Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1
I have an argument with a furniture store. I started having credit with them when I was at University and my income was my allowance which came to an end obviously at the end of my university days. They called me asking me how am I going to settle my credit and to my knowledge they have some policy which takes care of any balance for my account if I encounter instances where I do not get income anyhow; say retrenchment etc, they call it Account Balance Protector, this is some sort of insurance they provide in store. Customers subscribe to this insurance with knowledge maybe similar to mine.

I get calls from people claiming to be agents for them insisting me to pay and I asked them to send me statements from my last payment to date, take note that they never sent any statements in a very long time. I believe they stole my money by making me subscribe to policies that are of no use to me. Yes I agree I owe them but they have put the credit to now almost two and half time the original i.e. from P1,000 to about P4,500. Please advise me on how to go about the situation?

Please advise.

The protection schemes offered by furniture stores and other organisations such as banks only cover those instances that are unforeseeable, like retrenchment. They don't cover situations that are likely to occur. It's well known that graduating students don't always find employment immediately; it's not the fault of the furniture store that you haven't found work or a source of income.

There is a little bit of good news. The "in duplum" rule states that at the time of settlement of a debt, the interest paid may not exceed the outstanding capital balance. If you owe a capital amount of P1,000 they cannot add more than P1,000 in interest on top of that. However they CAN also charge reasonable administration and legal fees.

Meanwhile, you are obviously entitled to a full statement that describes the alleged debt including a full breakdown of all the charges they claim you owe.

I suggest that you demand a full and detailed statement from them and explain that you know you have a right to receive this before considering making a payment.

You're not going to be able to avoid repayment of this debt but you do have some protection about how much you can be forced to pay.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

Please advice me on what to do. I bought a fridge from a furniture shop in Molepolole and I paid all the money of our contract. During the last month of my contract, the fridge went faulty and was not functioning up to expected standards, so I reported it and it was taken for repair around July 2010. I waited for the fridge until March 2011 when they contacted me and told me that they are going to replace it. Then I went to the store where I was shown a slim 250 liter fridge on display to replace my 305 liters fridge. I expressed my dissatisfaction about the size of the fridge, but they said there is no way they can help me. So whats my next step now?

Your next step is to get in touch with us!

The store have clearly let you down. To begin with they took EIGHT months before they told you that they would do something to help you. I can’t understand why it needed to take that long, there’s no justification for that. And then to tell you that they’re going to replace it with an inferior product? I think not.

However, there is an important thing for readers to remember. In this situation the store is not obliged to give you a new fridge. Their obligation is to get you back to the situation you were in before the fridge went wrong. Ideally they would replace your fridge with an identical model of exactly the age and condition. If it was 11 months old they should replace it with an 11-month old fridge. Clearly that’s impossible but it’s got to be something as close to that as possible. It certainly should NOT be anything inferior to your 11-month old fridge.

Of course the store might argue that a brand new but smaller fridge has the same monetary value as your larger second-hand one but that’s not relevant. They should replace your fridge with something that does the same job as your faulty one. In other words it should be roughly the same size.

I suggest that you write to the store and say that you’re rejecting their offer of a smaller replacement and that you require them to replace the faulty fridge with something of a similar size.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #3

What does it cost for you to help me solve my problem with a store?

It costs you nothing at all. Everything Consumer Watchdog does is done entirely for free to consumers. It always has been, it is now and so shall it always be.

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