Saturday, 27 May 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get anything back?

I have been made to understand that you are helping people recover their investments. I deposit a total of over P7,000 in Berry and over P1,000 in Redcoin but have not gotten anything to date. After reactivating my account, I am being told to put in another 30 dollars, so I am not sure if I will recover my initial investment at the very least.

I deposited using a wallet. In fact, I sent people money to make deposits on my behalf as I did not have dollars and I was required to change to dollars. Are you doing investigations?

Kindly assist if you can. Thanks.

I wish I had some good news for you but like thousands of other people who fell for Ecoplexus, Berry, Redcoin and all the other scams hurting us this year, there is very little chance you'll get any money back. That's because scammers don't offer refunds. They're criminals and they don't behave nicely like the rest of us. Please do not pay them any more money, whatever they promise you.

There is a possibility that some of the victims of Ecoplexus might get something back because the people who paid to join the scheme paid their money into locally held bank accounts. When those accounts were frozen they still contained a lot of money that the scammers hadn't managed to transfer out of the country. However, it's not yet clear how that money will be returned to the victims. The money in those accounts was paid in by the most recent victims, not those who paid in before the scammers removed the stolen money. So who should get money back, the earlier or later victims? Or should it be distributed between all victims? I don't know, it's complicated and I suspect the courts will need to decide.

The bad news is that in your case it sounds like your money was immediately transferred when you paid to join the scheme. I suspect your money was converted from the dollars into a cryptocurrency wallet online somewhere. While these amounts can perhaps be traced, there's almost no chance of reversing them. Remember that cryptocurrencies are unregulated. There's no Central Bank of Crypto you can approach for support. That's one of the real dangers of these new cryptocurrencies. The word 'crypto' comes from the Greek word for 'hidden'. That's why so many crooks like cryptocurrencies. They can more easily hide their stolen cash.

My only advice is to lodge a complaint about any local promoters of these scams with the Police, Bank of Botswana, NBFIRA and the Competition Authority. Yes, ALL of them.

My TV was stolen. What happens now?

What happens if you are still paying for goods on hire purchase then they get stolen? It was a TV 32 inches for P7k. It's an issue of like 4 months back from now and I didn't have any proof or any suspect so I did not report cause I was just arriving from a trip. I haven't been paying them. Now I think they calling to repossess the TV.

So whats going to happen from there?

What's going to happen is that you'll call the store immediately and explain the situation to them. Do it now.

Most hire purchase policies include some insurance cover that will pay off the debt it the goods are stolen or accidentally destroyed. However, the problem is that very often there are strict time limits for submitting a claim. They'll also want a Police report to prove the item was stolen and they often also demand proof that there was a break-in, not just a suggestion that the goods were stolen while you were away. The insurance company needs proof that the goods really were stolen and that the customer is telling the whole truth about what happened.

Another problem is that the insurance policy is also likely to be invalid because you stopped paying the instalments. That automatically cancels almost all your rights when you buy things on hire purchase.

But the first step is simple. Call the store and talk to them.

Saturday, 13 May 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can they repair it?

Good day Sir, may I kindly ask for your advice.

I bought a wedding tent for P19 000 at a shop in Rail Park Mall. The first pitch was in February 2023 in Molepolole and surprisingly about 5 poles on the right side of the tent bended after a very light wind that lasted for at least 5 mins.

I confronted the manager at the shop about the issue and even sent pictures that the material they used for the poles is very weak. You can even break it with your own hands.

He said verbally to my husband that we are not the first customers to complain about it. He was then to consult the owner about the matter. Now his assistant offered to replace the poles and we refused because the problem is the weakness of the whole structure and its very risky to pitch such tent to customers. Imagine poles falling on people in a wedding.

Kindly assist us Sir because we are losing business as we don't have another tent to at least pitch.

As regular readers of The Voice will know, 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". 
I think that "good working order" means that a wedding tent shouldn't be damaged by a few minutes of light wind, don't you agree?

The next section of the Act says that if goods are faulty then the supplier can repair them, replace them or refund the consumer. However, I think this situation is slightly different. If these goods are so poorly made, can they really repair them? Are they going to replace the poles with ones made to a higher standard and with better material?

I think you should make it clear to the owner of the company that if they try to repair the tent, they better do it right, with much stronger materials and prove that it withstand the wind. Either that or you'll demand a better replacement or a complete refund.

Why must I pay for their mistake?

Hello sir, I have a concern and I need your help. I have a loan from my bank. We signed a 6 year contract in October 2020,and it started deducted on November but what they say is that it could have deducted immediately in October.

Now to my surprise they increased the loan instalment without even consulting me. I went to the bank and they said it's because my loan has arrears. So what I want to know is if a loan has arrears do you just increase the instalment without calling the customer and sit down to see how you can resolve it? And is it the customer's problem or mistake that the bank failed to deduct the instalment money immediately the loan was given to the customer?

They increased because they say I was in arrears and it affected my take home pay. It's very low and it have affected my work too because I can't be promoted because I am under paid or my take home pay is low.

It was their mistake, that's why I said they could have called us and arrange how to solve it BUT they just increased the instalment without consulting us.

I think this bank owes you an apology. If they delayed the beginning of the loan instalments to November instead of October it was their job to contact you, explain what happened, apologise to you and then help you come up with a plan. The obvious solution that anyone with a brain could have identified is just to reschedule your entire loan back by one month. Then everyone would have been happy.

I emailed the bank several times but haven't heard anything back from them yet. I won't give up.

Saturday, 6 May 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should I pay them?

I need your help. There is this waterproofing company that I saw on FB and decided to use their services since the roof of my house was leaking. I contacted them via Whatsapp and we agreed on a quotation for waterproofing the whole roof, transport inclusive. It was stated on the quotation that it is a 7 year guarantee job. They went and fixed my roof and I paid the full amount as per their quotation..

Now here is the problem, when the rain came the gentleman who was busy putting the ceiling realised that there was a leak, then we both decided we must call the waterproofing guys to come fix it again because it was still under guarantee. I tried on numerous attempts to get them to come, I was patient for close to a month but they then ended up ignoring my calls and texts. Then they claimed they have ran out of stock and that I must buy material and pay for fuel in order for their worker to get there and do the work, promising me a refund at a later stage. I refused asking why their company can't procure all those.

Fast forward, this past Friday I decided to call the company owner again, as always he did not answer, but he later sent me a message saying that he has been having transport challenges and that if I organise transport he will send somebody to go and do the work. I did exactly that and the guy went there and got the leaks fixed.

About an hour later I got a call from the his boss, telling me that he got a report that the leak was caused by cracks on the wall and that I must send payment for what they did today, mind you the gentleman never discussed it with me before doing the job. No agreement whatsoever was made that I will have to do another payment, they didn't even tell me that the leak had nothing to do with their waterproofing as they claim.

Now my question is should I pay him? The owner even threatened to drive there and remove the rubber seal they did today if I do not pay.

There is only one way to deal with bullies. Stand up to them and don't ever give in to their bullying tactics. If I was in your position I would contact the boss and make It clear to him that he may not enter your premises without your permission and if he or his agents do so you'll call the Police and have them charged with trespass and theft. Also, I would remind him that his company offered you a 7-year warranty and that any repairs are therefore his to pay for.

Please don't allow a bully like this to behave this way.

Have they done enough?

My car is at a repair shop at the moment after being involved in an accident about a month ago. I was notified that the car was ready for collection and went to the repair shop to assess the repairs.

I did not sign the repair order as there were several things that I was not satisfied with. There was a list of parts that were to be replaced with new, but upon assessment the parts were just cleaned and reinstalled.
I voiced my concerns to the managing director. He declined my request to reinspect the car with him and promised to investigate the issue and rectify any mistake if any.

I have also notified the insurance company about the issue and they have notified the repair shop that they will send an assessor tomorrow to do a post assessment of the vehicle and revert back to me.

I believe a lot of car owners could learn a lot from the outcome of this matter. Perhaps in future it could be discussed in the forums. I sense this is akin to medical aid issues that are at times raised by clients.

I wish more consumers were like you. Firstly you had vehicle insurance that covers the costs of all these repairs. Secondly you're the type who inspects things before accepting them. Third, you ask questions, politely demand explanations and then escalate to experts when necessary. Finally you're a person who doesn't give up. You should give lessons to consumers on how to stand up for their rights.

Let's see what the insurance assessor says but it certainly looks like this repair shop likes to cut corners and then try to avoid the consequences. Maybe they'll learn a lesson from you too?

Saturday, 29 April 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They took my inheritance!

I desperately need help. Where can I seek help in a case where the bank is holding my inheritance from my father's death benefits. They are saying they took it because that's my current balance and hence they are using it to clear my loan.

I'm not in arrears. Apparently when relocating you automatically need to settle the loan with either pension or any lump sum that goes into the account.

I did not agree with them on that. No form of writing was done whatsoever. I am currently based overseas and have been servicing my loan. I also communicated with the bank upon relocation and made an arrangement on how il service their loan. Now they are holding my money yet I have hospital bills to pay.

Like many situations with banks, insurance companies and any other supplier that deals with financial issues, this will all depend what's in writing.

Yes, it seems unreasonable that the bank has done this, particularly considering that the money was an inheritance and you have medical bills to pay but I'm sure that somewhere in the loan agreement you signed there's a clause saying that if the bank has a good reason, they can move money between your accounts. They can use an account in credit to match another account that's in debt. However, this should normally only happen when there's been a problem, like if you've defaulted. But you haven't and this is where we need to check the small print.

When a bank customer moves to another country banks often get anxious. Can they be sure that the customer will continue to pay their loan instalments? More importantly to them, what will happen if the customer defaults? How will they enforce a judgment on someone in a faraway country? It's good that you told them you were moving but I think they need to be reassured you pose no threat to them. You urgently need to speak to them, explain what's happening and give them an assurance that you're no risk to them. Then they might be more reasonable.

Scam warning (yet again)

Many people have asked recently whether a scheme they've been invited to join is legit or not.

Here's a simple guide to help you decide. Firstly, ask the person who invited you to join, why they did so? Did they do it because they're just a kind and charitable person? If they say Yes, then it's a scam.

Next, ask them if the scheme is a registered company somewhere. Hopefully they'll tell you that it's registered in Botswana and approved by NBFIRA but maybe they'll say it's registered and approved in another country. If so, ask for proof. Then check if it's true. If you don't know how to check, ask us.

Ask them how money is generated by the scheme. People marketing a legitimate investment scheme will talk about share or commodity prices, dividends or the income a company can expect from selling products and services. People marketing a scam will be less specific. They'll talk about cryptocurrency or forex trading, Bitcoin mining or just say it's a motshelo or 'gifting' scheme. If you ask them how money is generated they'll just talk about 'where' the money comes from, not 'how'. Because they have no answers.

Those promoting a genuine investment will welcome questions. They'll want you to get complete answers to every question you have. However, scammers will very quickly become defensive and ask you why you're asking so many questions. "Just trust me", they'll say. Anyone who says this is trying to scam you.

Above all, scammers will make incredible claims about how much money you can make from their scheme. They'll tell you that small 'investments' you can earn a great deal of money. Anyone who says this is a scammer. They'll also often ask you to invest more and more money, encouraging you to 'upgrade' to a higher level with promises of even greater profits. That's a sure sign of a scam.

A common trick they'll try is to show you bank payment messages. Many of these are faked, that's very easy to do, but a few will be genuine because they do sometimes pay the victims a little money to make the scam seem legit. It's not, it's a criminal enterprise and the law makes it just as illegal to join a scam as it does to promote one.

Finally, remember this simple truth. Anyone who invites you to join their money-making scheme wants to make money from you, not with you.

Saturday, 22 April 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What can I do with this car?

Please I need your help. We bought a second hand car last month for P26,000 from a workshop in Mogoditshane and the guy promised us that everything is fine with the car but later it started to give us problems. At first he denied but he ended up accepting that yes the car has a problem but he told us we have to fix it and nothing can be done. So far we have spent something like P3,000 to fix the car
so we are losing money everyday trying to fix this car.

We failed to change the blue book because we discovered that the car is flagged by the Police. Sir we need your help to get our money back please.

Is there anything good about this car? Not only was it sold to you falsely when the seller told you it was in good condition but the guy has no intention of fixing the situation. And then it seems the car is flagged by the Police for offences either committed by the seller or the people he bought it from. This is a complete mess.

You need to take action quickly. Firstly, I think you should tell the seller in very simple terms that you reject the sale given the deception you experienced. I know you've already spent money on fixing some of the problems but we have no idea what else might be wrong with the vehicle. I don't think you should take the risk that some other fault might be discovered.

I suggest you write the seller a letter giving him maybe 7 days to refund the purchase price AND the P3,000 you spent fixing the vehicle. Make it clear to him that he deceived you and hid the fact that the car had a history with the police.

There are several lessons here that I think everyone who wants to buy a car should learn. Firstly, we should always get a second-hand car inspected by an expert before we buy it. Most of us know a mechanic who would check out a car for us in return for a few drinks or breakfast. If we don't I'm sure the last mechanic who serviced your previous car or your Mum's car would take a look in return for a few beers. Secondly, please always insist that anyone selling you a car puts in writing that the car is in working order. Then you have something to use against them if things go wrong.

Is this harassment?

I need your advice. I received an automated text from my bank to pay my outstanding loan bill. Then I got a call from someone at some attorneys, who I believe is collecting on behalf of the bank. I acknowledged my debt and stated I will organise myself and get on with it.

What I have a problem with is how they call every day. More than 5 times they will call asking if I have paid. I find this annoying, more so I did tell them I don't have the money now, but will pay soon as I can.

Secondly, who determines how much I should pay? The gentleman asked me, and I told him I can afford P1,000 since I'm unemployed now, but he says it's not enough, and if I don't settle the P26,000 in less than 6 months, they will send Sheriffs after me.

I just want to know how to handle this without getting myself into more trouble?

Firstly let me say I respect you for acknowledging the debt. So many people do their best to avoid their responsibilities but you are doing the honest, responsible, grown-up thing.

I have a problem with how this attorney operates. And so does the law. Section 6 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a supplier, such as your bank and the attorneys representing them may not use:
"force, coercion, undue influence, pressure, duress, harassment, unfair tactics or any other similar conduct against a consumer" (in the) "execution or enforcement of an agreement to supply any goods or services". 
Clearly calling you five times a day is harassment. It's also coercion, pressure and duress. It's not acceptable. Yes, of course they're entitled to remind you, encourage you and legally require you settle your debt but the law says they have to be decent about it. I'll contact the bank and see if they can better control their dogs, sorry, I meant attorneys.

The best thing you can do is to get some debt counselling to see if you can sort out your finances. I'll send you the details of someone I trust.

Saturday, 15 April 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must he pay?

Hello Richard, I have a question pertaining to insurance companies. About a year ago, my dad was involved in an accident on a gravel road. Our car was badly ruined, the whole front was bad. And the land cruiser involved had just a minor scratch on door. The police were called to the scene and it was concluded that my dad was at fault.

Dad agreed to pay the P1,000 charge, however no statement or whatever formal writing was made other than the receipt we got. The police officer advised that we don't make any fuss about the whole thing since it will mean expense and a waste of time. My dad and the other guy agreed that each of them will fix their own car. The other guy even said that his car is ensured so the insurance will cover it. Still no writing was made.

Now it's been a whole year and my father is receiving calls from someone saying he's calling from the insurance company following the accident. They're even texting my father saying he should deposit around P70,000.

Mind you these are just calls and messages from some numbers that we can't call back. There is still nothing formal or any sort of writing sent. I wanted to ask if it's really true that an insurance company can demand money from a third party that they don't have any contract with? Is this legit?

My dad is old and we're having a hard time having to research about the insurance. Please help.

I'm very sorry to hear about this and the stress this must be causing you and your father.

Unfortunately, this is exactly how these things work. When there's been an accident it's the responsibility of the guilty party to pay the bills. Your father was charged by the police so he's the guilty one. He must pay the repair bills.

If your father had a vehicle insurance policy then we'd have good news. The insurance company would pay the bills for him, minus any "excess" included in the policy but it looks like he didn't have insurance. Yes, the other guy had insurance which covered his repair costs but it doesn't change the fact that it's your father's job to pay the bills. The other guy's insurance company is entitled to recover their losses from your Dad.

The only advice I can give is that your father needs to talk to the insurance company and see if he can arrange a payment plan that he can afford and they'll accept.

This is a very good example of why vehicle insurance should be compulsory. It saves people like your Dad from a life-changing, crippling debt.

They won't take it back!

I bought a phone for someone and paid P3,200 for it on the 28th February and received it on 3rd March but they refused to take it, requesting for money instead. I contacted the dealer who sold me the phone and he told me to return so that he can sell it and give me my refund. I returned the phone on the same day (3rd March). Now the guy is telling me that he hasn't sold the phone because the person I bought it for had unboxed it so he won't refund me.

So I was wondering what to do on this matter?

Unfortunately I don't think there's much you can do. The store sold you a phone that was in good working order and was exactly what you requested. They've done nothing wrong. They were under no obligation to take the phone back and sell it again, that was just good will. The problem is that the phone is no longer "new" because the box was opened and if they wanted to sell it again they would need to disclose that it was second-hand and sell it at a reduced price.

I suspect that the best thing you can do is sell the phone yourself. You won't get the full amount you spent but something will be better than nothing.

Friday, 7 April 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

My policy was cancelled!

I was hoping to get your assistance on a matter I'm currently facing.

Last year May the company I work for went through retrenchments and restructuring which resulted in salaries being reduced by 50% and also not being paid on time. As a result I have not been able to meet many debit orders on the last day of the month but as soon as I do get paid I make sure to make payments towards them, and have been doing that since. Earlier this year I was involved in a car accident and went through the whole police process. I alerted my insurance broker about the issue and they relayed the message to the insurer. I had missed 3 months worth of instalments due to inconsistent payments but as soon as the accident happened I borrowed funds to cover the arrears. My broker let me know that my insurer cancelled my policy, even though I had been depositing money whenever we got paid, and no one let me know of the cancellation. I then shared with them the notice of retrenchments and restructuring from work but they ended up saying that their hands are tied and they cannot help me.

Is this an issue you may be able to help me with?

Firstly I'm very sorry about the stress you've been though over the last year. Times have been very tough for us all but you've had a very hard time.

I'm happy to contact the insurance company on your behalf but I suspect they'll only give me bad news. Technically the insurance company was correct to cancel your policy because you were behind with your payments and even though you tried to catch up with the payments it seems like the policy had long been cancelled.

However, I still think the insurance company let you down. They should have been talking to you throughout this period and warning you that the policy would be cancelled. They should have been doing this directly to you but also to your broker if they couldn't get hold of you.

I'm interested in how you paid the money you borrowed to cover the arrears. Did you pay them to the broker or to the insurance company? Either way, you deserve those payments back.

I'll let you know what the insurance company says.

I'm left with nothing!

I have 2 months without earning a salary due to mistakes done by my bank. I do plenty of calls every day and what I get is empty promises that they will amend the issue. I am financially suffering because of that.

In December 2022 I applied for loan and it got credited to my account on December 31 same year. The deductions for the loan started on February and it was P10,339 and this resulted in net pay to be P0. I called to ask what led to this and they told me the money has not yet appeared on their system and advised me to call again after the 5th of March.

I did exactly that on the 6th at that time they said the reasons for this is because the loan term was indicated to be 5 years while it was supposed to be 6 years. They connected me with the manager who promised to check what could have transpired and then called back saying that she took my issue to the Branch Manager. I am going through hell because of this.

There are so many things wrong here. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly there's the loan agreement you signed. I know the bank made a mistake in calculating the repayments over 5 years instead of 6 years but I don't think that would have made such a huge difference to the monthly payments. Even if they had calculated it correctly, you still would be left with only a tiny portion of your salary each month. I think this was what our South African cousins call reckless lending and perhaps even reckless borrowing by you. Can you really afford this loan even if it's over 6 years?

I contacted the bank and they promised to fix the problem as soon as possible. Meanwhile, I think you need to take a very close look at your debt situation and ask yourself if it's survivable?