Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Consumer Alert: Billcoin



25th October 2016

Consumer Alert: Billcoin

Consumer Watchdog would like to alert consumers about Billcoin, a Ponzi scheme that is actively trying to recruit victims in Botswana.

The proponents of Billcoin describe it as a “cryptocurrency” and imply that it is comparable to a genuine digital currency like Bitcoin. In fact, Billcoin is a Ponzi scheme.

The organizers of the scheme are recruiting victims in Botswana using a Facebook group called Billcoin Botswana. In this group they suggest that a recruit’s investment “will be paid 80% interest” per month converting an initial investment of P220 for each “Platinum Billcoin” into P410. However, they give no explanation of where this extra money might come from.

Recent recruits have reported that they were promised a Mastercard credit card they could use to withdraw their “earnings” but this Mastercard seems to be as fictitious as the currency they promote. We recently spoke to a victim of Billcoin who paid them her life savings of P30,000 and who has subsequently received nothing in return. This victim is now depressed and suicidal.

Billcoin is a Ponzi scheme like Eurextrade and MMM Global that preceded it. A Ponzi scheme involves small returns being paid to victims from the joining fees of later recruits. It is effectively “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. However the vast majority of victims are paid much less than they contribute towards the scheme.

Consumer Watchdog urges everyone not to waste their time, energy and money in this illegal Ponzi scheme.

If consumers are in any doubt they should contact Consumer Watchdog for free advice. We can be reached by phone on 3904582, by email at or by joining our Facebook group, Consumer Watchdog Botswana.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Is the customer always right?

It’s a question we’re often asked. Are customers always right?

No, they’re not but I understand what people are trying to say. They’re trying to say that customers should always be treated with respect and that’s something that’s obviously true. Or is it?

The key word is “always”. Yes, of course customers should be treated with respect but only up to a point. There comes a point when you have to take action and be a little less respectful.

A few years ago we were approached by a friend who ran a restaurant. He wanted to know if he’d done the right thing with a difficult customer.

This customer had arrived at his restaurant with a friend one weekend morning and they ordered coffee and cake. Shortly afterwards she called the owner over and told him that she didn’t like the taste of the cake. Ignoring the fact that she had eaten almost all of it before deciding it wasn’t to her taste he apologized profusely and told her she didn’t have to pay for it. In fact, she didn’t have to pay for her coffee either. She seemed happy and went away.

The following weekend she was back and guess what? Exactly the same thing happened again. Having consumed almost all of a different cake she made exactly the same complaint. Although he was beginning to get a little angry he did the same thing again, apologized and reduced her bill to say sorry. She went away happy again.

The next weekend the same thing happened yet again but this time he was more assertive. His patience had worn thin and he politely told her that as his cakes clearly weren’t to her taste maybe she should think of eating elsewhere in future. For the third and final time he cancelled her bill and wished her farewell.

She came back the following weekend. This time he refused to serve her. He reminded her of the previous occasions when she had complained and he’d suggested she should select a different restaurant in future. She was stunned. Only when he made it clear to her that she wasn’t going to be served at his restaurant again did she understand. She’d been banned. Eventually she left, muttering and promising to wreak vengeance upon the restaurant and its owner for the rudeness she’d experienced.

She was a very good example of an utterly unreasonable customer. The restaurant owner was the reasonable one in this situation. She was costing him money and taking up a table that could have been used by a customer who was less disruptive.

More recently I met the owner of a filling station who was also struggling to manage a particular customer. This customer had arrived at his filling station and one of this team had made an admittedly serious mistake. He put the wrong fuel in the car.

Luckily he realized what he’d done before the car drove off. A mechanic was called and the car was taken way to be completely drained and the tank cleaned. The filling station then filled the tank with the correct fuel and the owner wasn’t asked to pay. So far so good. Yes, a serious mistake had been made but the team had done their best to put the situation right again.

But this wasn’t nearly good enough for this particular customer. He now wants compensation although he hasn’t quite explained what exactly he needs compensating for. Yes, he was inconvenienced but his car is back to normal and showing no ill-effect. Maybe he’s spent time in the USA where it is common practice to sue people for emotional distress every time the wind changes direction.

I also heard of a customer who a company described as “the worst customer in the world”. He was repeatedly abusive to their staff, shouting and swearing at them for the slightest perceived offence. In fact, he was so obnoxious they offered to pay for him to close his account and open one with their competitors. Sadly for them, he declined their generous offer and they’re still stuck with him.

An often overlooked aspect of customer service is that there are at least two parties to a purchase. The buyer and the seller and both of them have a role to play, both of them in particular have a legal and moral obligation to behave reasonably. As consumers we can’t expect miracles from stores but we are entitled to what the Consumer Protection Regulations describe as commodities and services that are of “merchantable quality” and that are offered “with reasonable car and skill”.

But it goes both ways. As consumers we have to behave reasonably as well. Luckily most of us do behave ourselves but that doesn’t mean we all do. I’ve lost count of the number of times when consumers have come to us with a complaint about the way they’ve been treated by a company only to later establish that they're either exaggerating or sometimes just plain lying. Sometimes they’re actively trying to con the company.

So no, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but the consumer is NOT always right. Certainly all consumers deserve to be treated with respect but only up to the point when they stop deserving it.

And no, the customer isn’t a king either. It’s not just kings that deserve respect, it’s everyone. The average Joe deserves the same level of treatment as anyone else.

And one final free tip. Consumer like you and I can, to some extent, determine the quality of the service we get with our behavior. Go into a store looking grumpy and difficult and that’s likely to be the sort of service you’ll get. Go in cheerful and smiling and you know what? That’s likely to be what you get in return. Which would you prefer?

Friday, 21 October 2016

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can Billcoin earn me 80% per month?

I heard of a scheme called Billcoin where you can make 80% interest per month. Have you heard about it and do you think it can be true?

Source: Billcoin Botswana Facebook page
Here’s a simple answer to your question. Any financial scheme that claims you can earn significantly more than you would from your bank’s high-interest saving account is a scam. It’s that simple. 80% each month is definitely in that category.

But this is worth a bit more investigation and comment.

Their web site (which was only registered in February this year) says that Billcoin “is cryptocurrency is a medium of exchange like normal currencies such as USD and RANDS , but designed for the purpose of exchanging digital information through a process made possible by certain principles of cryptography.” It goes on to say that anyone who joins “must very first register towards network to be able to buy IN ADDITION TO sell Billcoins; there is usually the safety measures signal The item must become maintained safe Just as That is another security measure against hackers AND infiltrators.”

Does that seem like the quality of language that would be used by a reputable investment company to you?

On their Facebook page they announce “Botswana we are here to inform you all you will be paid 80% interest pm on platinum BILLCOINS join the investment” but they don’t actually give any clue about how such an amazing interest rate could be obtained, just giving hints about trading in their preposterous bogus “cryptocurrency”.

Like MMM Global, Pipcoin and Onecoin before it, Billcoin is exploiting the widespread public ignorance about the genuine digital currency Bitcoin. In fact, like all others, all they can offer are promises of riches. Like the others Billcoin can only be yet another Ponzi scheme. Any money people might receive will be scraps from the people who join after them. The only people who make money from Ponzi schemes are the crooks who create them.

Please don’t waste your time, money and effort in a scheme that can only cost you a lot of all of those things.

Is Rain International worth joining?

Hey Richard Harriman help me out i want to join this upcoming network marketing company called Rain International. Do you know anything about it? Am asking coz they invited me for a meeting in you in the morning till 2 talking of the products.

I think you all know by now that I am enormously skeptical about all multi-level or “network” marketing schemes. All the evidence from those that are required to publish their recruits’ income figures proves that the vast majority of people recruited into them either make no money or they lose money from the experience. So if the biggest of them don’t make you money, why would you think newer ones will be more successful?

Rain International base their business around two products that they call “Soul” and “Core”. These are seed-based nutritional supplements that they claim are enormously beneficial. They claim one “promotes brain function”, “assists in fat digestion” and offers “improved overall wellness”. They also use the magic word “detoxification”. Here’s another free warning for you. The word “detoxification” is always used to deceive people. There is absolutely no reason ever to take any product to detoxify your body. Your body can do that for itself. Your liver and your kidneys are perfectly equipped to remove all the toxins you might ever have in your body. Spending your hard-earned money on worthless supplements just damages your financial health and has no effect on your physical and emotional health.
Source: Rain International Compensation Plan
(1.2MB pdf download)

Then there’s the multi-level marketing angle. Rain International’s business model is typical of any MLM business. You are encouraged to recruit people beneath you who then recruit others beneath them and so on and so on. Then money flows up the pyramid structure and some of it stays with you. The more people recruited beneath you, the more you make. Except that you don’t.

Given their vague health promises and their pyramid-shaped business model, I urge you to give Rain International a miss. You won’t make money from it, you’ll just waste a lot of money, effort and time.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

What we learned at school

It only seems a few days ago that we closed the 2016 Consumer Watchdog Conference. All of us are still slightly high on the adrenaline that was pumping throughout the event and certainly my sense of time has gone a little screwy.

So many people deserve thanks for helping us to get it working but rather than list them all here you can see everything about them as well as photos in our Facebook group. Instead I think it’s worth revisiting some of the messages that were sent at the conference.

The conference was opened by the Honorable Minister of Basic Education, Dr Unity Dow. When you think about it, who else could open a conference calling itself “Back to School”? Her remarks were remarkably appropriate. Education is obviously about what goes on in schools but it’s also about a lifetime’s journey of personal development. As adults it’s just as important that we learn new things that will help us life happy, prosperous, healthy lives. Education isn’t just for kids, it’s for everyone.

Dr Patrick Benon, the CEO of Orange, the primary sponsor of the conference, spoke to the conference about the importance of technology in education. In a world rapidly approaching “the internet of things”, where more and more devices are going to be connected to the internet and therefore to each other, it’s important that as consumers we know what’s going on. The future offers us wonderful new technological facilities but it can also be used to cheat and harm us. The only way to get just the good things is to be educated about how this new world works.

Another lesson cam from Bilkiss Moorad, CEO of Botswana Life Insurance Ltd. Anyone who knows Bilkiss will know that she’s not a typical leader. Far from it. There are many words that spring to mind. Eccentric. Disruptive. Energizing. Different.

All of these are good things. As a business leader you really should ask yourself this. Do you want to be normal? Or do you want to be different? Do you want to compete head-to-head with your competitors or do you want to stand apart from them? Both are acceptable options but most of us yearn for companies that are brave enough to be different.

TK Tekane, MD of Botswana Savings Bank is another eccentric leader. His sheer drive and willingness to adopt and embrace change is wonderful to watch. His commitment to putting service and relationships at the core of a business is also remarkably admirable.

Then a hero of mine spoke. Someone who is prepared “to stand up and be counted” when it matters, even when the matter might not please everyone. Uyapo Ndadi needs little introduction. He’s a lawyer with a drive to campaign, lobby, bother and persuade those in power and “to stand up for the little guy”. His talk, that I’d asked him to limit to 20 minutes, ended up as an hour-long free legal clinic.

And then came Adam Jones, publisher of Wealth magazine. Adam is one of the country’s natural motivational speakers although I suspect he’d hate being called that. So many so-called motivational speakers have never actually run a business themselves, they just pontificate about doing so. Adam is an example of Marshall Mcluhan’s observation that “the medium is the message”. Wealth magazine offers vast amounts of advice and guidance on being successful but is also itself an example of that success.

Then a force of nature was unleashed. Anyone who knows Percy Raditladi will know at least some of his history, having created YaronaFM, managed G4S here in Botswana and later in Nigeria and being a serial entrepreneur. His willingness to take risks and, most importantly, to learn from every mistake he makes is an example to us all. Calculated risk-taking and conscientious learning can help you achieve almost anything. Percy is a perfect example of that.

He’s also the first person I’ve ever heard beginning to describe how he came up with a new business idea with the words “As I was lying in a hospital bed, recovering from being stabbed…”

Percy was followed by another example of how so many people are wrong about Botswana. Those pessimists who say we have no business-spirit in Botswana need to meet my former colleague, friend and hero, Nkata Seleka of Sleek Foods. Nkata is a perfect example of the fact that you are never too late to learn new things. Abandoning a career in IT, she started a food production company that now produces a range of relishes and sauces, here in Botswana, that you can find on the shelves of Spar, Choppies and Sefcash. Her story isn’t just about being a local food producer, or a lifelong learner, it’s about excellence. Her products are fantastic. Go out and buy some today. Just leave some of the Hot Tomato relish for me, OK?

We finished the first day of the conference with a regular speaker. The unique Kabelo Binns from Hotwire was on stage again. You only have to spend a little time with Kabelo to relaise you’re with someone who isn’t just happy to be different, he embraces it, it’s part of his personal and corporate brand. Energy, passion, drive, commitment and excellence were there as he spoke, living his brand.

And this was just the first day. Another day of workshops followed.

What we tried to do at the conference was to prove that all the skills, expertise and resources we need to offer the very best customer service in the world are already here in Botswana. That’s why we don’t import speakers from across borders. We’re trying to make a point. We have the experts already. We have the passion already. We have the skills already.

So let’s just use them!

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is the Gemini app a scam?

Could you please find me more information about Gemini App which I found in the website claiming to be turning people into millionaires instantly.... is it genuine or it's just another scam?

Thank You.

From what I can establish, Gemini is a piece of software that its producers say will trade online for you. Their promotional video makes a range of remarkable claims, including that it is “no loss trading software”, that you can use it “without a single losing trade”, that “it trades 100% by itself” and that “zero experience is required” in order to use it.

First things first. Online trading is a very good way to lose lots of money very quickly indeed. Whether it’s stocks and shares or the foreign currency markets, your money can grow but it can also shrink. Remarkably quickly.

Another thing about the markets that these people will neglect to tell you is who you are competing against. Yes, it IS a competition, particularly in the forex market. Do you really think you can beat the world-class experts that are employed by banks and investment companies? These companies seek out mathematical geniuses from universities around the world to help them develop the algorithms that their supercomputers then use to trade on their behalf. I don’t mean to be insulting but what makes you think you or I can beat these experts at their game?

You also have to ask yourself why the people behind an online trading scheme would want to share it with total stranger like us? If this scheme really is a “no loss trading software”, why aren’t they keeping it to themselves? What possible benefit is there to these guys from including us in their scheme? It’s obvious really. What they want is your money. They make money from you “investing” your hard-earned savings in their scheme.

That’s the lesson you should ask every time someone suggests you join a scheme like this one. Why would they want to share their secret with you? How do they benefit? Until you get a good answer to that question you should keep your money safely where it is right now.

Are online directories worth the money?

I would like to ask you about Yellow Business Directory, this is a company that is based in South Africa and they are getting Botswana Companies to advertise with them, My question and concern is that I am sure that they do not have a resident company within Botswana and they are raising their invoices in BWP Currency, when I asked the lady in the mail as she phoned me to ask if we will be advertising with them about the matter she dropped the phone.

I then called back and asked her about the matter again and she told me that they invoice in Pula because it our currency.

The reason why I send you this is because I am not sure how legal this is, maybe something to look into.

We’ve had many complaints over the years about companies running online directory services and they’ve been a very dubious group. Others have had very shady business practices, offering to “update” entries in their database, only to send over an invoice like yours claiming that the original “update” was a binding contract.

However, I’m not sure anything here is illegal but I wonder whether it makes any sense. The invoice from them that you sent was for a staggering P6,995 for a year in their online directory. How can they possibly justify that amount of money? The company you mention do actually have an online directory but I can’t see that it offers any business any real benefit, certainly not for the amount they charge. You’d be better off spending that money on getting a web developer to design you a nice web site and then people can find you on Google.

In your case (this guy runs a hotel) you certainly don’t need this company’s services. Keep working your reviews on Tripadvisor!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Back to School!

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week we held our annual Consumer Watchdog conference at the GICC in Gaborone. We had a range of speakers and workshop leaders who all had something important to say. The theme was “Back to School” and education underpinned everything that happened at the conference.

Hon. Minister of Education, Dr Unity Dow
For instance, we had speakers who spoke about the power of learning from mistakes. There’s a great quote from Steve jobs, the co-founder and mildly insane visionary from Apple. Discussing the approach he planned following his reappointment as head of the company he said “Some mistakes will be made along the way. That's good 'cos at least some decisions are being made along the way. And we'll find the mistakes. We'll fix them.”

Percy Raditladi
That’s ambitious but it’s more than just about taking decisions. I genuinely believe that we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. One of the reasons is that, let’s face it, most of our successes are accidental whereas our failures are due to ignorance or inexperience. With luck and hard work both ignorance and inexperience can be remedied but accidental victories teach you nothing.

Other speakers spoke about the fact that it’s never too late in life to learn new skills. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your professional background might be, there are always opportunities to develop news skills or improve old ones. I’ve met various people over the years who’ve done this. After decades working in one industry they have completely abandoned it and gone their own way, usually influenced by a hobby or passion that drew them away.

Nkata Seleka, Sleek Foods
Another topic that came up was the importance of technology in education. This is perhaps the biggest possible change in the way people, not just children, can learn and develop. Those of us old enough to remember the days before the widespread use of computers and the development of cellphones remember how difficult it was to get access to learning materials. Printed materials were expensive, heavy, cumbersome and easy damaged. Libraries weren’t always nearby and even when you got to the library there was no guarantee that the book you wanted would be there and not taken out by someone else ahead of you.

Dr Patrick Benon, Orange
Things have changed. It hasn’t reached everyone yet but fairly soon, even here in Botswana, education will be going electronic. My iPad has the capacity to hold an entire library’s stock of books. And if I lose the iPad or it breaks? I connect the replacement to my laptop or to the internet and the library automatically reappears. They also appear on every other computer or phone registered to my account. Yes, you might argue that iPads are expensive and you’d be correct, but given that the books I’ve bought have often been only half or a third of the price of their printed equivalents, the price of the device is effectively a lot cheaper.

TK Tekane, Botswana Savings Bank
This new way of distributing educational materials is going to be transformative. No longer will containers full of books need to be shipped by road, sea or air around the world when they just need to be loaded onto a server somewhere for download.

This is also going to have an effect on the way in which children are taught in schools. We simply won’t need the old approach of a teacher lecturing her students on facts, dates and figures. Instead, teachers are going to need to become guides who teach their learners HOW to learn and how to critically consider the material out there.

Bobby Tlhabiwe, Engen
The sad truth is that we’re in desperate need of education. So many of our friends, relatives and neighbours are falling victim to a range of scams and schemes that deprive them of money and often their feelings and the primary reason they fall for them is naivete. They’re not all stupid people, but they’re catastrophically gullible. They fail to question the things that are said to them and believe it when their “boyfriend” from Facebook says he’s sending her a shipment full goodies. They genuinely believe the person who calls claiming to be from the shipping agent saying she has to pay to release the package. They’re so convinced that the package and the laptop, iPhone, jewelry and cash it contains exists that they cough up the money.

Adam Jones, Wealth magazine
That’s one of the reasons we held a workshop at the conference on critical thinking and how it can protect people from abuse. It wasn’t just about scams, it also covered Ponzi schemes like Eurextrade and MMM Global, pyramid schemes like WorldVentures and multi-level marketing schemes. The best protection against all of these threats is education.

But who’s best placed to offer this education? No, it’s not the Ministry of Education. While it’s their job to include critical thinking and consumer rights in the curriculum that doesn’t help those of us who left school decades ago. I think that’s where business should take the lead. Who better to teach us about managing money than the experts. I think banks, insurance companies and legitimate micro-lenders should be getting off their rear ends and teaching their customers and the public in general on how money works. And how it doesn’t work.

Uyapo Ndadi, Ndadi Law Firm
The good news is that every one of the speakers at the conference understands this. Everyone one of them is not only a business leader but also a teacher. They teach their staff how to do things, not in classrooms or by sending them on horribly expensive training in far-flung places, but by example. Here’s a free lesson for business leaders who aren’t like the friends who spoke at the conference. You can’t expect your staff to work any harder than you do.

Bilkiss Moorad, Botswana Life Insurance Ltd
Her shoes
What was the best thing about the conference? The atmosphere. We didn’t just teach people we entertained them. There was music, dance, art and (this certainly isn’t a common thing at conferences) fun.

Join our Facebook group and I’ll show you proof of this.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is Helping Hands International for real?

I’ve seen lots of adverts for Helping Hands International on Facebook. They say you get a free laptop or ipad, brand news cars and a house. Is this true?

What do you think? The advertisement from Helping Hands International does indeed make the claim that you can “benefit from” a “Free Laptop or ipad”, “Brand New Cars”, “Interest free Loan without collateral”, “Free International Trips” and a “House of your Own”.

What do they say you need to do to obtain all these things? Despite my best efforts, I can’t find any clue about how any of these things can be achieved.

Do they have any products to sell?

Multi-Level Marketing companies like Amway sell household products and Herbalife sell “health” products (although it’s cheaper and healthier just to buy yourself some fresh fruit) but with Helping Hands International there’s nothing. They sell nothing but illusions of wealth and prosperity.

In fact, their advertisement says there is “no selling of products, no monthly targets, no rejection, no failure and no experience is needed”.

Helping Hands International isn’t a Multi-Level Marketing scheme like Amway or Herbalife. It has no products and the business model is entirely based on recruiting people beneath you and them recruiting people beneath them with the promise of money magically flowing up the pyramid in your direction. That’s not multi-level marketing, that’s a pyramid scheme.

Another problem with them is that they’re liars. Their advertisement claims that they are “in partnership with Bill Gate Foundation, Hyundia Motors, Apple Corporation, HP”. Those are their spelling mistakes, not mine. They can’t even spell the names of the companies they claim support them. Which, of course, they don’t. There are no such partnerships.

So in summary, they’re a lying pyramid scheme that can’t type properly. Do you think you’ll make money from them? If you still do, please send the money you’d contribute to me instead. I won’t lie to you, I’ll spending on myself.

Where’s my roof?

I approached a local company for supply and roofing of my house, we agreed verbally for a deal worth P150,000 which I paid beforehand for the entire roofing including labour and they promised a time frame of two weeks at the most. Its been two and half months and my house is partly and improperly roofed. I'm always on their back demanding answers about the delay but they are beating around the bush. They have and are still delaying my project costing me extra expenses like rent because I would be staying in my house in two weeks wasn't it for their lies. Everything in on hold at my site since I cannot do anything till the roofing is all done and they dodging my calls now and send one or two guys to the site once in a week.

Thanks, please help.

You’ve got various options here. It depends how nice or nasty you want to be.

If you feel like being nice, I think you should write them a polite letter explaining your objections to their conduct and lack of performance, giving them fourteen days either to remedy the situation or to compensate you for their failure to deliver what you had agreed with them. Explain in the letter that you also need them to pay for any costs that the delay has caused you such as the rent you mention. Conclude your letter by saying that if they fail to do these things you will immediately, without any further notice, take legal action against them.

If you feel like being nastier then get yourself over to your nearest police station and insist on laying a charge against the company for “obtaining by false pretence”, contrary to Section 308 of The Penal Code or of “cheating”, contrary to Section 310. Either way you should insist that this is a criminal matter (not a civil one) and you need the Police to investigate. Get the cops to make the phone call while you wait.

Or we could just call him for you and explain what’s about to happen? I’m not sure whether that’s nice or nasty. Here’s a better idea. Let’s do all three!