Saturday 25 November 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Both cars were bad. What can I do?

In September I found this Nissan March advertised on Facebook. I inboxed the owner. The price was 16k and I negotiated to 13.5k. I stay in Palapye and the car was in Mogoditshane. Before I paid I asked the owner if the car had any faults and his answer was "No faults". I asked my brother who is staying in Gabs to go and meet the guy so I can send the money and he can collect the car. I paid and he collected the car. He complained about the worn out tyres so I sent money for two tyres and petrol so that he can drop it here at Palapye for me.

The car arrived the following day, when checking it the doors were not locking, windscreen was cracked, left indicator was not working, boot was not closing, the lights were bypassed by a cable (both the front and the back), shocks, CVs, stabilizers were dead, sensor cable was dead. So I started buying all these things and fitted them.

I inboxed the owner and he said ok let me give you a Mazda 3 hatchback but with top up of 5k. I asked him about the faults and he said no faults. This time around I asked him to drop it here in Palapye because my brother was not around and he agreed. He requested 500 for petrol and I sent but after sending it took him 2 days to deliver the car. The car arrived 16th October at around midnight and he instead of him coming he sent someone. The guys arrived, handed the car and took that other one then left for Gabs, but before leaving he told me I should replace the bolt for the left back shock because on his way to Palapye they came out and the car was making a terrible noise on that shock and also the other front wheel was replaced with a very small spare wheel. So I refused to give him the agreed 5k instead I gave him 3k because I had to fix the shock and tyre.

In just a week I already found the car was giving me more problems, the oils were leaking, water bottles were broken, CVs were dead, door locks are damaged, handbrake not working, some front lights not working, the left back light broken, the car looks like it has had an accident before. So I replaced CVs, water bottle, gearbox oil, handbrake oil, bolts for shocks. I did this in just one week. The second week I inboxed him to come get his car, I don't want it anymore. His response was I stayed too long with the car. Last week I went to Gabs I called the guy, he did not answer, so I called the guy who delivered the car. He refused to give us the location of their garage in Mogoditshane. When we were just about to give up the guy answered and he said he was on his way to Zim and he will come back this coming week.

Yesterday I Inboxed the guy again, I asked him to give my money and get back his car or give me Toyota Vitz and the guy said I should bring the car so that he can sell it for me, but he can only sell it for 23k, but I've spent around 29k on his cars, I even bought new tyres for this car because the tyres were dead and the wires inside were visible. Help me please.

I'm really sorry to hear about this, honestly I am. But you need to forgive me for what I'm about to say. Obviously this car dealer is shady, we can all see that from what you've reported. However, you've made almost every possible mistake you could have made.

Firstly, on two occasions you paid for vehicles you hadn't test-driven or had inspected. Even an amateur would have spotted some of the obvious faults with both of these vehicles if they'd just taken a look before paying. I know you live far away from the dealer but you should have organised a friend or mechanic to take a look at the vehicle. Secondly, you accepted each vehicle and paid your own money to have the many faults fixed. You should have rejected the vehicles as soon as they arrived and demanded a complete refund instead of trying to fix them.

I think the best thing you can now do is approach the authorities. The Competition and Consumer Authority have had some success in the past dealing with shady car dealers so maybe they can perform come magic?

Saturday 18 November 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

How much can they charge me?

We hired certain lawyers in back in 2017 for a court case. We had paid all the money which was agreed. The was no written agreement. We verbally agreed on the amount.

Till today the matter is still before court so the lawyers have started billing us the money we didn't agree from the start (hidden costs). They have never called us to the table to enlighten us about the bill.. When we ask them they threaten they will take our bill to court and so forth. So in this matter how do I handle it? Please kindly help.

It's very important to understand that like every other profession, lawyers offer a range of different qualities. I've met some attorneys who are highly intelligent, educated and understand their area of the law in the greatest detail. They're also completely committed to their clients' welfare and offer only the very best advice and service.

Then there are others. I've met some who clearly have no real understanding of the law, some whose legal understanding is very poor indeed. I've also met some that are only in the job for the prestige. And the money.

I don't know the lawyers you engaged but they should know how important it is to have agreements in writing. Unless they don't want that for some reason? Also they need to learn to communicate better. They need to be constantly updating you on the progress your case is making and the costs they're incurring. I suggest you write or email the Managing Partner asking for a summary of the fees charged so far and what they anticipate charging you in future. Copy your message to the Law Society as well.

The lesson for the future is that legal agreements need to be in writing. And lawyers that don't insist on that are acting very suspiciously.

Where's my refund?

On 26th September I ordered a table from a company I discovered on Instagram. I made a deposit of P600 for it. The order was to take 9 days to complete. I was in contact with the owner of that establishment.

On 9th October I asked for progress and was told the delay is because we had Independence holidays so that week I should expect my table to be delivered on the weekend. Then I was told they experienced a lot of power cuts which slowed down the time for material turnover so I'll have the table Tuesday 17th, latest Wednesday 18th. On Thursday 19th I was then told the supplier was having a problem with their machinery so I am to be refunded.

So Tuesday 24th October I made a follow up on my refund and from then up until now I'm tossed to and fro about my money to the extent that I am getting different stories. I am asking that you help me get my refund because they have been giving me stories which are not consistent.

As I've said before, we all understand that businesses often have delays beyond their control. However, it is the job of suppliers to keep us informed when these delays happen. It's also the law. This supplier clearly either forgot about this or doesn't care. They should have told you when the delays first happened and then when the refund was delayed.

I contacted the supplier and he promised to refund you within a few days.

Update: The refund was paid.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

When will it be finished?

I need your advice. There is this interior company. I engaged him in 2021 to do my house interior in Letlhakane. He was to do everything inside the house, electrical works, plumbing, tiling, wardrobes, and kitchen. I had paid everything in full because I wanted to ease it on my side.

He started it well, but during the course of 2023, he started giving me bad service. The job was not done properly, and some not finished. I approached him and complained, and he will promise better service of which he didn't fulfil. I have been patient enough with him. To date, he is still promising to come and finish up, he comes up with stories every time. Where we are now, the ceiling is complete but left with painting and closeups, the lighting is complete, the floor tiling is 80% done but poorly, the wardrobes, TV stands, headboards, and kitchen sides are at 0%.

He said he is coming Friday after missing Wednesday but he didn't, he keeps promising like that. I told him if he doesn't honour his promises I am seeking help.

I agree 100%. You've been patient enough with him. Perhaps too patient. I'm sure we all understand that businesses sometimes have unexpected problems that cause delays but we pay contractors because they're experts and should know how to deal with these problems. At the very least we deserve what Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says we should get: "timely performance and completion" of the services we pay for and "timely notice of any unavoidable delay".

I contacted the supplier and explained your concerns. To their credit they responded very quickly, saying that they: "have an small issue with the our sub contractor who was supposed to have left yesterday" and that they "will surely close this as soon as we can". They asked that you "give us this month to complete the works".

Hopefully now they'll get things done?

Why won't they fix my bed?

Kindly assist me here. I purchased a bed from in May this year. Two weeks later the bed started having some funny noise. I immediately notified the store assistant who seemed to be responsible for complaints. He then told me that he would send a report to the manufacturer and he promised me that I would get a call from the manufacturer who unfortunately did not call. I then did a follow up again with the store. Fortunately this time around they called and asked me to send videos of the bed and the pictures of the bed of which I did. Ever since then I haven't heard from them but in a dire situation as this bed poses a threat to my health.

I think the staff in this store need a good night's sleep on a comfortable bed because clearly they're tired. Tired of customers, tired of complaints and tired of doing the right thing.

What they seem to have forgotten is that you didn't buy the bed from the manufacturer. You bought the bed from the store, the retailer. Section 16 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that when we buy something, "the producer or importer, the distributor and the retailer each warrant that the goods comply" with the obligation to sell goods of good quality. So the retailer can't say it's the manufacturer's responsibility to fix the problem. It's everybody's responsibility. In particular it's the retailer's responsibility.

I'll contact the store and remind them that they sold the bed and it's their job to come and collect it and fix it, replace it or refund you.

Monday 6 November 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where are my licenses?

I saw one post where you helped one lady with a consultant issue and I'm hoping you could help me also.

I gave one lady money amounting to P1,900 as a deposit for cleaning and supplies commercial licenses in November 2021. I never received any documents till today. I tried it all to get help from the police to different ministries with no help. Right now there's a cleaning license accumulating arrears in my company name at Gaborone city council. I can't close the file because they need the original license of which I don't have.

Yes, if you search you'll find that we've had many complaints about 'consultants' over the years. Almost always it's the same story. They take your money, promise to do the work and then there's a mixture of delays and silence.

There' s nothing wrong with using consultants. A good consultant either knows things we don't, or they just have enough experience to know how to get things done quickly and efficiently, particularly if it involves government bureaucracy. Anyone who's tried to get business permits and licences knows that it can be a time-consuming and confusing experience. That's why it's sometimes worth spending money to get an expert to do it for us.

But, like in all industries there's a range of skills, talent and reliability available. There are good consultants and there are bad consultants. I think I know which type you've got.

I contacted this consultant and they said they'll "check files" and come back to me.

The lesson? Before you engage a consultant, ask around. Ask your family, friends, neighbours, workmates, anyone with experience if they've used a consultant and would they recommend them. You might even find that these days you don't need one. If you do, maybe suggest a 50/50 payment plan. 50% up front, the balance on completion. That's always a great incentive to be reliable.

Do I need the packaging?

I bought a tv, I used it for a period of two weeks and it was working just fine. After two weeks it stopped working. I called the store and alerted them about same. They requested me to furnish them with the details of the tv which I did and they came collected the tv. Then when they had already collected it they said I should take a photo of the box all sides. By that time I had already disposed the box. Now even to date they have not assisted me with the replacing or repairing the same tv. They are saying they are waiting for a technician from the supplier and also they say the box should be availed for them to assist me so I humbly seek your assistance regarding the matter. What should I do in the matter?

What do readers think? Is it reasonable for a store that sells an item like a TV to demand that you keep the packaging it came in? Personally I don't think so. However, it IS a reasonable thing to do if you have some storage space. I recently bought a small Smart TV (it's amazing what bargains you can find if you shop around) and I have kept the box in case I need to move it. But that's because I had some space available.

But unless the TV has somehow been damaged, which I doubt because you said it worked ok for the first 2 weeks, it's up to the store to identify what the problem is. The box isn't relevant.

I contacted the store to see what they suggest. I think the first thing they should do is identify what's wrong with your TV before making unreasonable demands.

Saturday 28 October 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Does he owe them?

Good day Richard, my boyfriend needs your help.

He had a loan from and he got retrenched last year June. He went to their office in Kanye to ask them about his balance so that he could make the payment. They did print the balance for him and he paid it. After some months he received a call that he has an outstanding balance but he told the caller he paid. Recently he requested a loan at his bank and he was told that his name is with ITC. He checked and it says he owes P15,000. He was in shock knowing he paid but they said he was supposed to pay P4,000 settlement when he paid the loan for clearing the loan before the agreed time. Now the P4,000 has accumulated interest monthly and it's now P15,000 and there is nothing they can do. Does he have to pay?

What a mess. Your boyfriend seems like a sensible guy who has done his best to manage his debt situation when he lost his job. Clearly he deserves better than this.

The first thing he should do is demand that the lender check their records and find out what's gone wrong here. If they find that they've made a mistake and he doesn't owe them anything they need to correct his credit record immediately so his history is as clean as it should be. And then they need to apologise. Sincerely.

If it emerges that he does owe them some money they need to explain why it's taken them so long to tell him and then they need to agree a reasonable repayment plan.

The lesson here is that lenders can't always be relied on to get things right. That's why, when you settle a debt, make sure you get something in writing from the lender confirming that you've paid everything you owe and the debt is closed forever. Then take a picture of that letter and send to someone you trust as a backup.

I also contacted the lender and they said they're investigating. I'll let you know what they say.

Will it happen again?

Is it possible for an investigation to take a whole month when your salary just disappeared in your account the day the money was transferred to you but you didn't have any links to deduct from your account? A friend of mine has the same issue he asked me to ask for him on his behalf. He got paid and the same day all the money was gone before independence. Right now they saying the matter is still at Head Office and they are still investigating. He asked them how safe it is now to get paid again on the same account. He said they told him they have cut the links that might be linked to his account and they gave him a new card. Is it possible that the bank will give him his salary back?

No, I don't think it's acceptable for a bank to take an entire month to investigate something like this. Don't they understand that very few of us can cope without our salary? A month's salary is probably trivial to them but it means a lot to you and me.

I suspect that they've done all they can to prevent the same problem happening again this month but your friend is still entitled to know where their money went.

I contacted the bank and I'll let you know what they plan to do.

Saturday 21 October 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

It's too hard!

I bought a bed from a store at Airport Junction and I used it for 2 weeks but now the bed is too firm for me. I went to the shop and they told me I can top up with P2,000 plus for me to get the more comfortable bed I want? Is this fair?

Unfortunately for you I suspect it is fair.

As consumers we have a wide range of protections and perhaps the most important is that we don't need to accept faulty goods. If a product is faulty we can return it to the store within 6 months for one of the three Rs: a repair, a replacement or a refund. However, it's important to remember that the store can choose which of the three Rs they choose. It's up to them to decide. They are, for instance, entitled to repair something they sold you that's faulty. However, it's also important to know that if that repair fails within 3 months and the same problem occurs again, they lose that R. Now they only have two Rs: a replacement or a refund.

But your case is different. From what you've said, there's nothing actually faulty about the bed. It's just a matter of taste? Some people like really soft beds, others like them really firm and most of us are in between. The lesson here is to do whatever you can (within reason, don't get arrested for public indecency!) to test a mattress before you buy it.

I suspect in this case the best option is to see if you can upgrade the mattress to one that's more suitable for you.

Who should I pay?

I recently got Transunion feedback that I am owing a furniture store. I called their office for payment arrangements and I was told my file has been handed over to a certain debt collection company which I contacted. I was then told my account is now into them and any payment arrangement should be done to them not the furniture store. I went back to the store for a proof that I am now paying a certain company which I don't have any agreement with. I was requesting for either a letter or anything that I will use as a confirmation but they refused to give me any proof. Now my question is how can I trust that company with my money and after clearing the debt who is going to clear my name from Transunion?

I haven't yet visited their office, they were only communicating through phone calls and WhatsApp. Kindly advise, thank you.

You have my respect for being cautious. However, this seems legit to me. Firstly wasn't it the furniture store that told you that the debt was now with the debt collection company? You gave me the name of the debt collection company and they seem to check out ok. They are a registered company and are public about the work they do.

However, I also think you're right that the furniture store should have told you officially that they were transferring the debt to this company. You were right to be cautious and when debt is involved there needs to be some trust and responsibility by everyone involved.

As for your last question, I suspect the answer is that you now deal entirely with the debt collectors. Obviously I don't know the details of this arrangement but often a lender like a bank or furniture store will give up chasing a customer who owes them money and sell the debt to a debt collector, often for a fraction of the outstanding amount. But now it's the debt collector to whom you owe money. The full amount.

In this situation the best thing you can do is meet with the debt collection people and negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford and they will accept.

Saturday 14 October 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

How do we deal with these fraudsters?

I need to know how to deal with fraudsters who claim to trade forex for you and vanish into thin air with your money. And you can still see their number being in use...even still advertising. How do you deal with them and to stop them from victimising others?

I don't want to sound like a preacher but the bad news is that sin will always be with us. Some of our neighbours are less moral that you and me and will do their best to take our money. Thieves and con-artists have always existed and always will. The only weapons we have to fight against them are knowledge and the law.

Let's start with knowledge. These forex scammers rely on our ignorance of how forex works. They suggest that by trading foreign currencies online the average person like you and I can make fabulous profits. What they fail to mention is that the only people who make consistent profits from forex trading are huge multinational companies like banks and investment companies who have vast amounts of money to trade with, enormously skilled forex specialists and supercomputers that do all the work for them. Can you and I compete against that?

More commonly these days the scammers will claim that they're offering the ability to trade in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but that's just another way they try to exploit our lack of knowledge. Like forex, very few of us understand how cryptocurrencies work and it's silly for us to think we can profit from them.

Finally there are the self-styled "gurus" who claim to offer advice to others on how to trade. But ask yourself this question. If they are so skilled at making money from these tools, why don't they just do it themselves? Why are they sharing these "opportunities" with us? It's simple. Because they don't actually make money from trading, they make money from us. We are the product that makes them money. Remember that anyone who invites you to join their money-making scheme wants to make money FROM you, not WITH you.

And the law? The Consumer Protection Act can protect us but NBFIRA can also take an interest if someone is offering financial or investment advice. Even Bank of Botswana can intervene if they see an "illegal deposit-taking scheme". What we need is for them to take action when they see wrongdoing. We need to see some of these crooks in handcuffs and then in prison.

Can't they check their records for me?

I need help I made a lay bye in mid-June this year at a store in Selebi Phikwe and I failed to pay my remaining balance. Honestly I forgot about the lay bye. I just found out from my journal book that I have a lay bye with them. Today I went to the store to be told the only way I got use my money it's only when I produce a receipt which I might have misplaced. I requested them check on their records but the sales assistant refused.

No. This is not good enough. Ok, I accept that you forgot to make a payment. But we're all human, we make innocent mistakes sometimes. You're not a criminal for making a mistake. Secondly you might have lost your receipt. Again, that's a mistake but again, hardly a crime. Remember also that many receipts fade after a few months so you might only have a blank piece of paper by now. The trick is to take a photo of all important receipts and then send them to a friend or relative as a backup.

However, I agree with you. Can't they check their records to get all the necessary details? Surely it's not that complicated? Maybe we should contact them and introduce them to a new idea they seem not to have heard of before? It's called 'customer service'. It involves going out of your way to help a customer when they need it. It involves not being difficult and lazy. It involves being a good person who helps their neighbours, their customers when they need it.

I contacted the Country Manager for this chain of stores and he asked for more details. He's a reasonable guy and I'm sure he'll understand that you are a customer who deserves some courtesy and assistance. If the store staff still don't understand I'm sure readers of The Voice would volunteer to explain it to them. Do they really want that?