Monday, 18 June 2018

Press Release - Government and parastatal tender scams


18th June 2018

Consumer Alert: Government and parastatal tender scams

Consumer Watchdog would like to alert consumers about a growing number of scams pretending to be invitations to supply goods to Government and parastatals, including Botswana Power Corporation, Botswana Railways and PPADB.

These invitations appear to be official documents and suggest that the victim’s company has been directly appointed to supply specialist goods to the inviting entity. They encourage the victims to contact a specific supplier, usually in South Africa, who they imply is the only supplier they are prepared to accept.

Once the victims contact this supplier, which is actually a fake company, they demand a deposit before the fictitious goods can be shipped.

We have heard recently from several companies who have asked us to investigate the legitimacy of the invitations they received and of the suppliers. In most cases we have been able to prevent any money being lost but we have also heard from victims who have already transferred the fake deposits. In one case the victim transferred over P200,000 to the scammers.

Even though there were clues in the invitation documents suggesting that they were false, they are nevertheless convincing enough to have already fooled a number of victims. The fake suppliers have even taken the time to create web sites to help them appear legitimate.

We urge companies to be vigilant and always to contact purchasing authorities in the Public Service and parastatals to confirm the legitimacy of any invitation to supply goods they receive before they pay any deposits. They can also contact Consumer Watchdog for free advice. We can be reached by phone on 3904582, by email at or via our Facebook group, Consumer Watchdog Botswana.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 11th June 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Winter Wonderland – latest update

The Winter Wonderland event was originally scheduled for just before Christmas 2017 but it was postponed until Easter 2018. However, the event was then cancelled. In March 2018 the Grand Palm Hotel, where the event had been meant to occur issued a Media Statement confirming that:
“the Winter Wonderland event has been cancelled by the promoter of the event. Tickets for this event were sold by its promoter, who is an independent third party, and in no way affiliated to or employed by the Grand Palm Hotel.” 
They suggested that customers should seek refunds from the promoter and concluded by saying that:
“The Grand Palm was not responsible for any ticket sales and therefore, regretfully, cannot make any refunds.”
Later, the promoters of the event stated that:
“the event has unfortunately been postponed yet again pending confirmation upon erection of the ice plant and assorted equipment [...] We've been inundated with operational challenges due to supplier and technical partner issues [...] In an attempt to salvage the event and not abandon the initiative (which really would change the entertainment tourism sector nationally) we've decided to resolve issues with suppliers and completely localize the venture, as opposed to being a promoter for an Expatriate company. [...] We have a database of all customers, those whose refunds are pending and those still awaiting confirmation of deployment.”
I think the promoters are missing the point. People don't want the event "salvaged". they just want their money back and they've waited a very long time already to get it. I think that the time to talking is gone. The time is now for action. It's time for these abused consumers to seek the support of the Consumer Protection Unit and the Small Claims Court.

2. How long is the warranty?
“On 25 May 2018 I returned my hair clippers with the receipt to the store at Airport Junction where I bought them but they refused to replace my clippers stating the purchase date of 17 May 2016 meant it was out of warranty. I informed the staff that when I purchased the clippers I asked about the 5 year warranty on this item and had been told that they would honor this warranty.”
The 5-year warranty is actually hard to miss. It's there on the box.

The Consumer Protection Regulations are quite clear about this situation. Section 17.1.d forbids a supplier from “causing a probability of confusion or of misunderstanding as to the legal rights, obligations, or remedies of a party to a transaction”. Section 17.1.e forbids “disclaiming or limiting the implied warranty of merchantability and fitness for use, unless a disclaimer is clearly and conspicuously disclosed”. Finally Section 17.1.f forbids entering “into a transaction in which the consumer waives or purports to waive a right, benefit or immunity provided by law, unless the waiver is clearly stated and the consumer has specifically consented to it”

It's not complicated. A 5-year warranty is... a warranty that lasts 5 years.

3. Insurance (again)
“Hello Mr Richard. I have surrendered my funeral policy and they tell me stories of being given a month notice adding that they won’t refund me. So where can I get help? Mind you the policy was for five years.”
Insurance is about "transferring risk". It doesn't matter whether it's a funeral plan, a vehicle insurance policy, life cover or a household scheme, in each case you transfer the financial risk of an unfortunate  from yourself to the insurance company in return for a monthly payment from you to them. If the unfortunate event happens (a death, a car crash or a burglary) the insurance company pays the bills, not you.

The question is this. If the unfortunate event doesn't happen, are you lucky or unlucky? You're lucky than a bad thing didn't happen but unlucky that you didn't get a return for the premiums you paid. Would you rather the bad thing had happened?

4. Plastic bags - BANNED

The “Waste Management (Plastic Carrier Bags and Plastic Flat Bags Prohibition) Regulations 2018” have been passed and this means that with effect from 1st November this year, plastic carrier bags will be banned. We have been warned!

5. The Lioness of Africa
“Last month I got a call from SA from a man called Clinton Vurden saying I have won a Woman of Africa Award. I accepted the award winning because I once entered a competition through WIBA. As times goes on they wanted me to pay for advertising my company. I don't have that kind of money.. Now they are on my back with payment and even threatened to sue me. How can I settle this issue and I want to know if their business is a scam or what.”
The award being offered is apparently called the “Lioness of Africa - The Fire of Botswana 2018” and comes from the Africa Business Investment Group.  All it takes to receive this "award" is a payment of R35,980. However, I can find no evidence that the award has any real validity. They say that they're backed by “Brodder Family Trust” but there's no trace of such a thing. None.

Is this just another award scam?

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 4th June 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. The crooked husband

A woman's husband asked her to co-sign a loan application form but she refused because they were already in debt and he hadn't discussed it with her. She told us that
"He is so desperate that I think he might even forge my signature. I went to the bank to ask them if its possible to block him from processing this loan since I don’t agree and I suspect that he might even forge my signature. The loan sales personnel said there is nothing they can do to help me and if he forges my signature the loan will be successful. Please help me, what can I do to block this loan. Is it ethical for the bank to say they will process the loan even if the signature is forged?”
Ethical? NO WAY! If she's right and he forges her signature he could go to prison for up to seven years. Even if she trusts him so little that she thinks he might do such a thing, she's got problems.

I suggested to this lady that she needs to find a better husband.

I also suggested that she contacts the branch manager at the bank and warns them about the risk they're all facing from his potential conduct.

2. Is this real?

In comes a message:
“I have a problem and I don’t know if you can help me. My friend sent me a parcel from the UK and it is now in South Africa. From January until now they have been asking for money to clear the parcel by sending them money and I have sent them P3,000 but until now its not here and they are still asking for more money. The parcel is at the South Africa airport now. What must I do as its been a long time? Please help me and another thing is that they sent me to the Bank of South Africa as my money is there and said they want me to send them another R10,000 to my account. Is this right what the bank is doing?”
Nothing is real here. There is no friend, there is no parcel, there is no authority in South Africa demanding money, there is no "South Africa airport", there is no "Bank of South Africa". The only thing that's real is the money that this victim has sent to the scammers. It's an advance fee scam and unfortunately, scammers don't offer refunds.

3. Winter Wonderland - an update

MANY people have asked us about this event that was scheduled for late last year at the Grand Palm Resort but was postponed until Easter this year and then cancelled completely.

One message said:
“I bought family ticket for this event at Grandpalm last year, it was cancelled and announced to be this year Easter. Even now I have never heard from them. I called a number of friends who also bought the tickets, they are just as worried as me. I have called Grand Palm, they seem not to take responsibility.”
In March 2018 the Grand Palm issued a Media Statement that:
“confirms that the Winter Wonderland event has been cancelled by the promoter of the event. Tickets for this event were sold by its promoter, who is an independent third party, and in no way affiliated to or employed by the Grand Palm Hotel.”
They advised affected consumer to seek refunds from the promoters themselves. They concluded by saying that:
“The Grand Palm was not responsible for any ticket sales and therefore, regretfully, cannot make any refunds.”
I contacted the promoter who told me:
“Yes the event has unfortunately been postponed yet again pending confirmation upon erection of the ice plant and assorted equiptment (we cannot communicate a date to customers yet again, prior to actual erection).

We've been innundated with operational challenges due to supplier/ technical partner issues. In an attempt to salvage the event and not abandon the initiative (which really would change the entertainment tourism sector nationally) we've decided to resolve issues with suppliers and completely localize the venture, as opposed to being a promoter for an Expatriate company. This has tied us up in quite a bit of red tape we're trying to expeidately resolve. Kindly be advised, these set backs are in no way shape or form a result of any local partners particularly The Grand Palm Hotel & Resort as they were venue / food - beverage and accomodation sponsors.

We have a data base of all customers, those whose refunds are pending and those still awaiting confirmation of deployment.

A full refunds recon has already been advised to technical partner as well as attendance list. We're awaiting transfer of bulk refunds capital, the deployment/ erection of said event possibly just before winter's end this year; and finally the launch of the international operation spear headed from Botswana.”
I think the promoter misunderstands a few things. People don't want the event "salvaged", they're not concerned whether the organisers are local or expatriate, and they have no interest in "confirmation of deployment". They just want their money back. The question is when they'll get it. It needs to be soon.

The other question is whether the Grand Palm has any responsibility for the situation. I suspect not. Can they be held accountable if someone rents a hotel room and sells drugs from it? Or if a financial advisor hires a netting room and then steals people's money? I think not.

4. Travelling to London?

In April 2018 we heard from a passenger who was refused entry to UK because her boyfriend who lived in the UK couldn't prove that he had have enough money to sustain her during her stay. Ethiopian Airlines told us that they had been charged a detention fee of P7,000 by the UK Immigration authorities and wanted to pass that on to the customer.

We heard this week from a travel agent who forwarded us an email sent out by Ethiopian Airlines. It said:
"Kindly note that some passengers (Botswana citizens) visiting to LHR, still come to the airport without the minimum basic required documents of the LHR immigrations, of which most passengers ‘claim’ they were not advised of such when they purchased the tickets. Be advised that, there is a detention fee of GBP10.40/per hour if the immigration authorities decide to return the passenger, which the passenger must settle.

The required documents being:
* The passport copy of the person they are visiting
* The bank statement/pay slip of the person they are visiting
* An invitation letter, stating the purpose of the visit, the addresses of who they are visiting, also the duration of their stay.

NB: Please also advise customers that they should have enough cash in hand (minimum GBP300) for any cases that might arise in the airport including REFUSAL OF ENTRY BY UK IMMIGRATION. Kindly advise our esteemed passengers in order to avoid inconveniencies and for our smooth operation."
5. Looking for clues

We saw an advertisement on Facebook for the "Africa Service Excellence Awards" to be held at the Cresta President Hotel in Gaborone on 29th June. The ad said:
"Enter Into This Year's Awards And Get A Chance Of Getting A Top Award In Customer Service Awards Entries Now Open"
Does that mean that you must spend P800 to attend and then you get "a chance" of winning an award? You're paying for the possibility of an award?

This event is being organised by the "Chartered Institute for Customer Management" which their web site claims is
"a renowned customer service and call centre organisation with its head offices in the UK and regional head offices for Africa in South Africa."
I was curious so I took a look at the addresses they give for these offices in the UK and South Africa.

This is their UK office, an address that also hosts several other companies.

This is their South African office.

It's possible this is perfectly legitimate. Just be skeptical.

Friday, 8 June 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why won’t the bank take me seriously?

My husband gave me a loan application consent form to sign but I did not agree to sign because we didn’t discuss it before and we have other debts that we are still paying off so I didn’t agree with taking a loan now. He was so desperate that I think he might even forge my signature.

I went to the bank to ask them if its possible to block him from processing this loan since I don’t agree and I suspect that he might even forge my signature. The loan sales personnel said there is nothing they can do to help me and if he forges my signature the loan will be successful. Please help me, what can I do to block this loan. Is it ethical for the bank to say they will process the loan even if the signature is forged?

Ethical? I think the only ethical element to this story is your behaviour. You’ve shown that you are prudent and don’t want to get into greater debt. You’ve shown that you’re prepared to disagree with your husband and stand up for yourself. You’ve shown that you’re prepared to take action to protect your interests and even those of the bank by contacting them. You have my respect.

I probably shouldn’t say too much about your husband, other than observe that he seems to need some personal financial education. You also need some protection against his potential recklessness. Sooner rather than later.

Finally, there is very obviously an ethics shortfall at the bank. Given that you’ve warned them that you suspect your husband might be about to commit a serious fraud, something for which he could easily go to prison for a long time and which might lead them to a serious financial embarrassment, I think its shameful that they aren’t taking your warning more seriously. At the very least I hope they’ve made a note on your file and that of your husband that he poses a risk to them.

I suggest that you write the bank a confidential letter explaining your concerns and deliver it personally to the manager of your branch. Make sure they take your warning seriously.

Is this real?

I have a problem and I don’t know if you can help me. My friend sent me a parcel from the UK and it is now in South Africa. From January until now they have been asking for money to clear the parcel by sending them money and I have sent them P3,000 but now until now there not here and there still asking for more money. The parcel is at the South Africa airport now. What must I do as its been a long time?

Please help me and another thing is that they sent me to the Bank of South Africa as my money is there and said they want me to send them another R10,000 to my account. Is this right what the bank is doing?

Readers of The Voice will know exactly what I’m going to tell you because they’ve seen this story before, many times.

I have bad news for you.

Unfortunately, nothing you have been told is true. There is no parcel waiting for you in South Africa. There is no bank holding the money you’ve already sent and which is now demanding more. Worst of all, there is no friend in the UK. This is all a scam.

Specifically this is an “advance fee scam”. This always involves a story about something valuable, either an inheritance, a lottery win, sometimes a job offer or very often a shipment like this one. However, just before the victim expects to receive this thing, the scammers demand a fee in advance. Sometimes it’s a duty or tax, other times an account opening or attorney’s fee. In cases like yours it’s a shipping cost. Whatever it might be, it’s money that will never be seen again.

I’m really sorry that you came to us after you’d sent them so much money but I hope you understand not to send them anything else. Remember that scammers don’t offer refunds.

Friday, 1 June 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay?

My kids were chased out of school last term for late payment of school fees. One in January and the other in February/March. Now the issue is that they are asking me to pay the balance for last term yet the kids did not attend the classes. Is it fair to pay for the service that you never received? And why chase them out of school when at the end of the day you are still going to ask for the balance? Please help with advice.

I suspect that this depends entirely on what it says in the agreement, the contract you signed with the school when you first enrolled the children. Unlike government schools, privately owned schools rely almost entirely on the school fees that parents pay for their children to attend. The salaries of the teachers and other staff, the power, water and internet access, the books, tables and chairs are all paid from that income. That’s why private schools often include in their contract a termination clause that says you must give at least one term’s notice if you decide to remove your child. That’s often the time it takes to find a child to replace yours. That’s how they guarantee they continue to have a steady stream of income.

Your case is slightly different. As you say, it wasn’t your choice to remove your child from the school, they forced your children out because you were late paying. That’s why it’s very important that you take a careful look at the contract. I’m not an attorney but if the termination clause only refers to a term’s notice being payable if you decide to withdraw your child then there might be some “wiggle room”. Otherwise you might be out of luck.

It might also be worth asking the school whether they actually suffered financially as a result of them ejecting your children. If they were able to find other children to take their places with no gap then you might have a moral argument, if not a legal one.

Why won’t they refund me?

Hello Richard. Kindly assist me. I bought these two lipsticks at a pharmacy by Block 7 only to find out later that they are on special at another shop for a price less than I paid. I purchased them today in the morning. I immediately went back to the shop with receipts for a refund and they are refusing to assist even though I have the receipts and the goods are still sealed and still in their packaging. They say its an over counter purchase they don't return and its not even written in their receipts.

Let’s start with the basics. Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that goods must be “or merchantable quality” which means “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased”. If a store sells goods that aren’t of merchantable quality then they obviously must fix the problem by offering one of the three Rs: a refund, a repair or a replacement.

However, in this case, were the lipsticks of merchantable quality? From what you say, there’s no evidence that they weren’t. So you have no right to return them for this reason.

Were the lipsticks second-hand, used or had they deteriorated? Section 13 (1) (c) forbid the store from selling such things as new but that didn’t happen here, did it?

Other sections of the Regulations forbid a store from deceiving you or from exploiting your ignorance about the product or the conditions of sale but again, I don’t think they’ve done this. From what you say, they didn’t deceive you at any point when they sold you the lipsticks so you can’t use that argument either.

Here’s another thing. Something that the Consumer Protection Regulations don’t mention, a right you don’t currently have. You don’t have the right to change your mind and that appears to be what you’re asking for. I know that the lipsticks are still in their packaging and that you haven’t used them but the store didn’t actually do anything wrong, did they? Did they break any of the rules that would permit you to return them? I don’t believe so.

There are of course some stores that DO allow you to return unused items but that’s not a consumer right, it’s just good customer care. That’s why prices at those stores are often a little higher than at stores where they aren’t as generous. I’m sorry but on this occasion I think you’re out of luck.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my bed?

We bought a bed at last year around June. In January the bed was not comfortable so we reported it and they said their vehicle was not available. We kept on reporting but no one showed up. In March I went to see the manager and she said they will sand someone to come get it but that didn’t happen. The first week of May I went there and found another manager and I explained my issue to him. He checked on their records and saw that for real we long reported the issue. He then said the bed we chose was for kids not adults. I was not there when my wife chose it and I don’t know if the sales who was helping her explained that to her. He then promised that he will send someone before end of week and yes they came to fetch it.

Now they are saying the bad is beyond repair and we should fix it with our own money even though we still have a warranty and we are still paying for it and its them who delayed to assist us before their bed got damaged more. We are sleeping on the ground as we speak its a week now. Now they are planning to give us second hand bad while still paying. Can you help us on how to resolve this issue?

This is a complicated one. Firstly, I’m glad you kept paying your instalments because that’s a common mistake that people make. They think that because they no longer have the goods they can stop paying but that’s a huge mistake. When you stop paying you immediately become the person in the wrong and from that moment the store isn’t obliged to do anything to help you.

In your case, even though you’re still paying the instalments, it’s still complicated. They’re saying that you bought a bed suitable for a child, not an adult, but can the store prove that you knew that? Can you prove that you didn’t?

I suggest you accept the second-hand bed as a temporary solution but make sure you don’t sign anything saying that this concludes the issue. Make it clear to them that you are only accepting it as a short-term solution. Meanwhile we’ll contact the store and see if they can’t be a little bit more helpful!

Must I pay the fee?

I have a question. My husband bought a car from a dealer in Mogoditshane. I didn't have enough cash so we used a credit card to pay. The car dealer did not have a swiping machine therefore he asked another shop to do the transaction. Now we are told we have to pay bank charges amounting to P1,950. The car was P58,000. Is this fair?

If I go to a supermarket and purchase goods with a credit card, they swipe what appears on the price tag. Any interest the bank will take care of. In this case why should I be charged bank charges separately?

Unfortunately I think you must pay the charge. When a company swipes a debit card or credit card they’re charged a fee by the bank. When we go shopping at a supermarket or a filling station, that fee is usually quite small and is included in the price of the purchase. Because it’s so small, customers don’t notice that they’re paying it. However, if you buy something as expensive as a car, the fee becomes enormous, like in this case and no company wants to pay a fee as high as this one.

To make matters worse in this case, the company who swiped your card were just doing you and the dealer a favour and they certainly don’t want (and nor should they) to be forced to pay P1,950 for doing you that favour.

Credit cards can be remarkably useful tools for certain types of transactions. You should certainly always use a Visa card if you’re booking a flight because Visa offers free travel insurance but you should always do your very best to pay off the balance you owe as quickly as possible because the interest rates are extremely high. Buying a car for P58,000 using a credit card when you don’t have the cash is going to be an extremely expensive way to do it. You’ll pay a lot more than the P1,950 transaction fee in interest payments. I suggest you find a way to pay off the card as soon as it’s possible to do so.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 14th May 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Events – can we ever do them right?

Exhibit A. Hamptons Festival

The original event was postponed, and tickets were offered to the rescheduled event. However, some people either couldn’t make the rescheduled date or just chose not to.

But for some of those people, refunds were very slow to arrive.

Exhibit B. Gaborone Motor Show.

Following the sale of many tickets, some of which included entry to a raffle, the Motor Show organisers posted the following message:
“NOTICE: Our raffle has been cancelled! All persons who bought our P100 Raffle Tickets should claim their refund at our entrance points at the 2018 Gaborone Motor Show… We would like to sincerely apologize to all affected customers for this cancellation we were unable to get registration in time!”
However, several people were disappointed. One commented:
“The prize car for the raffle was not a brand new vehicle; the raffle itself was cancelled; and some issues arose with the young ladies tasked with working at the event. As per the post, I tried to claim my full refund at the entrance of the event and they told me the rules had changed and that they no longer give full refunds. Even after showing them this very post, they refused to give a full refund and stated that those will only be possible after an audit was carried out.”
The law is simple. All competitions, including raffles, must be approved by the Gambling Authority and that takes a while, it's not something that can be done quickly. The Motor Show organisers had plenty of time.

The lesson is to read the small print on tickets. Always ask about cancellation terms before you buy the ticket.

2. Jamalife – is it legit?

Jamalife describe themselves as:
“an online cum offline network marketing organization and was born out of the need to build up people financially all across the globe to the point of experiencing high quality life in all areas of living”. 
That's meaningless gibberish. Describing their products they say they have offer “Human Capital Development”, “Food Security”, “Online mail”, “Flight and hotel booking”, “Assets and Property acquisition” and “Financial empowerment”.

More meaningless gibberish.

What Jamalife really offers is multiple layers of recruitment. They call them Builder, Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald, Diamond, Crown Diamond, Ambassador and finally Crown Ambassador. Each of these layers include at least another two layers. Jamalife claim that once you reach the top of Crown Ambassador level, they promise that you can get R3,900,000 and a Range Rover worth R2,210,000.

But here's a question. To get to that level, how many people would you need in the pyramid beneath you?

The difference between a Multi-Level Marketing scheme and a pyramid scheme is simple. A pyramid scheme is focussed primarily on the recruitment of people rather than the sale of products. Jamalife say this:
"any rewards or earnings that are offered from Jamalife Helpers Global through the Business Plan is the result of members referring or signing up other willing members."
Their own words...

3. Where’s my policy?

A customer started an education policy in 2015, paying P300/month. This was meant to mature this year but:
“I was told I have closed the account in 2015 and it stopped deducting. Now they say I have to pay all the instalments in order for me to resuscitate the policy yet they don’t have any proof that I instructed them to stop the policy. They closed it because they say i wrote a letter instructing them to close it but they can't provide the stated letter.”
The important thing is that it is a customer’s job to monitor the payments, not their employer or their bank. It's the Custoemr's job to check bank statements and payslips to check they are making the payments they must.

In this case, the solutions is to pay the missing instalments. She still has the money after all.

4. World Ventures (yet again)

“Is it legit?” The Norwegian authorities say not. They found that 95% of all money earned is from recruiting other people. It's another pyramid scheme.

World Ventures base their pyramid on supposed travel discounts but discounts aren’t products. And anyway, there's no need to pay to join a discount when hotels give them away for free. You can get discounted hotel stays in South Africa but visiting, where they give away discounts for free. Or consider something like Airbnb.

Regarding World Ventures, the latest income figures they published for the USA showed that two thirds (actually 68.7%) of all the income went to the 3.7% at the top. The median annual income was a mere $33 (around P330). And that was income, not profit.

5. How to complain (in 2018)

A customer had a problem with a takeaway.
“I was contacted by one of their managers for the poor service I had received. When I got their I ordered the same food and asked to see the manager. The lady took her time and I went to buy a drink, I came back she still took her time and when she came she did apologies for the mistake they did but she was not interested in helping me and started interrogating asking silly questions about why I had to run to social media and wat not. I received no help concerning the poor service I had received. These people have no respect for us as consumers. Now I think it's time I took my case to consumer affairs.”
It’s 2018. How should we complain?

However the hell we want to!

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my policy?

I been having an education policy with an insurance company for the past 3 years and they were deducting P300 directly from my salary. The policy was supposed to mature this year. So when I called enquiring about it I was told I have closed the account in 2015 and it stopped deducting. Now they say I have to pay all the instalments in order for me to resuscitate the policy yet they don’t have any proof that I instructed them to stop the policy. They closed it because they say i wrote a letter instructing them to close it but they can't provide the stated letter. Surprisingly they have all my documents except that one.

I didn't notice that the deductions stopped because they were deducting from the salary and I didn't pay attention to the salary advice. They even did not consult me to come and claim my termination benefits now they say the policy used that money up as a default penalty.

I think you probably know what I’m going to say.

When you agree to a savings scheme like this, or an insurance policy or even a bank loan, the responsibility for paying the instalments rests entirely with you, the customer. If something goes wrong and your employer’s payroll system stops deducting from your salary or the bank stops making your monthly payments it’s still your job to notice that the payments have stopped, even if the error wasn’t of your making. You are the one that signed the agreement, not your employer or your bank.

It really is incredibly important that we all check our payslips and bank statements to ensure that we’re honoring our obligations.

In your case it’s more complicated. Surely if this insurance company says that you instructed them to close the policy then they have a record of that? If they don’t, what sort of filing system do they have?

I suspect that the solution to this is simple. You WILL need to make up the payments you missed if you want the policy re-established, there’s no escaping from that. But let’s see what they say about that letter that doesn’t seem to exist.

Is Jamalife real and legit?

Yes, it’s real. Is it legit? That’s more complicated. If you think pyramid schemes are legit, then yes, it’s legit. However, if like me, you think pyramid schemes are scams run by crooks who exploit the na├»ve, then no, it’s not legit.

Jamalife describe themselves as “an online cum offline network marketing organization and was born out of the need to build up people financially all across the globe to the point of experiencing high quality life in all areas of living”. Which means exactly nothing.

On the subject of products, they talk about “Human Capital Development”, “Food Security”, “Online mail”, “Flight and hotel booking”, “Assets and Property acquisition” and “Financial empowerment”. Again, that’s just meaningless nonsense.

Like all pyramid schemes they require their victims to recruit multiple layers beneath them. With this scam they call their levels Builder, Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald, Diamond, Crown diamond, Ambassador and finally Crown Ambassador. Within each of these levels there are sub-levels the victims will need to progress through if they want to get to the top. Once you get to the top of “Crown Ambassador” level they say you’ll get R3,900,000 and a Range Rover worth R2,210,000. Sounds great but how many people will you need to recruit to get to this level?

I did the maths. To get to this level the network beneath you would need to consist of 16,777,214 people.

The good news is that for once Jamalife is a pyramid scheme that’s honest about its business model. They say "any rewards or earnings that are offered from Jamalife Helpers Global through the Business Plan is the result of members referring or signing up other willing members". At least they’re honest.

One more thing. At the time of writing this, their web site is unavailable and that’s very often a sign that a pyramid or Ponzi scheme is about to collapse. You’ve been warned!

Saturday, 12 May 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

A genuine funder?

I need your assistance here Sir, of recent I came across this other company on Internet as I was searching for possible funders, I requested for an investment amount of $50,000. We have been communicating via mail till today when I receive their approval confirmation. What scares me is that their procedure was so simple and they never requested any security nor any clause that talks of in case I fail to return the money. I'll send you the agreement letter they sent me and please confirm for me if the company is legit or is just a scam.

There's no doubt about it. This is a scam.

The first clue is the simplest. This isn't how funding works. It's not how getting a loan works. Genuine lenders don't offer large amounts of money to total strangers they met on the internet. Genuine lenders don't lend money without extensive checks, interviews, form-filling and evidence that the borrower can make the necessary repayments. Anyone who's taken a genuine loan will confirm this. It's never easy.

In your case there are other clues. They say they'll lend you around $50,000 (around P500,000) but at only 3% interest? That's unbelievable. Furthermore, they say that the total interest over the five year loan period will be just $3,906? Genuine lenders can do basic arithmetic.

This is actually nothing more than an advance fee scam. There is no loan, no lender, no funder. Nothing you've been told is true. The way is this works is that the scammers seduce you with the offer of a very cheap loan but just before this fake loan is paid to you they'll demand a payment from you first. Sometimes it's a tax or duty, other times an account opening fee, maybe a penalty of some sort. Again it's all fake but that's what it's all about, that fee they make you pay in advance of getting the fake loan.

I'm glad to hear that you haven't sent them any money yet because often when people contact us with stories like yours it's too late and the money has already been sent. And everyone should know this. Scammers don't offer refunds!

Another broken second hand car

About 3 weeks ago I purchased a 2nd hand car for P48,000 from one dealership in Mogoditshane. Within 3 days it showed an engine light in the dash board and then on the 5th day showed another one.

I took the car to more than 5 car technicians and mechanics who made their computer diagnose and found different problems. The last diagnosis report found that it's the computer box which needs to be replaced. I have also fixed the car on so many things, include the engine mountings and plugs.

I have come to decision of returning the car back to the dealership in Mogoditshane. When I include all the minor services I have spent around P8,000 extra on the car. I have all the necessary receipts of some of the expenses. And please advise if a refund is due to me how I will be refunded the purchase price and for the services.

All the problems and expenses have been communicated to the dealer who has asked us to do more diagnosis on the car and insisted its fine. Eventually he asked his mechanic to look at it on 1st May and found all the problems we complained about.

The agreement was that the warranty is only one month if it has an engine problem. And my one month ends on 13th May I guess that's why he keeps pushing I drive the car even if I insist it has problem so that my one month to elapses.

I suspect you're right. The dealer is stalling you and hoping the month will expire before you take action to protect your interests. You need to write him a letter saying that the car is not "of merchantable quality" as required by Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations and that you require him to honour the warranty that was included in the sale of the vehicle. Make sure that letter gets to him as soon as possible and definitely before the 13th May. On the same day you should also go to the Consumer Protection Unit and lodge a complaint with them. Ask them to call him so that he knows they're on the case. With a little luck these two actions will encourage him to do the decent thing!

Saturday, 5 May 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay to fix the leak?

Please help me. Last year I engaged a company to do waterproofing on my roof deck. Lo and behold after the first rains in 2017 the deck leaked badly. We called the guy who returned and claimed to have fixed the problem. This year it rained cats and dogs and the deck leaked worse than before. The guy came again and promised to return to fix it. It's now 2 months, he says I should pay P3,800 for him to hire a concrete drill for him to make a new passage for the water because according to him it was the builders mistake. Needless to say he never mentioned any mistake in the builders part previously.

Please help us as I'm worried if the rain stops we will still suffer next time it rains. I find it unfair to pay for a machine when I paid in full for what was to be a complete job.

Thanks in advance.

Regular readers will know by now what Section 13 (1) (a) of the current Consumer Protection Regulations says. It demands that all commodities and services must be "of merchantable quality" which it defines as "fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased, as it is reasonable to expect in light of the relevant circumstances". Waterproofing a roof should do exactly that. It should be waterproof. Obviously, you can't expect miracles but I'm sure this guy knows the sort of weather we have in Botswana and he should have been able to offer you a product that could withstand it.

This business about demanding money from you to buy new equipment is just silly. It's not your responsibility to buy his company the equipment they should already have.

The important lesson from your experience is whenever you get work like this done to your home, insist on getting a written warranty or guarantee. I don't think it's unreasonable to demand that a specialist builder like this can give their customers some level of assurance of how long their work will protect you. The decent ones do this already, why don't the others?

Meanwhile I'll contact the company and see if they can't be more helpful!

Update. The builder told me that "we are fixing the leak this week and will confirm when all remedial works are done". Let's see if that actually happens!

Where is Ritefurn?

I need some advice. I bought some furniture at Ritefurn at Game City. Now the shop is closed and apparently they owe rent. Now its been four months and have not gotten my items. I'm being sent from pillar to pillar. What can I do?

We've been approached by many people asking the same question. Like you, some have told me they've paid Ritefurn money for goods they hadn't received, other have goods and don't know how to continue paying for them. Everyone seems confused. I've also spoken to the people who were working at Ritefurn and they are worried that people will stop paying them and the business will collapse as a result. However, my main interest is in consumers.

What are the facts? Ritefurn branches are closed. The remaining managers told me that they don't have access to the business bank account. Some customers told me that they were asked to pay the money they owed into employee's personal bank accounts. The last thing I heard was that the owner is no longer in Botswana and I got a message from the number he last used saying that "the operations of Ritefurn is hold at the moment".

Given that even the owner says the company is no longer operating, I urge you not to pay anyone anything right now because there is no guarantee that the money is going to the right place. For those people who have already paid for things they haven't received I suspect you're in for a long wait.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 23rd April 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Can I take them back?

An email came in saying:
"I bought 2 wheel caps from a dealer last week and it happened that they are of the wrong size. Now I wanted to return them but they are refusing to take them back. What can I do?"
Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations requires commodities and services to be "of merchantable quality", defined as "fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased".  That covers things like manufacturing faults. Also, Section 13 (1) (c) says that new means new, not second hand or used, so if the goods are returned the store will undoubtedly lose money if they sell them again.

Did the supplier do anything wrong here? There was no obvious deception and no product faults or failures. Surely this was the customer's mistake?

There is currently no "right" to return things unless they are faulty. We all know some stores that allow this but that's just good customer service, not a consumer right.

2. Do they need to register?
"Are there any regulatory guidelines for becoming a weight loss consultant or gym instructor in Botswana? Is one required to be certified for this purpose?"
The Botswana Health Professions Act, 2001, regulates "Medical, Dental and Pharmacy Professions" but also covers a range of other para-medical professions:
  • "Allied Health Professions" includes Pharmacists, Radiographers, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Opticians, Optometrists, Biomedical Engineers, Clinical Psychologists, Health Inspectors, Laboratory Scientists, Speech Therapists, Audiologists, 
Dieticians, Orthopaedic Technicians, Pharmacy Technicians, Paramedics, Laboratory Technicians, Dental Therapists and Clinical Officers. 
  • "Associated Health Professions" includes Chiropodists, Homeopaths, Naturopaths, Osteopaths and Acupuncturists. (We'll overlook the fact that homeopathy and acupuncture are bogus for now.)
What's missing from the lists? "Nutritionist" doesn't appear so is a meaningless term. "Life Coach" also doesn't appear so you have no knowledge that such a person is qualified or equipped to do anything useful.

"Weight loss consultant" also doesn't appear. So it's not a regulated profession. "Caveat emptor" applies!

3. Get it in writing (yet again)

Exhibit A
"I'm working as a carpenter. Someone followed me at work and asked me to take unpaid leave for some days to do something for him. Now he is supposed to pay me he always give me some excuses that he is busy with some projects and he does not have time to pay me."
The carpenter is owed P23,000. I asked if there was anything in writing?
"No we had agreements through messages even voice calls."
Exhibit B
"About 2 years ago I engaged a building company to make a house plan for me and build it… He charged us P4,200. He insisted we pay the full amount as he needed some of the money to tackle his own things and put in some petrol to go to moshupa to see the plot. I wanted to give him half but he wasn't taking it. Like a moron I sent all the money. Included in was also him taking it to the council for approval. well, he emailed us the plan and it's kinda good BUT he has not taken it to the council. This is the second week of us chasing him and we are lucky if he picks up the phone or if he responds to our texts. Now I would like to know if you know what we can do to get some of our money back since he has not completed our agreement."
I asked if there was anything in writing?
"No. All I have is the Western Union receipts for him"
Exhibit C
"I gave some guy P165,000 to buy me a car in UK but he bought the wrong one that I did not want. This happened in 2016. He gave me P86,000 last year and promised to pay the rest in September. When the time came for him to give me the balance he showered me with insults and told me he doesn't have money. This guy is in UK and he seem doesn't care when I ask him to pay me. What is your advice? please help me!"
I asked if there was anything in writing?
"All I have is bank transfer receipts."
So what's the lesson? Get things in writing. Every single time. It doesn't matter how big or small it is, if you're buying or selling something, get it in writing.

4. Insurance excess payments
"I have a car insurance which was recommended by [vehicle finance company]. About 2 months ago the car was involved in an accident, we took quotations from [repair workshop] to the insurance company and they approved. [repair workshop] told us to bring the car for fixing, yesterday they called saying the car is ready and we have to pay P5,000 excess as the insurance did not cover that. We were shocked as we were not told this before, my husband who has been handling the case went to the insurance and they told him that the premium that I chose I have to pay the excess fee. I know you always blame us for not reading contracts but the one I signed doesn't have that clause. Please help me out what do I do in this situation??"
Almost all insurance policies, whether they're vehicle, household policies or anything else have an excess payment. That's an amount that the customer is required to pay before the insurance company pays the rest. Insurance companies use these excess amounts to stop customers making trivial claims. For instance, if your excess amount is P3,000 and you have an accident that costs P1,000 to repair, you pay it all. However, if the damage costs P10,000, you pay P3,000 and the insurance company will pay the remaining P7,000. If the damage is P100,000, they'll pay P97,000.

The first lesson is to shop around. Usually, the higher the monthly premium you pay for an insurance policy, the lower the excess will be. A low premium policy will often offer a much higher excess. It's a balancing act, a decision to consider before choosing a policy.

In this case, the document the Customer had was a renewal notice, not the actual policy. We contacted the insurance company and they confirmed that the customer had signed for policy document that contains the excess clause. The second lesson is simple. Read all agreements and do NOT sign them until you completely understand them.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must we pay?

Sometimes around June 2016 my husband and I purchased a set of chairs on 2 year hire purchase contract.

In 2017 August we noticed that the chairs started peeling and were cracking on the piping around the chairs. we then notified our sale person to assist. After a month or two we contacted him again and were informed that the chairs were now out of warranty. In March this year my husband took the chairs to the store and was told to go back home with the chairs as he should have not brought them to the store and that the someone would come to our house to inspect the chairs but they never came.

I then called the store and spoke to a lady who promised that the Managing Director would come to the house and advice decide on the way forward but the managing director never came either.

On the 20th March we did not pay our monthly payments and were surprised to receive a call on the 21st from the collection department that our payment did not go through and we are in arrears. My husband received another call from the collection department on the 26th inquiring if someone has been to the house to inspect the set of chairs. We are left with about 5 months for the repayments to be completed and contract terminated and we are afraid that after the 5 months we are never going to be assisted.

We therefore request you to step in and assist?

Unfortunately, you're in a very difficult position. If you buy something on hire purchase and you stop your instalments, for whatever reason, even if the store have behaved terribly, you're not entitled to any support. Also, if the warranty has indeed expired already (and they are often only for a year) the store is not obliged to remedy any problems that occur after the warranty expires.

I really think you need to catch up with the instalments as soon as possible and then see if the store will help you. Be prepared for a struggle!

Finally, if you like, I can approach them and see if there is any way they can assist you but I can't promise anything.

Can I get my money back?

Hello Sir. I need your help. I bought 2 wheel caps from a dealer last week and it happened that they are of the wrong size. Now I wanted to return them but they are refusing to take them back. What can I do?

We should begin with what the Consumer Protection Regulations say. Firstly, Section 13 (1) (a) of the Regulations says that goods and services must be "of merchantable quality" which it defines as meaning "fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased". In other words, things should do what they're meant to do. This also means that if something does NOT do what it's meant to do, or if it's any other way faulty, the consumer is entitled to a solution. The Regulations also protect you against being deceived by a company that sells you something. They can't tell lies.

However, there is one thing that the Regulations don't currently offer you: the right to return things if there's nothing wrong with them. I know that there are some stores that allow you to return things if you change your mind, but that's just good customer service, not a consumer right. It's not something you can demand.

But your case is obviously different. There's nothing faulty about the items you bought and you haven't suggested that they deceived you when you bought them. The dealer didn't actually do anything wrong. It wasn't their fault that you selected the wrong sizes, was it?

There's also another thing in the Regulations that matters. Section 13 (1) (c) says that goods can only be sold as new if they are, in fact, new and not used or second-hand. If the store takes these items back they could only then sell them as second-hand and nobody will pay full price for second-hands items. Would you?

Unfortunately I don't think there's much you can do in this situation other than to suggest that the store only gives you a partial discount if they take them back.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay the excess?

I have a situation here, I have a car insurance policy which was recommended by my bank as I am paying the car through a bank car loan. About 2 months ago the car was involved in an accident, we took quotations and submitted to the insurance company which they approved.

The repair place told us to bring the car for fixing but yesterday they called saying the car is ready and we have to pay P5,000 excess as the insurance did not cover that. We were shocked as we were not told this before.

My husband who has been handling the case went to the insurance company and they told him that the premium that I chose I have to pay the excess fee, I know you always blame us for not reading contracts but the one I signed doesn't have that clause all it has is that I'm in group 6 and doesn't further clarify the group 6. Please help me out what do I do in this situation?

Unfortunately this is how vehicle insurance works. I know that the vehicle insurance policies I've had (and I've had many of them) have always included an "excess" clause. This is an amount that the customer has to pay before the insurance company pays. In most cases with a vehicle insurance policy it will be a few thousand although the exact amount varies between insurance companies and between policies. The reason they exist is to prevent customers from making trivial claims. With some insurance companies they'll give you the chance to pay a higher premium in return for a lower excess.

I know you sent me the insurance documents you have but they didn't include the actual policy document, just the latest renewal note from your bank. I suggest you get a copy of the policy document from the insurance company and I'm sure it will mention the excess amount.

Meanwhile, I've contacted the insurance company to double check and to find out how one of their customers could have been allowed to sign a policy without having been thoroughly educated on how it worked. And here's a plea to the insurance industry. Please make your policies easier to understand and do more to educate us all on how insurance works. We know insurance is incredibly useful so why aren't you helping consumers to understand how it can protect us all?

How can they blacklist me?

I have concerns regarding my consumer profile. I tried to apply for a credit account at a store recently and I was told the system has declined my request. They suspected I might be blacklisted, therefore I assured them that all my accounts are in good order. The assistant advised me to get a copy of my profile from the Post Office and check if there is any service provider that has done that, although previously I had an issue with another store and my banks due to areas but that was settled last year and everything is up to date.

I went to the Post Office to do just that and surprisingly my profile shows that there is no information submitted by any company under my name, my record is clean. Therefore I would like an assistance upon this issue about the next step to take because I am afraid this is going to tarnish my name upon any future relations I would like to indulge in with any company or service provider.

Please assist me to clear my name, your assistance will be highly appreciated.

I'm sorry to hear about this. It's a story I've heard before. Remember that credit reference bureaux hold both positive and negative information on people. The irony is that if you have no record at all, a potential lender has no information on which to base a decision and rather than seeing you as a person with no bad history, they see you as a complete unknown and sometimes won't take the risk.

It might be worth taking a copy of your TransUnion record back to the store and showing them that you're a good bet? I'll also talk to them and see if they can't be a little bit more flexible!

Friday, 13 April 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Do I have a case?

I need advice on whether I have a case or not? I bought a TV at last year March 17. By November it started developing faults with some lines across the screen and at times only half of it comes on when switched on. I called the store on the 3rd December to enquire on repairs and I was told I could not bring it in as technicians were going for holidays. I was told to come in January. I couldn't return it in January through March and only managed to see them on the 27th March. Now they say they can't help me since the warranty expired on the 17th March. I was asked to personally take the TV for repairs and bear all costs. My complaint is was it fair for them to refuse to take in my TV at a time when I was ready to bring it in and now refuse to help me? Shouldn't they at least meet me halfway on repair costs? Thanks in advance.

Did the store staff have too much to drink over the Christmas holiday?

No, I do NOT think they should meet you halfway. They should pay for everything.

I know you took too long in returning the TV, that was unfortunate, but that's not the important issue here. The thing that matters is that you told them about the fault in December, well within the warranty period. The fact that they then weren't sufficiently competent to have technicians available is what matters. I'm not saying that technicians can't go on holiday over Christmas but from as early as the 3rd December? That's just ridiculous. You had a right to expect that the store would have the resources available to attend to your problem within a reasonable period and with what Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations refers to as "reasonable care and skill".

We'll get in touch with the store and see if they can understand this.

Is this loan legitimate?

Is it possible for you to verify the existence of company known as Liberty Financial Services code 2193 registration no 1999/063355/23?

I suspect that you're dealing with scammers. Let me guess. You received an unsolicited email from them or you saw an advertisement from them on Facebook? Did they tell you that you were eligible for "a loan of R10,000 to R10 million" at only 3% interest each year? If they emailed you, did the email come from a Gmail address?

The reason I'm making these guesses is that we've heard of this scam many times before.

The first clever thing about this scam is they're using the name "Liberty" and you probably know that there are various legitimate, trustworthy companies with that name. They're hoping you'll confuse the fake Liberty with the real ones.

The other clever part of it is that they're using the registration details of a genuine South African lender called Loancare Chain but that's just a cover story. They have no connection with the legitimate company at all. The truth is that no lender offers loans to total strangers who haven't approached them first. Real lenders don't offer enormous loans at only 3% interest per year.

In fact this is just the beginning of an advance fee scam. Sooner or later they'll require some form of payment from you in order to get the fictitious loan they say they're offering you. That's what the scam is all about, that "advance fee" that you pay them. if you do fall for it and pay them they'll just string you along with more and more demands for more money. This won't stop until you either wise up or run out of money.

I suggest that you delete any emails or messages you've had from them and ignore any that arrive in future.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where is my P800?

I paid P800 for my ACCA P3 classes last year in March at a tutoring place in the Main Mall. The tutor later told me that there were no P3 classes yet and I was the only student. Therefore I ended up not going at all and my employer took me to BAC instead. The tutor agreed that he will refund me but when I call he'll tell me he forgot or he lost my number or he doesn't have money yet. Kindly help me since it looks like this cycle will not stop.

I think this has gone on long enough. The receipt you showed me made it clear that he'd received your money for a class that he didn't deliver and he knew he had to refund you your money. What this supposed accountant seems to forget is that Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that when a deal is cancelled, as yours so clearly has been, the service provider must refund any payments made "promptly". I don't think that "promptly" means "a year later". I don't even think it means "three months later". I think that "promptly" means "within a few days, perhaps a week at most".

I contacted the guy and asked him when he was planning to give you your money back but unfortunately he wasn't happy to hear from me. When I mentioned that he might feature in The Voice he SMSed me saying "Well do it in that way. I will personally apply for a court case against u.... U think i am a thief. Well."

I'll be looking forward to the case.

He later told me: "Do what u want am not a thief . I have an office y didnt not summon me or call me to consumer office . I dont run away. I want to talk to her is only peeson i can tell when i refund her . I dont know u".

Later still he told me that he'd lost your number and "I want to talk to her is only peeson i can tell when i refund her . I dont know u". However he then became a bit more reasonable, saying "By the way if u have number of that tell i give after 3 weeks. I went thru several losses by my farm".

Roughly translated into English he means that he'll pay you in three weeks but can we trust him? I think you should write him a letter saying that he has 14 days to refund you or you'll take legal action against him to recover your money. If he fails to do so then you should go straight to the Small Claims Court for an order against him. You might also want to check with the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants to see if he's really the Chartered Accountant he claims to be. I suspect he isn't!

Is World Ventures legit?

Mr Richard. I need your input, is World Ventures legit?

I get asked this question at least once a month and this is the answer I always give.

World Ventures is a pyramid scheme. The authorities in Norway announced a few years ago that they were certain that World Ventures is a pyramid scheme because 95% of all the money paid out to recruits was for the recruitment of other people, not from actually selling things. That's a pyramid scheme.

Like other schemes World Ventures are required by some countries to publish income statements that show what their distributors actually earn from their business. With World Ventures the latest figures from the USA show that three-quarters of all people who join make absolutely nothing from the business. Of the rest, almost all of the money was earned by the few people at the top of the pyramid. You want details? More than two thirds (actually 68.7%) of all the income went to the 3.7% at the top. And let's make it clear, the earnings made by the people at the tops came directly from those at the bottom of the pyramid. That's gross exploitation.

Taking every American recruit into account, the median earnings were a meagre $33, just P330 per year and those figures were income, not profit. They excluded all the costs associated with running the "business" like transport, phone and internet bills. With the exception of those few people at the top, everyone else loses money with World Ventures.

Do you want someone building a pyramid for an exploitative leader? There's a word for that role.

Friday, 30 March 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What is Carcoin?

Could you kindly investigate and give me your thoughts on Carcoin? I have been invited to some presentations at the Avani hotel and it seems this "investment scheme/cryptocurrency" is picking up pace in Botswana. I did some research of my own and it seems one first has to invest $200. What are your thoughts?

My thoughts are very simple. I think it's a scam. And I'm not wrong.

They describe themselves as a "car sharing community" and say that there is "no need to buy any car" and that they "are always there at your service". They then go on to explain that they are basically a taxi firm that "is available in every city we operate in". But they don't say which cities that might be, so I think it's safe to say that this isn't true. They even claim to be developing an app that you can use to call for a ride but this isn't going to available, they say, until December 2019. So far so suspicious. Clearly they are pretending to be something like Uber, the taxi company that operates in various cities around the world, even as close as Joburg. I've used Uber there and it's a truly remarkable way to get around. But Carcoin isn't Uber.

Soon things become a lot clearer. They start hinting that they are using blockchain technologies, the same technology used by Bitcoin. There's nothing inherently suspicious about that, the blockchain concept is certainly going to play a role in business in the future but there's no evidence this is true in the case of Carcoin. They also suggest that you can buy Carcoins, suggesting that they have their own cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. Again, there is no evidence to believe this.

I think I know what's going on here. Carcoin are exploiting the ideas behind Bitcoin and Uber to get our money from us. The clue is on their web site when they say that if you want to buy Carcoins you can do so using Bitcoin. So you give them your genuine Bitcoin cryptocurrency and they give you their fake Carcoins in return. All you'll be doing is giving your money away and getting nothing in return.

Finally, the so-called CEO of Carcoin has a history of connection with dodgy schemes so I think it's reasonable to assume that Carcoin is no more than a Ponzi scheme. Simple as that.

What is Randbuilders?

I was invited to join Randbuilders recently. Do you know about it?

You're not the first person to ask that recently. Randbuilders seem to have decided to bring their money-making scheme from South Africa to Botswana! Aren't we lucky?

Actually we're not. They describe themselves as "a Multi Level Marketing Business which enables Participants to learn to master the business of network marketing while creating an additional income stream for themselves" but they're nothing more than a pyramid scheme. The difference between a Multi Level Marketing scheme and a pyramid scheme is the former has products to sell. If you think of MLMs like Amway and Herbalife, while you won't make any money from joining their pyramid-structured business, at least there are some products to buy. With a pyramid scheme there are no products and Randbuilders is a very good example of that.

The only reference to products I could find on their web site said that when you join the scheme "you purchase master resale right to promote your own business". That's just silly. You pay to join their scheme and then you get the right to advertise your own business? Something you can do for free anyway?

The only thing that Randbuilders wants is multiple levels of recruitment and the flow of money up the pyramid they're trying to build. And they need victims to do that. Do you really want to be one of their victims?

Guess what else I discovered about Randbuilders? The person who registered Randbuilder's domain name in December last year was also an active recruiter for MMM Global, the collapsed Russian Ponzi scheme and is connected to a wide range of other schemes. Yes, you CAN judge someone by their history of involvement in scams!

Saturday, 24 March 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why won't they fix it?

I need help. I bought a fridge and microwave from a store in Molepolole. The fridge has been repaired twice and today it still has problems. I have long reported this to the stock clerk but she didn't help. I went to the manager and he promised to send a technician to check it out but he never came. Months and months passed and still I got no help. When I went back to the shop to see him, I saw a new manager and reported to him and he promised he would get a technician but there is still no sign of a technician. I went back to the shop end of January 2018 and told the manager that am giving him the whole of February to get a technician but even today there is still no technician. I paid for a replacement, insurance including repairs and I have paid all the money. So what do I do?

What do you do? I think you should stop being so patient.

I'm not sure whether you bought these items for cash or on hire purchase but I don't think that should make any difference. Either way you paid, or are paying for a fridge that works, not one that doesn't. You've been very patient and spoken to people at various levels but nothing has worked so far. It's time to escalate. It's time to adopt the Official Consumer Watchdog Three Step Complaints Procedure.

I recommend that you use this procedure any time you don't get results. Ignore a store's complaints procedure and adopt this one instead. Remember that there's no law that says you have to obey someone else complaints procedure. Also remember that complaints procedures are ALWAYS written for the store's convenience, not for yours.

The first step is to complain to the person who offended you. If that doesn't work, go to the second step which is to complain to the most important person in the building. Their title will include the word "Manager". If that doesn't fix the problem for you then go directly to the third step which is to complain to the most important person in the entire organization. Their title will be Managing Director or Chief Executive O
fficer. If anyone tells you that you can't do this, just ignore them.

However, in your case we'll do this for you. We'll contact the Managing Director of the company. That should do the trick!

He didn't finish the job!

Hi Richard. I have a problem. I deployed a guy to do my kitchen and ceiling and he did the job. I am away from home and he called to say he's done so I paid him everything. When I went to inspect I found out that part of the kitchen and the sink were not fitted. I called him and he told me that they were stolen but there was no breaking in of any sort in the house. I asked him why he didn't tell me he said my phone was not available. He promised he will replace everything on the 20th February. He didn't honor his promise, he didn't call up until today. So I need your help as to what I should do now since I've paid him all the money for the whole job he did.

I suspect you don't need me to lecture you on what you should have done in this situation but forgive me for doing so anyway. Whenever you engage someone to do a job like this you must agree a payment schedule before they start the work. I understand that often small businesses need some money up front to buy the goods and I also know that they need a commitment from their customer but you should normally agree to withhold some of the money until the job has been completed. Personally, I would be uncomfortable paying more than 50% to any builder before they started work. If I was feeling generous I might agree to then paying the remaining 50% in two equal, staged payments but ensuring that the last one was only paid when I'd inspected the work. An alternative is to buy the materials yourself and then just pay the builder for their work.

However, in your case it's too late. I think you should write him a letter demanding a copy of the police report he filed when he found that the goods had been stolen. And if he didn't… then we can assume he's making that bit up, can't we? Tell him in the letter that he has 7 days or you'll report HIM to the police for stealing the goods. Make him sweat a bit!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

The beer has expired!

There is a bar in Mochudi next to the Engen filling station that is it selling expired Black Label beer. The words on the bottle say the beer Best before 09 Feb 18. I asked the cashiers why they sell the expired product and they told me the owner doesn't want them to remove it from the stock.

Please assist us.

Actually, the bar isn't doing anything illegal. That's because the bottle has a "Best before" date, not an "Expiry" date but you're not the first person who has confused the two different dates and what they mean.

The most important date you might see is the "Expiry date", sometimes shown as the "Use By" date. Any store that sells something after these dates is going to be in big trouble with the authorities because that's illegal, contrary to the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods Regulations. No store wants to do that.

However, what you saw was something different. The juice you bought showed a "Best Before" date. These dates are less strictly controlled because they're just advisory, informing the customer when the goods will be in their best condition. There's no suggestion that goods consumed after this date are harmful or dangerous. However, I still think it's a bad practice even if it's not actually illegal for a store to sell an item after the Best Before date. Who wants to drink beer that is no longer in the best condition?

I think you should speak to the bar owner and politely suggest that he or she needs to find a better way to manage their stock so that their customers don't have to drink old beer. I suspect there's no shortage of bars in Mochudi and you and your friends can easily choose a bar where they sell best quality beer rather than the old stuff. The bar owner needs to know that!

Enerprise corned meats
Source: Wikipedia

Readers of The Voice will probably have seen reports of the dreadful outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa. It looks like the outbreak which was traced to a Tiger Brands production plant in Polokwane caused at least 180 deaths and nearly a thousand other people severe food poisoning. Tragically it seems that many of the deaths were young children which is a common thing with listeriosis which often hits hardest amongst children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

The good news for us is that there's no suggestion that there have been any cases in Botswana but that's probably because we were lucky. Our Ministry of Health and Wellness quickly instructed all stores to remove the affected products (processed meat products such as polony, russians and viennas) from shelves. Consumers were also warned not to consume any of these products from the affected companies and if they had any, to return them to the stores for a full refund.

Meanwhile, just in case any store has missed it, or if there are some that don't care, please be vigilant. Until further notice please don't eat any prepared meat products from Tiger Brands, Enterprise Food or Rainbow Chicken. But you need to take a step further. Don't eat ANY polony, russions or viennas unless you can be certain they didn't come from these suppliers. That means any places where you can't see the original packaging and in particular it means street food vendors. For now, hotdogs are off the menu, ok?

However, there are some enormously important lessons we all need to learn from this tragedy. Firstly, we need to learn a lot more about food hygiene and safety. The scary fact is that one of the most dangerous stages in the route food takes from farm to table is the consumer. Yes, you and me, we're often the source of food poisoning, either because we don't refrigerate risky products adequately or because we don't know how to safely prepare the food we eat and that we give to the people who matter most to us.

And there's a final lesson, one that might make me very unpopular. We must take a critical look at the food we eat. Have you ever taken a moment to discover how products like polony are made? If you're feeling brave, search the web or YouTube for "mechanically separated meat". You might never eat it again.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why can't I get a refund?

Hi. I kindly plead with you to assist me getting back my money from my insurance company. I had a policy with them which I terminated last month so they are saying they can't refund me my money back but they have never handled any claim for me.

Can you please help?

I'm sorry but I suspect I won't be able to help. That's because this is how insurance works. When you open a policy with an insurance company, whether it's to cover your funeral, your life, your vehicle or your household contents what you're actually doing is paying the insurance company to take on the risk of these things being damaged instead of you having that risk. During the life of that policy, if something terrible happens then the insurance company pays to put it right instead of you. If someone passes away, if you have a car accident, if there's a break-in at your house or even if you die, the insurance company will cover the costs so you don't have to.

We're often asked by consumer the question you're asking. But what if I never had to claim? Doesn't that mean I should get my money back? No, because you got something during the lifetime of your policy. You got the absence of risk. The insurance gave you cover during that period. Ask yourself this. If you owned a house and rented it to a tenant for a year but at the end of the year they told you that they'd never actually moved in, would you refund them the rent they'd paid during the year? No, you wouldn't and it's the same with the insurance company. It wouldn't be your fault that the tenant didn't move in and it's not the fault of the insurance company that you were lucky not to need to claim. Would you rather there'd been a disaster?

Is this award genuine?

I received an email saying that my company has been awarded the Gold prize Century International Quality ERA Award from a company called Business Initiative Directions. Do you think this is genuine?

Here it comes again! Every year we're asked the same question by many people like yourself regarding these awards and the story is always the same. Many people had received surprise emails from BID over the last few years, announcing that they'd won an award and inviting them to collect it at gala dinners in exotic places such as Paris, New York and Geneva. This year it's supposed to be in Frankfurt in Germany. In all cases it's not made clear how these winners had been selected and what qualified Business Initiative Directions to award anything to anyone.

So my feeling is that this award scheme is deceptive. I believe that it's no more than a money-making scheme by the organisers.

Last year when I looked into the scheme BID was charging companies €4,200 (about P50,000) to receive the award and that doesn't include the travel costs associated with flying to last year's venue in Geneva, Switzerland. That amount only covered attendance at a gala dinner, a hotel room the winners had to share with colleagues, some certificates, a trophy and some photographs of people accepting these dubious awards. I did the maths and I suspect that BID makes a huge amount of money, last year probably about P30,000 from every "award" they give away and I believe that's what the whole thing is about. Making money.

The bad news is that every year companies fall for this silliness and spend large amounts of money on "awards" that are little more than hugely expensive pieces of paper, awarded effectively at random. Is that really what an award should be?

I can think of many better ways to spend the P75,000 that it would probably cost to receive this so-called award. If you genuinely believe that your company is doing a good job, is a great employer and treats its customer wonderfully then spend just a fraction of the money you'd spend on this bogus award on a huge party to say thanks to your staff and your customers. That would do so much more good than wasting your money with BID. Don't forget to send me an invitation to the party!