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.

Saturday 25 May 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my phone?

So I bought this iPhone 14 at The Fields Mall on 13th April. The problem is that it kept on showing some red lines. Even when I played some videos or tried to capture some photos it would at times turn red. I went back on the 28th to complain. They took it and said its the wallpaper, after changing it still it was showing the red lines. They took it and promised it would be fine the following day.

When I called on Monday 29th they said they were still attending to it. Tuesday 30th I called again telling them that I will be travelling to Serowe on the 1st May and that I should find it ready or else they should give me refund. They promised that it would be ready. I got there Wednesday around 12pm they said I should wait for 30 mins they are getting it from the technician at Block 3. I insisted on getting refund because I don't trust the quality of their phones they refused. I even left the store after an hour. I couldn't wait any longer because I was traveling with other people. The manager told me he can't give me refund.

I think this is quite simple. They claimed that the red lines on the phone were just the wallpaper? This store can't be trusted to give you advice. And now they're delaying fixing the screen? It looks like they can't be trusted to fix a phone.

I'll get in touch with them and see if they can try a little harder.

Update: They gave the reader a new phone.

He can't afford to pay!

Last June my father, who gets only govt pension as his source of income and does not have 3rd party insurance bumped a Mercedes and he acknowledged fault for that. The lady stated she will submit with her insurance and my father asked her to keep him updated which never happened. Then January 2024 my father received a letter of demand for P50,214 from the insurance company. We requested for proof of payment and it showed they had paid their client directly an amount of P45,214 and the extra 5k was admin fees. After numerous engagements and follow ups they agreed to reduce the debt by 15% down to P42,682. He indicated that he can commit to P200 per month but where he comes across larger sums he will pay and he should have paid in 3 years.

They stated that my father can attach some of his assets to pay his debt. We requested for another meeting to understand why they are asking for assets to be sold when my father has not refused to pay and has even said he will clear the debts in 36 months. This lady then started making threats that if we fail to reach an agreement they will engage their lawyers and whatever asset they find they will attach and have it sold.

Now we are shocked because we are not refusing to pay and all follow ups were from our end because we wanted this over and done with. Our shock now, when the debt acknowledgement comes with an annual interest of 18% which was not discussed during any of these meetings.

We seek further understanding on whether such a debt accumulates interest or are they taking my father for a ride.

I'm really sorry for your father's situation. However, I can't see an easy solution. The insurance company is entitled to claim their losses from your father because he was the one that caused the damage to their client's car. However, I can understand why they aren't prepared to accept his offer to pay just P200 per month. That will take almost 18 years to pay off the debt. His suggestion that he can also offer larger sums when he finds them isn't really very reassuring. Your father really needs to talk some more to the insurance company and see if there any assets he can sell because this debt isn't going away.

This is a very good example of why all drivers should have third-party insurance. It's remarkably cheap compared to the price of a car and can save people like your father from enormous bills like this.

Saturday 18 May 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay?

Hello Richard, please can you assist here. This morning my builder bought goods worth P7,000 from a hardware store in Palapye, only to realize they have bought something which I didn't want since there was a communication breakdown. Within an hour I asked them to go and back and ask for a refund bearing in mind we haven't even got the goods and they haven't even left the store yet.

A guy at the store said he can't refund and then said he would charge 5% for a refund and then this rose to 15%. Apparently they are saying they need my ID, what for? Can you assist in this matter?

The first question to ask is who made the mistake here. Clearly if a store makes a mistake it's up to them to cover any costs involved in reversing the transaction. This might include any bank charges they incurred if the purchaser swiped when they paid for the goods. However, from what you say it doesn't seem that the store made a mistake.

The question is who, between you and the builder, made the mistake? You said there was a communication breakdown but I think it's worth a conversation to figure out how the miscommunication happened. Then you can decide who should cover any costs that the store needs.

I'm also happy to contact the store to discuss exactly how much they should charge to reverse the transaction. It needs to be reasonable. I'll also ask them why they need you ID. I can see why they want to double-check that they're refunding the right person but let's check that first.

Where's my refund?

There's this other lady I asked her to design a two piece for me in December. She did that and upon delivery the sizes were too big for me even though she had taken my measurements.

We agreed that she will do another set for me but even today I'm still waiting. When I approach her she always tells me she's working on it since now. I ended up asking her to refund me because she's failing to deliver even now since December last year.

She's not someone who's willing to pay me because she will not even say anything until I text her.

This really is quite a simple situation. Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act says that consumers are entitled to expect services to be delivered:
"in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect". 
An outfit you order should be the correct size. That's not complicated.

The Act continues, saying that when a supplier fails to deliver services to this standard, they must either "remedy any defect in the quality of the services" or "refund the consumer".

In your case you gave her both options, allowing her to remake the outfit but clearly that didn't happen. That's when you correctly demanded a refund.

I contacted the lady and, to be fair, she responded well. She told me that:
"I told her Il refund her, I'm still broke right now". 
When I asked her when you can expect a refund, she said:
"I told her month end but this month was hectic like the past ones. But I'm working on it. It will have to be end of this month."
So let's see. If she repays you at the end of the month we can all be happy. If not, we'll need to think of other ways for you to get your money back.

Saturday 11 May 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my builder?

Please help me follow up with this builder. In 2022 I gave him 3 jobs, roofing for my farm house, landscaping design and doing a staircase and decking for the house. The roofing has been completed but with some gaps to completely close the house. ⁠I gave him a supply and fit job to do a deck, staircase and exterior door to access the outside space. He did some work in December 2022 and disappeared.

After extensive follow-up he came back in July 2023 and a bit of work on the staircase and the door and then disappeared again. After several follow ups he requested me to purchase further materials, which I did (I have now spent more than the contracted amount) but he has still not completed the work. Last week, he agreed he should finish the house. He requested for some more material but has not done the work as promised. I gave him a deposit to do a landscape design and never even got a draft. Richard, please help me follow up so he can complete my work.

I know for a fact that there are some excellent builders. I also know for a fact that there are others who are unreliable, incompetent and even a few who are dangerous.

Let's be charitable and assume this one is just one of the unreliable ones. However, unreliability is no excuse. It doesn't matter what difficulties he was having, he had an obligation to keep you updated and then to do the work you've paid him for. It's not complicated, is it?

I contacted the guy and he responded very quickly. He promised that he'll visit you and complete the work within the next couple of days. Please let me know what happens?

How can I spot a scam?

We all remember Ecoplexus from last year. Some of us remember Eurextrade from more than 10 years ago. Both of these scams took tens of millions from their victims. This year we had the Miracle Farm scam which luckily quickly collapsed. All involved scammers recruiting people we know to steal money from us. That's part of the tragedy of these scams, they make normally good people into criminals. The bad news for the people who "knowingly join" these scams is that Section 9 of the Consumer Protection Act says that they are as guilty as those who promote them.

Unfortunately, the scammers haven't gone away. They are still actively recruiting people into newer scams. So how can you tell if something is a scam? Here are some ways to help you decide.

Firstly, ask the person who invited you to join, why they did so? Did they do it because they're a kind person who wanted to share their "opportunity" with you? If they say Yes, then you know it's a scam.

Next, ask them if the scheme is a registered company. If they say it is, ask for proof. Then check if it's true. If you don't know how to check, ask us.

Ask them how their scheme creates profits. People marketing a real 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 can't do that. They'll talk about cryptocurrency or forex trading, Bitcoin mining or they'll say it's a motshelo or 'gifting' scheme. If you ask them how profits are generated they won't be able to answer you.

People promoting a genuine investment will welcome questions but scammers will very be 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. They'll tell you that small 'investments' can earn huge profits. They'll also ask you to invest more and more money, encouraging you to 'upgrade' to higher levels with promises of even greater profits. That's a sure sign of a scam.

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