "Obtaining by false pretence"?
It's time to refund the latest buyer and take the car back.

3. Vortex Profits (again)

Vortex Profits claim that they are "an absolutely new revolutionary concept, a remarkable investment platform of a new era with an outstanding track record of 2 years for delivering best of class investment solutions and endless income-generating opportunity".

They say that you can join by paying between $25 and $50,000 (around P250 to P500,000) and that you can then earn returns between 2.5% and 4% return per day. Remember you'll be lucky to get a bank to offer more than 2.5% per year. In fact, if this was true (and it's obviously not) and you "invested" P1,000 today at 2.5% per day, after a year you'd have over P12 million. At 4% per day, you'd have over P3 billion. This is clearly nonsense. Only Ponzi schemes makes these claims.

There are some other clues that this is a scam. Their domain was registered in August 2017 and the company was registered in the Republic of Ireland only in September last year. The physical address the give in Dublin is just an accommodation address shared with many other "companies". The supposed founder of the company, someone they call Griffin Wright, and who they say is a "renowned Entrepreneur" and who has "countless years of experience being a financial Planner" doesn't appear to actually exist. There's no trace of him existing outside this bogus company.

Vortex Profits is a Ponzi scheme. Remember Eurextrade? Its twin brother has arrived.