Saturday, 19 September 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my money?

I need your assistance, I engaged a lawyer in 2017 to collect my money from someone who owed me P35,000. I have discovered that this guys have already collected close to P20,0000. The only money I got from them is P5,000. Now they are no longer communicating with me. They are now collecting and keeping it for themselves. They now quiet about they no longer answer my calls.

Please intervene in this issue.

I respect lawyers. Ok, let me correct that. I've had the privilege to know a lot of attorneys over the years and many of them are the most decent, principled, honorable, trustworthy people. Some of them have become good friends. So I respect SOME lawyers.

However, like many professions, there are sometimes people who let their profession down. There are obviously people who don't uphold the highest levels of conduct that we, as their clients, have a right to expect. Just read The Voice over the years and you'll see evidence of lawyers misbehaving.

Maybe we have another here. In theory the best option is to complain to the Law Society of Botswana who regulate attorneys. However, I'm told that they are struggling to manage the number of complaints they have before them and their turnaround times are difficult if you want rapid justice. So let's try the direct approach. I've contacted the attorney and presented your situation and asked him for his reaction to your accusations. Maybe there's an innocent explanation. Maybe there isn't. Either way, let's see how he responds. Or does he want to become famous in The Voice?

What should I do about this loan?

Hi Mr. l was working in government and l was having a case at work and l was dismissed from work. The time l was being dismissed l was having a loan from 2018. In December my loan balance was P15,666. Then I went to the bank to tell them my problem. Since December because I was no longer working l decided to pay 200, 300 or 400 to pay off the loan. l have already paid around P7,000 trying up to pay off my loan. So last week I tried to check my balance and they say it is P17,000. So this is really stressing me please help me.

Unfortunately, banks aren't always as kind, caring and compassionate as we might want. The only reason banks exist is to make money and one of the many ways they do this is by lending money to people like you and me and then charging us interest. They're not likely to change their minds about the interest they want from us, regardless of how desperate we might be.

The most important thing you can do, and this is often something many people avoid when they're in financial difficulties, is to keep talking to the bank. Given that all they want is their money back it IS in their interests to negotiate a repayment plan that satisfies their need for money and your need to continue to pay the rent and buy food.

I suggest that you talk to the bank as soon as possible and have this discussion.

The lesson from all of this is that whenever possible we need to avoid debt. Almost all of us need to borrow money to buy houses and cars but the sad news is that much of the debt we incur isn't as necessary as we think. I've seen people borrowing money to buy household goods when there are plenty of places you can buy such things second hand. I've heard of people borrowing money just to fund a lifestyle they can't afford. I've even encountered people who've taken bank loans in order to join pyramid and Ponzi schemes. That's the height of madness.

The sensible thing to do before you borrow any money is to talk to people you trust. Not the people you know who are already in massive debt but those who've managed to avoid the debt trap. Find out how they live their lives and do your best to copy them!

Saturday, 12 September 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my company registration?

My friend and I took a decision to use a consultancy to do for us company registration packages this year March 2020 for P1,000. Since then we paid the first half then after lockdown went to pay the remaining balance but still we do not have our package. When we try to search our proposed name on the CIPA website no name appears even to date.

We have tried to call him and visit his office countless times but he doesn't answer or respond to our texts. It seems we are not of value but we are clients who paid the full amount for the packages. we are not being taken seriously as customers more so that after 5 months of enlisting their services nothing has been fruitful as such we are looking for a refund because they have wasted our time, money and resources following them up which we could have used on other projects and avenues.

I think we all understand by now that Covid-19, the various lockdowns and the distancing restrictions the authorities have implemented, while obviously necessary for public health, have disrupted many aspects of our lives. That’s the price we’ve paid for Covid having such low impact on us. So far.

I’m sure we all also understand the impact it’s had on business. It’s made life MUCH harder for us all, companies and their customers.

However, the lockdown and other restrictions are no excuse for companies stealing our money and that’s what this company has done. Firstly, you should report them to the Competition and Consumer Authority so they’re aware that they have a rogue company to deal with. I can also get in touch with them to make them understand that not only have they offended you and me but they’ve also offended every reader of The Voice. You should then also inform CIPA so they know as well.

By the way, you know it’s really a LOT easier these days to form a company with CIPA online?

Where’s my settlement letter?

Good afternoon. I need to make an inquiry. I bought furniture through hire purchase and due to financial constraints I have sought to apply for a personal loan from my banker. My banker has since asked me to avail a settlement letter with their account number which I ought to get from the furniture shop so that the bank can clear my account with the shop.

Getting the settlement letter has proved futile because I get given one story after the next and now a month has since passed without getting any help. I am at my wits end and I feel the furniture shop is delaying deliberately so as to score more monies (via interest as well as monthly instalments) at my expense! Kindly assist me if this should really take this long?

Thank you in anticipation.

I think you’ve explained very well why furniture stores are so keen to sell things on hire purchase. It’s because they make LOTS of money from it. Many years ago, I had a conversation with the Regional Manager of one of the South African furniture store chains. He made me promise never to identify the company but he told me “We’re not really in the furniture business, we’re in the money-lending business.”

There are two possibilities here. Either you’re right and they are deliberately delaying giving you the settlement lesson you requested so they can keep you paying them for as long as possible or they’re incompetent. Either way you have a right to expect better from them. Either way you deserve a reasonable level of service.

Let’s both approach the store and remind them that Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act says that
“where a supplier undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of the consumer, the consumer has a right to … the performance of the services in a manner and quality the consumers are reasonably entitled to expect”.
That part of the Act makes it clear that we can’t expect miracles but we ARE entitled to a reasonable level of service. It doesn’t say what ‘reasonable’ means but we ALL know when it’s ‘unreasonable’. Your case is definitely in the “unreasonable” category. Let’s help them to understand that as well.

Saturday, 5 September 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What should I do?

I bought goods from a furniture shop by credit paying instalment every month. I have been paying them every month without skipping. So because of lockdown I failed to pay them. I'm a business lady selling food but since there is no money to pay, they are approaching me to take goods from me now through a debt collector so I need your help please.

I told them like now I still don’t have money but they insisted to pay before 5th September. I owe P3,400 arrears. The total of the goods was P17,000 before.

Hire purchase is a difficult enough way to buy thing in normal times but it’s just become so much worse in the times of Covid-19. There are many problems with hire purchase but the fundamental problem is that you don’t own the items you think you’re buying, you’re just hiring them. Until the day you pay the last instalment the goods still belong to the store that delivered them. That means that whenever you fall behind with your instalments the store can just come and collect them without going through a lengthy court process. And then, even after the goods might have been repossessed, you still owe the store money because the auction value of the repossessed goods is so low compared to your outstanding debt.

Unfortunately, things just got worse for everyone during the Covid-19 lockdown. We’ve all had to cope with a reduced income and that has hit people with hire purchase debts particularly hard. While the banks and other lenders were encouraged to show their customers some flexibility that message didn’t reach the hire purchase lenders and I think that was a mistake.

Realistically, the only thing you can try is to approach either the store or the deb collector and do your best to negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford and which offers them the money you owe as quickly as they can tolerate. You might be surprised how willing they are to do a deal with you. Good luck.

What are my rights?

I would like your help please. On the 30th July I bought a charger at a cellphone shop in Airport Junction for P150. They promised me the charger was good quality. Fast forward a month later, the adaptor isn't working and the cord seems to be faulty as it makes the electricity go off when I plug it onto another charger adaptor. I called the store and the lady I spoke to said that they don't have warranties for chargers, something they didn't communicate with me when I bought the charger. Secondly the box that came with the charger said it has a 1 year warranty. I don't think I trust them to replace this charger because I fear that they may give me another faulty device. Am I entitled to a refund? I have the receipt and everything. The adaptor even still has the plastic wrapping it came with.

The good news for you is that the Consumer Protection Act is on your side. The bad news for this store is that they clearly have no idea what the law says. Let’s fix that.

I think you should go back to the store and tell them that Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act of 2018 says that a consumer “has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects". But what happens if those goods don’t satisfy that requirement?

Section 16 (2) of the Act says that a consumer "may return goods to a supplier in their merchantable or original state, within six months after the delivery of the goods, without penalty and at the supplier’s risk and expense, if the goods fail to satisfy the requirements and standards" required in the Act.

So that’s exactly what you should do. Return the charger to the store and explain both these parts of the law to the store manager. You might need to use very simple language so they understand it fully and recognise their obligations. Let me know if they need it in writing!

Update: I heard from the reader that the store gave her a replacement charger. Sometimes all it takes is a little understanding of consumer rights and the courage to demand that a store honours them!

Sunday, 30 August 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my phone?

I bought a new phone, a Huawei Y9s on 8th June and returned it to the shop on 17th July because it was losing battery fast compared to when I bought it. Mind you this is just 5 weeks, and they told me that it is normal for a phone to do that! The finger print scanner was occasionally freezing as well, the phone torch not working and the screen was emitting some kind of light when on rest mode. It just lit up like a torch, only the front part of the phone, I don’t know if it was because of the torch issue or what.

This week, I went to enquire what is the delay. They had no answer. I get to the shop yesterday to collect the phone, and they finally tell me that they broke the screen / cover, and that they said thats why my phone is not ready as they are awaiting that replacement. And nobody was going to let me know of this until I demanded they give me my phone

I gave them my phone still brand new, am I expected to just get a refurbished with phone with unoriginal parts when I paid for a new phone? This phone cost P4,995 and I was planning to use it a few years before changing it.

When you buy something like a new phone the law says that we have a right to expect “goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects, unless the opposite is clearly disclosed”. That’s not too difficult to understand? The law goes on to say that a consumer like you can return any goods that don’t meet this requirement and that the supplier should “repair or replace the defective goods” or “refund the consumer the amount already paid”. However, it’s important to understand that it’s up to the supplier to decide which of these they offer you. They ARE within their rights to try and repair the phone.

Your situation is slightly more complicated because it seems like they damaged your phone while they were trying to fix it. The law says that you’re also entitled to “timely performance and completion” of a repair and “timely notice of any unavoidable delay” if there’s a problem. It goes on to say that you’re entitled to expect services “in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect”.

I think we need to help the store understand their legal obligation because clearly they don’t know about them. Let’s offer them some free education!

Is Mufhiwa Building Projects a pyramid scheme?

Hello Richard. Kindly help me here. have you heard of Mufhiwa Building Projects? I think this is a pyramid scheme. Its not practical for 6 people to contribute P170 and be given 600K to build a house!!! Its so sad many of our people are falling for this trap. They have approached a friend and she doesn’t want to take my advice.

Kindly research on the matter and update. Thank you in advance.

You are completely correct. This so-called Mufhiwa Building Project is an obvious pyramid scheme.

Their busines model is very simple, just as you describe. You contribute P170 and then recruit six people beneath you who also contribute the same amount and this continues for several levels and then, they claim, you will have earned enough money either to build your house or pay off your home loan.

I’ve spoken to several people who are trying to recruit others into this scheme and they all say the same thing. It’s all about recruitment. There are no products, no investment schemes, nothing other that persuading other people to join the scheme. That makes it a pyramid scheme.

One of the defences these people all make against the charge that it’s a scam is that it’s a registered company. They’ve even shown copies of a CIPA company registration certificate for the company. However, that means nothing other than someone has paid to register a company. It doesn’t say that the company is legitimate or has honest intentions. It just says that someone has filled in some forms and paid a fee.

Like all pyramid schemes, this one will eventually collapse when they can’t fund enough new members gullible enough to part with their money. Did I mention that promoting or even just joining a scheme like this could cost you a fine of up to P100,000 and up to five years in prison? Or both!

Saturday, 22 August 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my stock?

Greetings, I’m seeking help from you regarding a matter whereby a lady robbed us our hard earned cash in pretence of ordering stock for us in China.

I’m an unemployed graduate and wanted to start something for myself to make money. In total we are 9 people and the amount she robbed us is P31,000. The police were involved and even now we haven't been helped with anything. When we call she doesn’t answer, when we text she just ignores our messages.

Please help us.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a situation like this. In normal times it happens often enough but in the strange and difficult times we now live in, there are more and more people trying to get us involved in their money-making schemes. We can all see why people are interested.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t try to earn some extra money, but there are some precautions we should always take whenever we try to do so. The first, and perhaps most important, is to get things in writing. Before you hand over any significant amounts of money to someone you must put your agreement in writing and both parties must sign it in front of witnesses. The agreement should explain exactly what each party is going to do, when they will do it and what will happen if something goes wrong.

Whenever money is involved, you also need to make sure the money leaves a trail behind it. Whenever possible, don’t use cash or money-transfer systems. Use bank accounts and transfer money electronically in a way that can be investigated. That doesn’t guarantee there won’t be trouble because some scammers use legitimate bank accounts (usually belonging to another victim) but it certainly reduces the risk and it allows the banks and the police to trace the money.

There’s another reason why a written agreement is so important. It’s a very good test of someone character and honesty. Someone unwilling to put an agreement inwriting can’t be trusted.

However, here’s another lesson. The Police can’t always help. Unless there’s evidence that someone like this person deliberately set out to steal your money, they probably can’t help. It’s not the job of the Police to involves themselves in business issues that go wrong, it’s their job to catch criminals.

I’ll try and contact this “lady” on your behalf and see if I can talk some sense into her.

Where are my glasses?

Early this year I went to a book store. I happened to forget my glasses I use for driving. The following morning I phoned and sent an SMS, alerting that I had forgotten my shades at the shop. I could not go back that morning but the following day I went back and I was told that the shades indeed were found, handed to one of the workers. He told me that the shades were stored overnight at the shop. The following day the person who picked them came to the shop and asked if the owner of the shades had not come to pick them. I was told the person who picked them asked them to hand the shades to him and he did. By the time I got to the shop the officer had already handed my shades to the stranger.

I reported the issue to the management and they kept on tossing me from pillar to post telling me they had reported the case to Head Office in South Africa. I followed with emails to both Botswana and SA management but to date there is no response. I need my shades and driving in intensive sunlight, glare and shine is damaging my eyes which have now started tearing.

Please may you intervene in this case as soon as you possibly can.

I think you have a right to expect the bookstore to do their best to trace who this stranger was. Yes, it was kind of this person to hand in your glasses when they found them but it was blatant theft to collect them from the store, knowing they weren’t theirs. A sensible store will record the name and contact details of someone who hands in lost property or they might even have the person on their security camera footage. I’ll get in touch with the management to see what can be done.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my bed?

I bought a bed from some warehouse on 17th June. I saw their advert on Facebook and talked to the sales rep. We communicated on Facebook until delivery date. Since day one the bed I bought for P3,000 was having a noise and the mattress is uncomfortable. Now they are playing the hard to get.

I have been heart broken till now. They promised to change the bed and they keep on giving out empty promises. I’m so broken since I got robbed of my hard earned P3,000.

The most hurting part is that the sales rep has that stinking attitude.

I’m very sorry for your trouble and I’m also sorry for the fact that I probably won’t be able to help. That’s because these people don’t like me and they’ve already blocked me from communicating with them. We had a similar situation with the same company in May this year when they simply failed to deliver a bed a customer had paid for three months beforehand. I contacted them and they simply refused to cooperate. They accused me of being “unprofessional” and refused to allow the customer to cancel the purchase and to refund her.

I tried contacting them again but it’s clear they don’t want to speak to me. However, I contacted the Competition and Consumer Authority and reported your complaint to them. They have the power to insist that shady suppliers like these guys don’t block their calls. Let’s see if they’re prepared to flex their muscles!

UPDATE: They started communicating again. They’ve promised an exchange once we’re released from the lockdown. Maybe the pressure from the Authority had an effect!

What should I tell my friend?

Hello Richard, I have a friend who is planning to invest all his money in something called FOREX. He says that you put your money in it and that they use the money to make a profits by doing foreign exchange then your money is paid an interest of 15% every month. I am not convinced about this. Is it something legitimate? Should I allow him to continue? If not what should I do to convince him otherwise. It's like he is planning to invest ALL the money he has. Every single thebe.

I wish we all had friends like you, people who take the time to protect the people they care about and do their best to prevent them being abused and scammed.

Firstly, there’s nothing inherently wrong with forex. We all do forex transactions when we change Pula to another currency when we travel overseas. Even when we withdraw cash at a foreign ATM, our banks are converting our money from one currency to another. It’s normal practice. However, you’ll find that there are many people around who suggest that ordinary people like me, you and your friend can make profits from doing this. They suggest that by looking closely at the exchange rates between currencies and the tiny changes that happen every day between the relative values of different currencies we can buy and sell them to make a profit. Yes, that’s certainly possible, but is it likely?

Financial institutions like banks and investment companies spend vast amounts of money on supercomputers that model the forex market and just as much money employing some of the cleverest people you’ll ever meet to make money this way. Do we really think mere mortals like us can compete with them?

And then there are the claims made by companies like this one. Anyone who guarantees that we can make 15% per month is either lying, ignorant or insane. No legitimate investment or business opportunity can keep a promise to make those profits. You’d be lucky to make 15% in a year, particularly in these troubled times.

The company you identified seem suspicious. Their domain was only registered late in 2019 and they seem to have connections to other companies with shady histories. Worse still is that they appear to have been the subject of a warning from the Nigerian authorities earlier this year.

I think your friend deserves to know all of this, don’t you?

Saturday, 8 August 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must we pay for the power?

My mother has a house in Mochudi which she rented out when she moved to her other house in 2013. Tenants kept moving in and out over the years and sometime in 2018 the last tenant moved out and the house stayed vacant until I and my younger moved in in March 2020. We reported an electric fault the first week of July after the main switch kept tripping and when BPC attendants came they disconnected the electricity completely and accused us of fraud as they said the meter box had been bypassed and electricity had been used illegally for sometime. I went to BPC offices to explain what happened but I was told there is nothing they can do to help us because as the owners of the house we had the responsibility of everything that happened inside the premises.

I was told we will have to pay a charge for fraud based on an estimate of our monthly usage amounting to P21,000. I resolved to paying an amount of P14,500 for the electricity to be restored. We have accepted the wrong which has been done but we feel its not fair as BPC wanted the whole amount paid before restoration of power and they refused to offer us a payment plan.

This must be very difficult and challenging for you and your mother. However, I think BPC have a point, that as owners of the property, you had a responsibility to ensure that the electricity BPC supplied was used properly and legally. In theory I think BPC can be expected to chase the tenant who tampered with the equipment but can anyone identify which tenant it actually was?

I think the best approach is to try your best to negotiate something with BPC and then perhaps try to identify which tenant bypassed the power supply and take legal action against them to recover your losses.

The lesson is that landlords need to be very careful about how their tenants behave and to regularly inspect meters and cabling to ensure that nothing illegal (and incredibly dangerous) has been done.

Where’s my phone?

I bought a Samsung J6 phone from a store located in Rail Park Mall in Gaborone on the 18th May 2019. The price for the phone was P2,495. I used the phone for about six months then it froze while charging it. On the 5th December 2019 I went back to the cellphone warehouse shop and reported the problem with my phone. It was then inspected by a lady and took it for repair by their technician. She promised that my phone would be fixed within seven working days or I will be given a new phone if fixing does not materialise. The phone was still under warranty of 12 months. From December last year up to date I have not received my phone. They are always narrating stories barring me from seeing the shop owner but failing to give me my phone or a new phone. I always call the shop and sometimes travel to Gaborone to pick up my phone but nothing has ever worked. The always make numerous excuses and promises which they never fulfil.

Please Consumer watchdog help me. I want my money back because I don't trust the company anymore.

This is complete incompetence. I understand that sometimes a repair can take a while to complete, cellphones are highly technical devices. However, taking eight months to repair a fairly normal phone is completely unacceptable.

I think that we should BOTH approach the store and tell them that Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act 2018 says that consumers have “the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects”. Clearly a phone that doesn’t work properly fails this test.

We should also tell them that Section 14 (1) of the Act says that when “a supplier undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of a consumer, the consumer has a right to … timely performance and completion of those services” and “timely notice of any unavoidable delay”. In other words, a store like this one should do things reasonably quickly and they need to tell you if there’s going to be any delay. Finally, the Act says that consumers have a right to “performance of the services in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect”.

Let’s see if the pressure of us both educating them about the law will add some pressure.