Saturday, 25 June 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my refund?

I ordered a phone from the company with an app. Now the guy is not giving me solid or sound feedback when I follow up. He last said it takes 16 days of which I ordered on the 6th May. That guy kept saying the phone is at customs now the phone is damaged. The last call I made was about damaged products of which he was to deliver not give me feedback about shipment. I genuinely need the phone I can't be waiting this long just to get a refund especially that I have been patient with him. I need a specific date so I can make arrangements to place new order elsewhere.

Some suppliers really need to learn some basic lessons. Primary school lessons.

Firstly, they should know that Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act says that a supplier must give a consumer "timely performance" and "timely notice of any unavoidable delay" in any services they offer. In simple terms, if they said it would take 16 days from the 6th May, then as soon as they realised there was a delay it was their job to call you and let you know.

They should also know some more about the Act. I contacted the owner of this company and it was clear he had no idea what the law required of him. He seemed genuinely surprised when I told him that the Consumer Protection Act says that when goods are sold through mail order like this, there are some new obligations on companies like his. Firstly, the contract must be in writing. Secondly, they must offer a "cooling-off period of 10 working days" and the supplier must allow the "consumer the right to cancel the contract any time as long as it is within the cooling-off period".

But did he tell his customer this? No, he didn't. Instead he told me that their "refund policy on our website as people make purchases states that refunds are given within 4 working days". That's fine but did he explain that to her? No, he didn't.

I asked him when the consumer would receive her refund and he told me "before the week ends". But he didn't. On the Friday I asked him and he said "as per our policy we have upto Monday". That's the policy he didn't tell her about?

Let's see if he honours his promises this time, despite not doing so before. Let's also see if he wants to learn what the law says. 

Update: The refund was eventually made.

More scam warnings

Last week I warned readers of The Voice about the scams that are using the name of the Yellow Card cryptocurrency exchange. I tried to explain that these scammers, who offer enormous returns for our "investments", are just pretending to be connected with Yellow Cars when in fact there's no connection at all. They're faking it, just like they fake the payment notification they claim as proof that people can make money from their fake scheme. One of the things these scammers do is to hijack other people's Facebook accounts so they can seem to be real people with real profiles, perhaps even people we know. But how do they do this? How do they gain control over other people's accounts?

It's very simple. We give them our passwords. A member of our Facebook group sent me screenshots from a conversation he'd had with a scammer. The scammer approached him saying he represented a clothing company that was running "a giveaway of p2000 to the first 50 people". In order to get this "giveaway" he was required to give them his name, date of birth, "state/province", country and occupation. Already I think you can sense this is suspicious, can't you? Someone offering money in Pula want to know his "state/province"? But then it became really interesting. They also wanted his "Facebook phone number" and "Facebook password".

This is how they hijack Facebook accounts. The scammers are given access to these accounts by the account owners themselves and they then use these genuine accounts to exploit further victims.

The lesson is very simple. Never, under any circumstances, give your Facebook password to anyone who asks for it. The only people who will ever ask for your password are criminals. And they can't be trusted.

Saturday, 18 June 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will they charge me the right price?

I paid a P10,000 deposit for a stove priced at P12,000 on the shop floor. I have a time stamped photo of the sign saying P12,000, but when I got home I realized the contract was down for P13,000 and when I went into the store at Airport Junction they had increased the price on the shop floor to P13k.

I requested on a later date that I should have gotten the P12,000 price but they said I should have raised it on the same day.

Do I have something I should fight for here or I should accept defeat?

It depends if you care about your rights and the rights of everyone else.

I suspect this is an experience we've all had, when the price we're asked to pay at the till is more than the price we saw on the shelf or in an advertisement. It's certainly happened to me a few times.

The good news is that the law is on our side. Section 11 of the Consumer Protection Act is one of my favourites. It starts by saying that prices must always be displayed and that they should be displayed in Pula. Better still, Section 11 (3) of the Act says, in very simple language, that a supplier "shall not charge a consumer more than the price
indicated or displayed for goods or services".

I think you should go back to the store and explain this to them. I've also contacted them and I'm sure they'll do the right thing.

Update: The store manager contacted the customer and has promised to do all he can do to assist. Let's hope.

Yellow Card scams – another warning

Several people have asked yet again about a particular scam that's still going around.
Most people on Facebook will have seen advertisements for an opportunity to make a lot of money using Yellow Card. Many people have tried to post these advertisements in the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group but I've declined them. One recent advertisement said that if you joined and invested P300 it would grow to P3,000 and that "you will get your profit within 2hours of mining". They claimed that P2,500 would grow to P20,000 in the same time.

These adverts all had three things in common. They all mentioned Yellow Card, they all promised that I could multiply
my "investment" many times over in just a few days and they all included screenshots of bank payment notifications. However, all three of these claims were false. Firstly, it's nothing to do with Yellow Card, which is a legitimate exchange where you can buy and sell cryptocurrencies. Secondly, there is no investment in the world that can multiply money as quickly as these people claim. Thirdly, the bank alerts were obviously faked.

In my conversations with these scammers they all eventually confessed that they were associated with a range of web sites that made these offers and all of these sites were registered in just the last few months. They were also all reluctant to say where in fact they were based, most claiming they were in Botswana, but it was obvious they really weren't. Some couldn't even spell the name of the country or town they claimed to be in. It was also interesting to see that the web sites were all almost identical. This is clearly an organised scam. I've noticed that very often the people trying to post these advertisements use different Facebook profiles but the same cell number. Another trick they play is to persuade new recruits to post videos saying they've made money from the scheme. However, I managed to trace one of these people and she told me she had been paid to do this.

Please I beg you, don't fall for scams like this. You'll never make a profit and I guarantee you'll lose any money you "invest". If you're ever in any doubt if something is a scam, you can always contact Consumer Watchdog for advice. And remember that anyone who invites you to join their money-making scheme wants to make money FROM you, not WITH you.

Saturday, 11 June 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will they repair the tombstone?

In March 2022 I purchased a tombstone for my late mother. The total purchase price of P29,000 was for supply and installation of tombstone in Maun including transportation to Maun. I also purchased some tiles worth P960 for decorating the tombstone slab and handed them over as agreed. On the 24th April they advised that they would be delivering the tombstone in Maun on the 27th April.

I drove to Maun from Gaborone and waited for them up to the 30th April whereupon they showed up with a cracked and broken tombstone, no tiles and no refund for construction of the base slab which they had explicitly requested that I construct at my own expense even though the cost was already included in the original quotation and was fully paid for. I acceded to the request in the interests of time since I had already been waiting for 3 days and I trusted that I would be refunded.

They insisted that I accept the tombstones in its broken and shambolic state and my protests and refusal to accept the tombstone were met by angry and vitriolic attacks from the managing director and owner.

With no further communication and or commitment to replace the tombstone I wrote a letter of demand on the 10th May 2022 to which there has been no response. I also attempted to report a case of theft of the decorative tiles that I had bought and was turned back at Central Police Station.

Please advise me on how to demand my money back as I have been cheated and threatened the owner going so far as to tell me that I cannot and will not teach him how to run his business.

I know that companies in all industries should treat their customers with respect and courtesy but I think there are some industries where this is even more important. Specifically, I think consumers are entitled to a lot more compassion when they deal with companies offering any services involving illness and death.

This company seems to have forgotten that they are dealing with a family that lost their beloved mum. That doesn't mean mistakes can't happen but it does mean they should show some sympathy and not act like bullies.

I contacted the MD of the company and he gave me much of the same treatment. I tried to explain that he can't expect to deliver a broken tombstone and then do nothing to fix it. In particular I told him that Section 14 (1) (c) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a "consumer has a right to ... the use, delivery or installation of goods that are free of defects and are of a quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect". I also explained that Section 14 (2) says that if a supplier that fails to do this must "remedy any defect in the quality of the services (or) refund the consumer a reasonable portion of the price paid for the services performed and goods supplied, having regard to the extent of the failure".

Unfortunately, he wasn't persuaded. He doesn't think the law applies to him, saying that because you didn't buy insurance that covered the tombstone during transportation, that somehow excuses him from his obligations. Let's see what some additional pressure might achieve.

Can I get a refund?

I paid for accommodation at a hotel for 4 days but I only stayed for 3 nights. The Manager is saying they are not refunding me yet my banking details were taken by the reception when I checked out promising to refund me. When I called this morning they said they are not refunding and referred me to the manager who said they are not refunding for shortened stay.

I am stressed because it is an imprest, government money which I have to retire or else it will be taken from my salary next month.

Sorry, but I don't have any good news for you. It's normal practice for hotels to charge you for the time you booked, not necessarily the time you stay. The only exception to this is if you give them longer notice. Just checking out midway through your stay isn't enough notice. If you think about it, it's a reasonable policy. They could have offered the room to someone else and they'll lose the money they would otherwise have made from your stay.

I contacted the hotel and they confirmed that the check-in form everyone signs when they arrive says clearly that "premature departures will be charged in full".

Saturday, 4 June 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will they give me a refund?

I have a problem, i bought a car on the 15th May from one of the garages in Mogoditshane, unregistered. I took it unregistered so I could register it for myself since I needed the 2,000 it would cost if they registered for me. I managed to register the car last week Friday, and that Friday I was driving it for the second time since I parked it on the day I bought it. I went to Gaborone to service the and car. When my mechanic saw it, he said it has to be cleaned because it had too much sludge and Sunday before he cleaned it, the car started smoking badly. The same afternoon he cleaned the sludge which seemed to have affected some parts of the engine.

After he completed the service the problem still remained. I tried to talk to the owner of the garage and he said there is nothing they can do since I had already asked the mechanic to help me. I told him I need a refund but he doesn't want to talk to me, he cuts my calls when I try to reach out.

Whenever I try to talk to him he gets aggressive, he doesn't address me politely, which makes it difficult to pursue the matter. Please advise me?

I must be honest, this is likely to be complicated.

The first mistake was to buy the car without having it thoroughly checked out by an expert. Every time you buy a second-hand car, no matter how old or cheap it might be, you must get it checked out by an experienced mechanic. They'll be able to spot things that the rest of us wouldn't spot. If you don't know a mechanic, ask your friends, family, workmates, someone will know one. If that doesn't work, I suggest you visit the last trustworthy garage you used and see if one of the mechanics wants to work a little overtime for you. It might be worth a few hundred Pula and a crate of beer to get their advice. It might save you a lot of money in the long run.

The second mistake was to get anyone other than the garage to look at the problem. They can now say that someone else messed with the vehicle. It's obviously not true but it's an argument they can use to defend themselves.

I think the best option is to contact the Competition and Consumer Authority and see if they have any advice. They've had some success dealing with shady car dealers and their power and experience might be useful. If that doesn't work I can explain the Consumer Protection Act to them. I'll make sure to use short, simple words so they understand.

Can I change my mind?

This serves to enquire about my rights as a consumer who has since purchased some goods and want to retract. I have bought a smart TV at some store and was supposed to come back and collect it since I did not have money for transport by then.

I now want to cancel the purchase due to financial issues I am currently facing. The TV was worth P7,499.95.

This also might be complicated.

Remember that our consumer rights, while powerful and extensive, don't include the right to change our minds. The law only says that we can return an item we bought if it's faulty or if it was somehow mis-sold. If the item is in working order and we've changed our minds, it's up to the good will of the store to take it back. It's their decision.

Yes, some stores have a policy of allowing returns but that's just very good customer service, it's not a right we have. That's why the products from these stores are usually a bit more expensive. We're paying for the right to change our minds.

I think you should ask the store if they'll cancel the deal. Remind them that the TV hasn't been delivered yet, it hasn't even been taken out of the box. It's as good as new and it's certainly not second hand or used.

However, even if they do agree, they might still charge you a fee to do this. It might be worth it.

Saturday, 28 May 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

My car was a write-off!

My brother wanted to buy a new car so he went to a major dealer but currently there is a short supply of cars in the market. He ended up going to a smaller car dealer, where he found a mint clean GD6 with a mileage of 10,000km. He engaged with the garage and asked them the usual questions of someone who wants to buy a car. They told him the car was just being used by the garage management hence the low mileage and they told him the dealer was the first owner.

It looked clean and almost new so he went to the bank and processed a loan of P387k to buy the vehicle and paid the dealer. Two weeks later, my brother is driving around down, and some lady tells him that was her car, and to get her number come and get the service book. We made contact with the lady and went to see her only the be shown the pictures that the car was crushed badly in an accident and was then written off. The dealer bought it and fixed it.

The concern here is that he didn't disclose that he was selling a car that had been in an accident and he sold it at 20k less than the price of a new one.

We have the pictures of the car at the accident scene. So do we have any recourse here?

You have one major recourse. You can lose your mind with anger. You can become really, incredibly angry. So can the authorities.

Firstly, this car dealer lied to you and lying is always a bad thing and the law agrees with me. I'm not an attorney but I think you can approach the Police and accuse him of "obtaining by false pretence". That could get someone up to seven years behind bars.

Then you can approach the Competition and Consumer Authority and ask them to investigate a clear breach of Section 5 of the Consumer Protection Act. This says that a supplier must not, when marketing goods:
'falsely represent … that the goods have a particular history or previous use".
This seems very simple to me. They must also not claim that the goods:
"have been used for a certain period to an extent or in a manner that is materially different from the facts".
Failing to tell you that the car had been in a very serious accident and was then written off is outrageous. 

I suspect that this dealer is going to fix this problem for you rather quickly.

Can I get my money back?

I have a situation. Earlier this year February I made an agreement with a construction company to build a 3 bedroom house for me. I deposited P150 000 into the construction company. We made an agreement that the house should be done in 5 months. The problem is that up to now the house is still on foundation level. The owner of the company is making excuse after excuse. Where should I report sir because nothing is happening but I got that money as loan and it's being deducted from my account every month.

She is not taking my calls most of the time. When she takes my calls she would say that she paid for materials and the material will be delivered but it never happens. So I asked one of the guys she hired to build the house. It seems that she is broke because she sold all her cars.

I am so stressed. Please help

I think you need to move quickly. If her company is collapsing and your detective work is correct and that she's selling assets, you need to get there and make sure the money you've given her is retrieved as soon as possible and before the authorities close her down.

I think you need to speak to an attorney and get their specialist advice on the best way to get back the money you gave her. Please do this quickly.

Sunday, 22 May 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will she be paid?

Good morning sir. There is an woman she has an insurance policy in which she also insured her grandmother. In March 2022 the grandmother passed on to glory then she went to the insurance company and was told to send the death certificate which she did. She was told the policy owes P400 and she should pay that P400. She paid at the Palapye office and she been waiting for them to pay which they failed to pay.

Now she went back to them now they say the policy can't be cashed because its been closed or something like that and they can't help her. What can she do?

I contacted the insurance company who held this lady's insurance policy and the situation is complicated. Without disclosing too much information, they told me that this lady has, for a very long time, only paid her insurance premiums occasionally. Worse still, at the time of her claim she was a year in arrears. Not a single payment in 12 months. She was told that the policy would be reinstated if she paid the arrears but maybe she didn't understand, or perhaps they didn't explain clearly enough that she would not be able to submit any claims for a few months. That's because life insurance policies and funeral plans almost always have a waiting period before a claim can be submitted. Because she was in such great arrears, the policy started again as if it was a new one.

The lesson here is to clearly understand any policy before you sign it and start paying. Conditions like the ones this lady experienced are incredibly important. The simple truth about insurance policies is that if you don't pay the premiums, you don't get the benefit. That can be more than just an inconvenience, it can be a disaster.

I need my money back!

Hi Richard, I need your help. I contacted a guy selling bricks on Facebook in Kanye to deliver some bricks for me. He came to my plot in Jwaneng when I was not there and confirmed the place with him and he confirmed he will deliver. This was in January 2021. I paid him P4,000 as deposit so that after delivery I could pay the rest. The guy never delivered the bricks despite communication with him that I needed the bricks. It was an excuse after excuse about car breakdowns and all. I kept on contacting him and he said he will deliver.

The last conversation was this year January were he promised he will bring them but failed again. I told him that I no longer need the bricks but I need my money as I had bought bricks somewhere else. He promised to give me my money back but till now am still waiting. I need help to recover my money, as now he is not answering my calls. Please help.

I really don't understand how some businesses think they can operate like this. How do they sleep at night? Don't they have a conscience?

Luckily the people who wrote the Consumer Protection Act had this situation in mind. Section 14 of the Act says that:
"Where 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". 
He should have been constantly updating you on the delays, what was causing them and what he planned to do to speed things up. He obviously failed to do that. 
The Act goes on to say that if the supplier fails to deliver the services they promised they must either: "remedy any defect in the quality of the services"
"refund the consumer a reasonable portion of the price paid for the services performed and goods supplied, having regard to the extent of the failure". 
In simple terms, you deserve your money back. All of it. Now. No more excuses and delaying tactics.

I contacted the guy and asked him what he was planning to do but I haven't yet received a reply. I won't give up.

UPDATE: He says he'll refund you.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

The Voice - Consumers Voice

Can they charge this much?

Is there any body that regulates loan agreements as in the amount of interest to be generated? I mean is it within the law for a loan of around P77,000 to be paid back as P286,000?

For clarity purposes an elder took a loan for P77,000 then he was told that he was to pay back the loan over 7 years at a monthly premium of around P3,400. Mind you the elder earns around P5,500. Another dubious part is there was around P9,000 was taken from the initial loan with unclear description as to what it is for, meaning that he did not get the actual P77,000. On top of that there were small fees amounting to roughly P600 termed as service fees. My question here is that can someone pay more than triple the principal? Why was the loan designed to take around 3/4 of the persons take home.

And why also was the form brought along to the signing without the whole document for them to read? This clearly shows that the agent wanted to hide some details for the elder to sign clueless.

You raise several important issues. Firstly, how much interest can a lender charge? The answer is simple. They can charge whatever they please. I don't know of any law, regulation or rule that limits interest rates. However, there is one limit that everyone should know about. This is a thing called the 'in duplum' rule. This rule says that when a debt is settled, the amount of interest paid must not exceed the capital amount remaining. But the important issue is that this only applies if a debt is finally settled in one payment, not if it's paid over many years.

Secondly, the maths is correct. Seven years is 84 months and 84 x 3,400 is P285,600. However, that seems an enormous amount to repay to me. If these figures are correct, this person is paying an annual interest rate of over 50% and that is scandalously high. While that's not illegal it's certainly immoral.

Finally, there's the affordability issue. Lenders should be checking how affordable a loan will be before they give someone the money. Any loan that takes more than half of someone's income is clearly not going to be affordable and it's reckless of any lender to offer it.

I suggest that your elderly friend contacts NBFIRA to see if the company lending this money is legitimate. I suspect something is very wrong here. 

When will they pay me?

Hello sir, I want to know where can I report an insurance company based in Gaborone. I was involved in a minor car accident in January and I submitted quotations even now the insurance company has not helped me.

I have been told 2 months back that the assessor is coming to assess the car and the quotation. The quotes I submitted were valid for a month and now they are invalid. I requested they refund me my subscription money because they can't help me.

The car insurance was for the value of 300k, every year I paid 12,000 annual and another 12,000 this year. I never defaulted and this was supposed to be my first claim.

This is completely unacceptable. When someone submits an insurance claim there's obviously a process to go through but there's no way it should take this long. I could understand if it took a week or two to fill in forms, get quotations for repairs, sort out arguments with the other parties involved but four months is ridiculous.

You sent me the contact details of the person who sold you the policy and it's important to understand that he was an insurance broker, he didn't work for an insurance company. His job was to find the best policy from the best insurance company that best suited your needs.

I hope this is just a result of this insurance broker being inefficient. The bad news is that it might be something more serious. There's a chance that you never had insurance at all. This wouldn't be the first time we've heard of an insurance broker who sold a customer a policy and then took the monthly payments but never actually passed them to the insurance company.

I've tried contacting the broker but he doesn't seem to want to talk. I'll speak to NBFIRA instead. You should too.

UPDATE: It seems that the broker never opened the insurance policy. NBFIRA have been informed.