Friday, 21 September 2012

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

On the 3rd of August I paid rent to a house that I was supposed to occupy on the 5th of August but I failed to because I was offered accommodation elsewhere.

I went back them on the 9th of August to claim my money which was P550 and they told me they could not refund me because I delayed them from finding someone else to occupy the house. They told me they will give me P300 instead of P550 because of the delay of which they have not given me to this date. There was no written contract. My question is, is it fair for them to give me P300 instead of P550? Please help me.

Unfortunately I’m not sure you’re being entirely reasonable. It wasn’t the landlord’s fault that you changed your mind, in fact the landlord has probably been inconvenienced by it. As they said they’ve been delayed in finding a tenant who’ll actually move in and start paying them the rent. Even though you didn’t sign any form of agreement with them they are probably entitled to withhold some of the money you paid them. I suspect that most people would think they’re being reasonable in giving you back most of the money you paid them.

The other problem is that you would find it very difficult to force them to pay you back the entire amount you paid them. I’m not even sure how you could do that.

Finally, what were you thinking paying them the money without any written agreement? That really was unwise. Whenever you rent a property, whether it’s to live or for work you MUST have a written agreement that has been signed by both parties. Without that you have very little protection against abuse.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

It is in order to applaud you for the wonderful work you do at The Voice.

Firstly, I would like to bring to your attention something I have noticed with one store at the station in Gaborone. I have a big appetite for chicken gizzards and have noticed how they are always in stock and recently realized that they change Best Before dates on the gizzards and extend the days of the product. This poses a risk to the lives of customers buying these products and I have since taken to close scrutiny of the gizzards when I buy them from that store.

Secondly, I would like to raise a concern with taxi drivers in Gaborone who are in the habit of not refunding people their 10 thebe as part of change for the P3.90 charge for a taxi. It has also grown to be a common habit for taxi drivers to refuse to provide change to passengers by simply saying they don't have change as service providers.

Once again thank you for your column and appreciate your work.

Firstly, many thanks for your very kind words. The team at The Voice and also at Consumer Watchdog always love to hear positive feedback so thanks again.

You are, of course, very wise to keep an eye on the Best Before dates on food, particularly meat products. It’s almost impossible to get reliable figures on the number of deaths from food-poisoning in Africa each year but you can rest assured that it’s at epidemic levels. It’s therefore extremely reckless for stores to adjust the Best Before dates on food they plan to sell us. I suggest that you speak to the store manager and ask him or her to confirm their rules about this sort of thing. You might also want to ask them whether they’ve got a copy of the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods Regulations? If not, tell them I’m happy to send them a copy free of charge!

Your second question about taxi operators not offering change and making up excuses about not having the right coins is a good one. Of course they must give you your change, it’s not theirs to keep. I can imagine it happening occasionally but surely it should be a rare thing? How difficult can it be for the taxi owner to go to the bank and get a bag of 10t coins every time he pays in all his cash? Assuming of course that they have a bank account and aren’t operating an unregistered business? I wonder if they pay taxes like the rest of us?

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