Saturday, 4 August 2012

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I have a problem with a cellphone store. I bought a Blackberry 8520 in February this year and suddenly it started to drain battery. This month alone I have taken it back four times and they even made me buy a new battery. They are unmoved to replace the unit. What should I do?

I think you need to get a bit more aggressive with the store. We all know that batteries for cellphones and laptops have a limited life but they should certainly last longer than a few months. I haven’t heard their side of the story (which is why I’m not naming them) but it seems totally unreasonable to require you to buy a replacement battery for a phone that’s so new.

I did a bit of research about this particular phone and you’re certainly not the only person in the world who’s had problems with the battery on this model. Many people have posted messages online with similar experiences. In fact if you do a Google search for “blackberry 8520 battery life” you find over 36,000 results.

Of course this doesn’t mean your particular Blackberry battery is faulty but it does suggest the store should have done some research of their own before blaming you and making you cough up more cash.

I suggest that you right to the store and explain that they’ve breached Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations by selling you a phone that wasn’t of “merchantable quality”. Give them perhaps 7 days to remedy the situation, either by replacing the battery, fixing the problem or by giving you a refund. You should note though that they’re not necessarily going to give you a full refund. You did have use of the phone for a few months and they’re entitled to take that into account when calculating your refund.

Let me know what they say and if they try and sort out your problem instead of just blaming you!

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I received an email from the Chairman of the Remuneration Committee of the National Lottery Commission in Birmingham in the UK saying that I had an inheritance fund of £15,000,000. It says that a relative of mine died having won the power ball and that he or she identified me as a beneficiary. What should I do?

There is absolutely no doubt about it. This is a scam. The email you sent contains many clues. Firstly there’s the fact that they don’t name you. Their email opens with “Attn: Beneficiary”, not your name. If they knew your name why didn’t they use it to greet you? They don’t even name the deceased winner. They claim to be from the UK’s National Lottery so why can’t they construct a sentence in proper English? And this business of the winner dying and naming a beneficiary? Clearly they are relying on people not knowing how lotteries work. You just buy a ticket, you don’t even give your name unless you win. Oh and then there’s the free email address that a National Lottery apparently uses.

If you reply to this email they’ll do their very best to string you along until, at the last minute, just before you think you’re about to receive your fortune, they’ll be a snag. It might be a legal fee, it could be tax or duty, it could be a banking fee. Whether it is, it’ll be fake, it’ll be an “advance fee”. That’s what this is all about, getting the fee from you. If you’re gullible enough to pay up, they’ll just make up more and more fees you’ll have to pay until you either wise up or run out of money.

So in short, just delete the email.

Qualifications warning

Several people have been in touch recently to ask about the validity of colleges and training establishments in South Africa. The good news is that there are authorities in SA who are meant to police training and education but I think they might be snoozing while on the job. One college I recently found has been awarding degrees despite them not being accredited or approved. Others seem to operate from people’s houses. Please get in touch if you need to check one. Remember it’s all entirely free.

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