Saturday 13 July 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What should I do?

Good morning. I need help. I bought a car at a pawn shop, after the disk expired I found out that it has been flagged with the Police and also the disk on the car was fake. The Transport system shows that the car long expired in 2022 whereas the disk on the car was for 2023. I have tried to get them to rectify this but they are just sending me from pillar to post. Please assist.

The first thing we should all learn from this situation is that whenever we buy a second-hand car, it's important to get the seller to prove that the car hasn't been flagged by the Police. This is a process where the Police record a car as connected to a debt that an owner incurred when they failed to pay a Police fine. The problem occurs when the car is sold and the new owner then has problems registering the vehicle in their name. The Police should be flexible about this because it's obviously wrong to charge you for someone else's debts but it's clearly an inconvenience.

However, what worries me more here is that the car was sold with a forged registration disk. That's a criminal matter and the pawn shop management needs to take some responsibility for this. I know they didn't forge the disk but they neglected to check that the car was legally registered. That's something that any company selling a car should do.

I contacted the pawn shop and he responded quickly, saying: "Hello sir ...I understand the case....that car I also bought from another guy who has been promising to pay and cover all the necessary needs .I even gave him the guys numbers and they were talking and still promising to pay …"

I'm not impressed. You didn't buy the car from "another guy", you bought it from the pawn shop and it's their responsibility to fix this matter. I'll keep chasing them.

Finally, I think you need to speak to the Police and explain everything that happened here, most importantly about the fake registration disk. They need to understand that you are the innocent party here.

Update: The pawn shop manager persuaded "another guy" to compensate the consumer and this has started.

Can they do this?

Hey Mr Richard. One of requirements for this cash loan is a picture of your bank card including CVV. Is it allowed?

No, it most certainly is not.

Every part of your bank card is important and needs to be treated with great care. Obviously the 16-digit card number is important and you should be VERY careful how you use it and who you share it with. The Expiry Date is also critical but the most important thing is the 3-digit CVV number on the back of the card. This Card Verification Value number is used to prove that the card is in the possession of the card holder when they purchase things over the phone or online. Giving this to anyone is incredibly risky and giving it to a microlender who asks for it is dangerous. Incredibly dangerous. You are giving control of your money to someone who can't be trusted.

It's also illegal. NBFIRA, who regulate the microlending industry, have repeatedly said that lenders may not take any borrower's identity documents or their bank cards. I don't think it matters whether a lender takes a bank card physically or just a photo of it. If they have the CVV number, they've crossed the line.

I'll contact NBFIRA about this and I'll also contact the loan company. It might be just one employee that's breaking the rules or it might be company policy. Either way they ned to stop it immediately.

Saturday 6 July 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can't they fix it?

We have a phone here, a refurbished iPhone 11 we bought for P6,000 but recently the phone keeps going off and it doesn't not recognize the battery. The store owner is saying that it's because the software was changed.

They mentioned that the phone was not supposed to be updated but the software update was automatic. They said they can only fix it with P800 which I feel it does not make sense as it also does not recognize the battery.

Firstly, I suppose we should recognise that at least this store were open about the phone being refurbished. That's what the Consumer Protection Act requires. There's nothing wrong with buying and selling refurbished phones. In fact I think it's a very good idea, so long as suppliers are honest about this. I'm also pleased that the receipt you were given confirms that the phone had been refurbished.

However, despite being honest about this, I'm not sure they've been so honest about other things. The story about you not updating the software is complete nonsense. In fact it's incredibly important that you load all the software updates that your cellphone manufacturer releases and as soon as possible. They're there to protect us. Any store that says you shouldn't is behaving very strangely. It's even stranger that their receipt even includes a stamped statement saying, "No warranty when you upgrade software".

Section 23 of the Consumer Protection Act say that a contract between a supplier and a consumer may not "impose terms and conditions that are unfair, unreasonable or unjust". Not allowing you to keep your phone safely updated is, in my humble opinion, "unreasonable". And silly.

I've contacted the store and asked what how they suggest this can be resolved.

Readers might remember that we recently asked the Competition and Consumer Authority to investigate the cellphone industry because so many cellphone stores are either illegally selling second-hand phones as new or either ignoring or avoiding their legal obligations. We'll keep you updated on the progress they make.

Can I get a refund?

Mr Richard. Ke kopa thuso. I bought a sofa at a furniture store in Broadhurst but it came in a bad condition. It had marks on the arm and the corner was torn. Now they refusing to pay me back. The sofa was bought for P27,000 as new. I return the delivery guy with it and continue to ask for a refund. I sent all my bank account and confirmation letter like they asked but nothing. I can't get my money.

Please help with way forward.

This is really unacceptable. If we spend P27,000 on a sofa, it needs to be the best sofa in the world, delivered in perfect condition and by the politest delivery guys you've ever met. For that money we have a right to expect perfection.

However, it's debatable whether you can demand a refund. Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Act says that consumers are entitled "to receive goods which are of good quality" and clearly this sofa isn't that. Section 16 says that when goods are not of good quality, the consumer may return those goods "within six months after the delivery of the goods, without penalty and at the supplier's risk and expense" and that then the supplier must "repair or replace the defective goods; or refund the consumer".

However, it's up to the supplier to choose which of those three options they want to do. They are entitled to try to repair the sofa if they can. But the Act also says that if they try to repair it and the same fault happens again with in 3 months, they can't try to repair it again.

I'll contact the store management and see if they can deal with this more helpfully.

Saturday 29 June 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where are my badges?

I paid for students badges to this company last week Tuesday and they had promised to courier them on Wednesday. Up to today they haven't sent the badges. Last week Friday they lied saying they sent them but when I got to the courier company there was nothing.

After I made several calls he told me he had sent my order to wrong destination and he will rectify the situation immediately. Since then he hasn't communicated. I've been trying to call but there's no response and WhatsApp messages ain't responded to either. And what's painful the most is the students were expecting the badges on Monday hence we made the order last week. 

This must be very frustrating and irritating for you. What suppliers often overlook is that when they fail to deliver a service, it's not just their customer who has a problem, it's all the people relying on the customer as well.

What's even more frustrating is when a supplier starts making up stories. Don't they realise that as soon as a customer detects one lie, any trust they had disappears completely?

I contacted the supplier and asked what was happening. To his credit he responded quite quickly and he said: "Hello Sir i am on a process to deliver them this week, hopefully by Friday". That was the good news. Unfortunately it was the only good news. The bad news is that nothing actually happened that Friday and since then he's gone quiet on me, like he did with you.

The simplest thing to do will be to publish a detailed complaint that identifies his company in the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group. That often motivates disappointing suppliers to be more helpful and warns other consumers to be careful if they engage with him.

Can't they investigate?

Can you please assist me. I have been scammed by a lady of P20,000. She was saying she is selling land to pay for her medical bills. I decided to enter an agreement with her. Gave her the first instalment with me drafting the contract. Then after giving her the rest of the money that's when she started being sick all the time. I researched her on Facebook and realized people are looking for her. I called some of the people she scammed, all had different stories. I once met a Chinese man saying she took around P700,000 from his company and a truck.

From what my other sources tell me, is that she cannot be imprisoned because of her illness. From her, she says she has cancer. How can we protect our nation from this lady? Many of her victims has lost families and large sums of cash. Most of the victims say they've reported the matter to the police and no action taken against this lady because of her condition.

Please advise on the way forward. Thanks.

I'm very sorry for your trouble and for your losses. However, I'm glad that you realised this was a scam before you lost as much as the other victims.

This woman can't be allowed to continue like this. Even if she's unwell, which she's probably lying about, that doesn't mean she can escape the consequences of her many crimes. I suggest you revisit the Police and speak to a more senior officer. If necessary ask to speak to the Station Commander. The Police need to establish whether she's really unwell and how many other victims she's stolen from.

An even better idea would be for you and other victims to go to the Police together as a group. It might be much more persuasive if a senior officer is confronted by a polite but assertive group of crime victims who demand an investigation. I'll also alert some senior officers I know who might be able to persuade their colleagues to take this matter seriously.

Saturday 22 June 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should they compensate me?

Sir I have a problem with my bank. Sometime in February I applied for a loan at Gemvas. The funds were released April 9 and reflected in my lawyers account after 3-5 working days. My attorneys then paid the seller. The bank called in May to tell me that Gemvas usually sends documents late at Ministry of Finance so they want to deduct first instalment so I avoid arrears. So since I had gotten paid by then they deducted the instalment from my account and assured me that in June the money will be deducted directly from salaries. Yesterday I went to another bank to seek a small loan of P25,000 to purchase sheep from a friend. They called to say they can't help me since am listed at CRB for bad credit. I asked the agent to send me the CRB report only to find out I was listed by the first bank. I met the manager and the lady that helped me with the home loan only to be told they didn't tell me that the first instalment was to be paid in April so that's why am listed.

I have been working for more than 11 years and I have never had bad credit record so I want to sue because this bad credit record will haunt me for the rest of my life. Honestly there should be some sort of compensation for all this. They inconvenienced me. They should give me the money I failed to get because of their carelessness. I want P25,000 compensation.

I'm not an attorney so I can't offer you legal advice but I suspect legal action is not the right choice.

Clearly the bank messed things up big time. Listing you with a credit reference bureau incorrectly can have a serious effect on your future financial life. They need to remedy this situation as soon as possible and make sure your credit history is perfectly clean again. I've already emailed them and they're on it.

However, I think that's probably as far as you can take it. As far as I can see, you don't deserve P25,000 because you haven't lost P25,000. What you lost was an opportunity to borrow P25,000 from another bank and then try your luck with the sheep business. Remember that the P25,000 wasn't your money, it belonged to the second bank and they would have charged you interest on that loan.

What you lost was just an opportunity and we'll make sure the first bank helps to get your life back to normal as quickly as possible.

What can I do?

My husband and I purchased a bedroom suite from a store in Serowe. He was told he needed a payslip which he didn't have so the salespeople advised him to ask someone to apply for him using their payslip and he would just continue paying instalments. He suggested me and they called to ask me if I was ok with it and I went to the store right away. We agreed and I used my payslip. After about 6 months my husband lost his job meaning he had no income now. I tried pitching in to pay but it was not easy and sometimes I would miss it. I communicated this with the salespeople that I was struggling to pay for the goods. I asked them if I could return them. They advise me not to do so saying I would lose money but I didn't have a choice because at the time they were harassing me and even showing up to my workplace every second day which almost cost me my job. The debt was also not dropping significantly because it had arrears I was trying to pay off but they were still adding more interest every month.

I write to you now because this store has now handed my name over to Norman Bisset who are now constantly calling me to demand payments. I have tried my best to explain to them but they just ignore my pleas but all they do is demand payments. I can't afford to pay them because I am going out of a job in a few months even so my pay is so stretched since we are living off my small income which is also unreliable.

Unfortunately, there is very little helpful advice I can give you. As you probably understand now, it was a mistake to buy this furniture and it was another mistake to buy it using hire purchase. It was a mistake to do it your name and it would be a mistake to allow the store to repossess the furniture. The only thing I can suggest is that you speak to the debt collectors and try your best to negotiate a repayment plan you can afford. It will be hard work but the bad news is that debt doesn't ever go away.

Saturday 15 June 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is this phone new?

On the 6th June, I bought an iPhone 11 Pro for P6,200 from a shop on Facebook. I transferred the money to them and have proof of payment. The phone was collected by my friend on the 6th June 2024 and couriered it to me and it arrived on the 7th June 2024. I called the man I had spoken to and told him that the phone refuses to register on iCloud and the camera flash on the back is a bit burnt and the back cover was chipped. The screen was flickering, and as someone who has had a phone screen replacement, I informed them I know that's how a replaced screen acts. They didn't even deny it, they said that customers must have damaged it while testing it, which I followed up by asking how since the phone was sealed. I got no answer to that.

I think the time has come for the authorities to investigate the cellphone sales industry. I know that there are legitimate, respectable and honest dealers who sell good quality phones but there's also a community of dealers who are crooks.

We've heard so many times about people with stories the same as you and readers of The Voice will know about this too. The story is very often the same. Someone buys a slightly older phone and very quickly suspects that it wasn't really new. For example, the latest iPhone is version 15 and the iPhone 11 series was first released in September 2019. So if you buy an iPhone 11 today you have to ask where it's been for the last few years? Was it sitting in a warehouse waiting to be bought or was it already being used?

In your case, like so many others, there are clues that this phone was previously used. Firstly there's some damage to the camera and the case is also chipped. Then there's the issue with iCloud. All Apple devices try to connect to the Apple iCloud service as soon as you unbox them and it's a remarkably simple process. Any Apple device that can't do this has something wrong with it.

I contacted the store and they promised to examine the phone when they get it back from you. I also asked them if they sold second-hand or reconditioned phones? Eventually they said the phones they sold were"
"Brand new sir. Sometimes we have pre owned. But not always." 
So they do sell used phones, they admit it.

It's really important to note that there's nothing wrong with selling and buying used phones. In fact it's a good idea. Most of us would be perfectly happy to buy a slightly older and cheaper phone. But stores need to be honest about this. Section 5 of the Consumer Protection Act says that they must be honest about whether "goods are new or reconditioned". Section 13 says that a supplier must place "a label on the goods that indicates that such goods are used goods" and "a notice on the invoice" they give a customer. It goes on to say the penalty for not doing this is a fine of up to P50,000, three years in prison or both.

The bad news is that many cellphone stores either don't know about this or perhaps they just don't care.

When was the last time you heard about a cellphone store owner being fined P50,000 and being led away in handcuffs to prison? It hasn't happened. But it needs to. We need to see this happen and then the word might spread. Then we might see these stores behaving better and not ripping us off in the way they've been doing for so long.

So here's a plea. To the Competition and Consumer Authority, please accept this article as a request to launch a comprehensive investigation into the cellphone industry. The Authority will remember that Section 29 of the Consumer Protection Act says that a "consumer, class of consumers or consumer organisation may lodge with the Authority a complaint against violations of the provisions of this Act."

Over to you. You have the support of Consumer Watchdog and readers of The Voice. And the shady cellphone stores need to know we've had enough.

Saturday 8 June 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can this be true?

Richard please check if this company, Profit Recovery Enterprise is legit? They claim to recover money lost through scams. Maybe we could recover from Ecoplexus?

I'm very glad you asked because you have just avoided being scammed again. They make this claim: 
"If you've fallen victim to a scam, we're here to help. With our expertise, we can assist in recovering your lost funds. We understand the frustration and pain that come with being scammed, and our team is committed to help recover lost funds. Here's what we can do for you. We'll thoroughly search for your account using the international trading server and when found get you access to it and guide you withdraw immediately."

While this seems like an appealing idea, that scam victims can get their money back, this is just another scam. Sooner or later they'll ask for money for this service that they claim to offer and if you pay them they'll just demand more and more money until you realise that you've been scammed again. 

For research purposes, I contacted them and using a fake name I pretended to be a victim of the Ecoplexus scam. Despite using a fake identity they immediately said they had found my money and were ready to send it to me. All I needed to do was sign up to a cryptocurrency exchange. No doubt that's where they would want me to send them money. 

The painful lesson is that once you've given a scammer your money you're not getting it back. There is still a slight hope that some of the money paid into the local bank accounts used by the Ecoplexus scammers might be returned eventually but it will only be a small proportion of what was paid. The scammers failed to transfer all of the money before the accounts were frozen but it will take a long time before the authorities can decide who deserves to get some back. 

Where's my work? 

I wish to know if you could possibly assist me. I engaged with a certain consultancy company that does academic research. So far I paid an amount of P3,695. I've since been getting the worst service. They're missing deadlines because the promised work was never done. Calls were unanswered and texts not responded to. 

I've complained several times to no avail. Worse today was my deadline but I found out my work was never done yet I paid a required deposit for it. This was the 2nd deadline I missed. I just requested that I need my refund and so the director told me to check terms and conditions on their website. Really I would appreciate some assistance in this matter. The company is registered with CIPA.

Whether I can help you really depends on one thing. What was it you wanted them to do for you? 

If you were using them to do coursework that you were planning to submit as your own work then there's nothing I can do to help. We've exposed a few companies in the past that will write coursework for students for a fee and we'll continue to do so. What they do is immoral and wrong. However, I also blame the people who pay these companies to do their work for them and then lie when they submit it, falsely claiming it was their own work. If it's discovered that they did this they can rightly be expelled from their place of study and they can lose any job they get using the qualification they fraudulently obtained. Their reputation can be ruined. 

However, if you hired this company genuinely to do some research for you without any plan to deceive anyone, then I can do my best to help. Regardless of what their terms and conditions say, if they've been paid to do some work for you then they must either do that work or give you a refund

Saturday 1 June 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get my money back?

Good day sir. Can you please tell Ali Express to return my money I didn't buy anything from them. They are saying I did an online purchase but I didn't. They scammed me through a Facebook page saying they give loans. I applied and I gave them my details not knowing that is fake account. They asked for my ID no, bank card number and cell number and that's how I lost my money. It was a total of P4,100. I even went to the bank and they confirmed that my money to Ali Express.

So is there no how you can contact Ali Express and check these transactions? Maybe they will tell you the name of these scammers.

Unfortunately, I have bad news for you. You've been scammed. The worse news is that scammers don't offer refunds.

The next thing to understand is that Ali Express didn't steal your money. Scammers pretending to be Ali Express did that. Ali Express is a supplier of goods, not a microlender. The advertisement you saw was clearly posted by scammers who were just pretending to be them.

Something else you need to understand is there is nothing you can to get this money back. Your bank can't be held responsible because you voluntarily gave them your bank details. When we spoke you confirmed that you also gave them the CVV code, the 3-digit number printed on the back of your card that allows the scammers to use your cards as if they held it in their hands. The bank did nothing wrong. Also, Ali Express didn't do anything wrong. The scammers used your card and your bank account to buy things from Ali Express using a valid bank card.

Perhaps the only thing you can do is alert Ali Express and see if they can block the account that the scammers were using. However, they're very unlikely to give you any details about the scammers. The irony is that until they have a court order or a warrant from the local Police, the scammers deserve confidentiality.

The lesson here is very simple. If you give your bank card details to a stranger they will steal money from you. So please don't do it.

The second lesson is to block your card immediately.

Can't they exchange it?

I took a washing machine from a store at Gaborone Station on the 8th March and when I tried to use the machine it wasn't working. I tried to call the shop for assistance but they didn't do a follow up until I sent them an email that I no longer want the machine. I wanted them to cancel the contract but they didn't respond up until I got the number for the Area Manager and he straightly told me that it won't be possible to do an exchange. Right now it's been 2 weeks since they said they will assist. Yesterday I was contacted by the Head Office saying they are soon handing over my account because they feel I want to defraud them whilst their employees are the ones who are not competent enough to assist with cancelation of the goods I bought from them since they took the machine back and failed to return it.

I have talked to the call center personnel who told me it's possible to do an exchange but the shop doesn't take my calls nor respond to my emails.

This seems quite a simple situation but it's actually more complicated than we might think. When you buy things on hire purchase you don't have many choices. Firstly, the items you think you're buying, you're not really buying. You're hiring them. That's why it's called "hire" purchase. Secondly, you don't have a right to demand an exchange. The supplier can choose to do that, or they can choose to repair it instead. But I'll contact them and see if they can be a bit more helpful. I'll let you know what they say.