Friday, 16 November 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I afford to cancel?

Please help if this is reasonable. I joined a gym in Gaborone and signed a two year contract. Now I have moved to Palapye on a new job where they have no facilities. They say in their contract that when you cancel you have to pay a reasonable cancelation fee. When I checked them they say I have to pay 40% of the balance which is P1,400. Mind you if it happens that no payment are made to them by the 31st of every month they block the person, you will have no access to their facilities. So why should I pay them? Thank you.


The simple answer is a simple one. If you signed it, that’s what happens.

Gyms vary. Some have monthly membership schemes and if you can’t attend or simply change your mind the worst that can happen is that you lose the month’s membership fee that you paid in advance.

Others, like yours, work differently. They have yearly or even two-yearly membership schemes that you can’t just walk away from. One that I looked at recently had a clause in its Terms and Conditions which said that if you “wish to cancel your membership before the expiry of your Commitment Period, then you must give us 20 business days’ written notice of termination and pay a reasonable cancellation fee plus any arrears”.

I don’t think there’s anything unreasonable about that. In theory. Yes, it’s fair for them to demand we give them a month’s notice and yes, they were planning on having our monthly member ship fees for the duration of the “Commitment Period” so it’s reasonable for them to demand the cancellation fee we agreed when we sign their membership fee.

However, 40%? Really? I know what the word “reasonable” means and I’m sure this isn’t that. Clearly this is a technique that the gym uses to prevent people from leaving. I suppose your decision has to be a practical one. You now longer live in the same city so there’s no way you can use their services any longer. Paying the cancellation fee might be the best thing to do. That’s if you believe they’re really likely to chase you for the money…

Where’s my refund?

Two weeks back I opened up an account with a builders merchants and deposited cash amounting to P20,000 into this account with the understanding that I will use this money to buy materials equalling that amount.

Last week, I started with construction and went to the shop to start collecting materials. I managed to purchase cement but couldn’t get the rest of what I needed as I was told that they were out of stock. I went back for the cement but they didn’t have transport available for delivering. Two days later I went back and still I was told the same stories, I complained and it was a back and forth affair with no conclusion. I then requested my account be closed and I be refunded my cash.

I was told to write a letter stating my request and email, which I did but never got a response. Later I received a call from one of the management saying that the cement I was waiting for was delivered at last. I however insisted the account be closed and a refund be made after deduction of the cement costs. I was told I would be given feedback that day but I am still awaiting my refund or feedback whatsoever, I keep getting the same response. I have sent mails, messages and calls and I’m still yet to get help or any valid or logical response as to why I still haven’t been refunded or helped. What can I do?


It’s time to put things in writing and to assert your consumer rights. Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that when a deal is cancelled, like you’ve done, the supplier must “promptly restore” to the customer any deposit that was made. I suggest that you write them a letter or email explaining that you are cancelling the agreement you had and making it very clear that you understand your rights. It’s up to you to decide what “promptly” might mean but what about something like 5 working days? There’s no reason why a large, successful builders merchant like this one can’t make that happen.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 5th November 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Should they compensate me?
“I bought some food in a store which I later found to have gone bad after a bite or two. I took the item back and was told by the store that indeed it had gone bad. They replaced it with on OK one and said because they didn't make me pay for it, they had compensated me. I did not feel satisfied considering that I had first been thrown from pillar to post before seeing the manager who also said the same thing. Also my time spent in going back to the store. I just wanted to ask from you, is there compensation that I should have received in that situation or an apology is as far as it can get?
Various laws and regulations apply here. The Food Control Regulations, Public Health Regulations and the Consumer Protection Regulations, in particular Section 13 (1) (a) which requires a supplier to offers commodities and service that are of “merchantable quality”. Clearly this food was not that.

The general rule is that when something is wrong with an item you're entitled to one of the three Rs: a refund, repair or replacement. In this case you got a replacement so in theory they've done all they need to do. However, this is actually more serious. This is a food safety issue. People die because of poor food hygiene. I think you deserve slightly more than just a replacement. I think you deserve a sincere apology, an explanation of what went wrong and some assurance that it won't happen again. I don't think that's too much to ask.

2. Where are the photos?
“We paid a local photography company for wedding coverage last year around June-July. The wedding was held in October and its been over year now still waiting for our package. We paid them about P13,400. We have followed up and followed up to this day but they are tossing us from pillar to pillar, story after story, they are not taking our calls anymore, they only respond once in a while through WhatsApp. We didn't sign any agreement with them because we had assigned a family friend who is a friend to the photographers to handle the photography part but we have proof of payment. We used bank transfer to pay them the total charge once off. The family friend has tried to intervene but to no avail. Kindly advise.”
What is it with the wedding industry. Why do they have so many crooks and incompetents?

The good news is that when we contacted this photographer he responded with: “I’m working on their package, supposed to be done by the end of the coming week.”

And he did.

3. Ponzi Scheme Alert: Amazon Web Coin

A member of our Facebook group got in touch to report that he received a message saying:
“Am called Dr Ronnie Gitta from Uganda. Am coming to your country”
He told us that:
“a day after introductions, he even wanted me to already be bringing other people his way and I don't even know anything about his product/ service. Very shady indeed.”
Here are some quotes from their web site:
“Get maximum benefits from cryptocurrency investments”.
“Daily profit accruals range from 3% to 8% depending on the investment package chosen.”
“Basic trader” “$20-$500” “8% daily for 20 days. 160% total return”
“Elite trader” “$20,000-$50,000” “3% daily for 100 days” “300% total return”
“Referral program - tell your friends, relatives or colleagues about the company. If your information is appealing to them, and they become our investors, you will be paid a referral commission! You can go further to build your own team, attracting new investors because we have made a special four-level program of affiliate rewards.”
This is a Ponzi scheme. All the usual clues are there. They promise miraculous interest rates with no indication of how they can be achieved. There is no explanation of where the growth in money comes from. It's all unbelievable. There are also some obvious clues, including this:
“Your deposit runs forever and you will never get it back.”
There are other clues. Their domain was only registered on 27th September this year. Although they claim that “Amazon Web Coin was officially incorporated in August 2016 under registration number 10351681” in the United Kingdom they also say that they're registered in Hong Kong. I checked and the UK companies register says the company was “Dissolved on 30 January 2018”.

Amazon Web Coin is a Ponzi scheme and everyone is warned to avoid it!

4. Managing debts. Or not managing them.
“I want to know how this thing of sending names of debtors to ICT works. I’m owing a cash loan and they sent my name to ICT. Now they are starting to take legal actions on me. The problem is that they have blocked me so I can’t have even a short loan to clear them. Is it not double punishment? Is that how it has to be?”
Yes, that's exactly how it works.

Firstly, creditors (the people we owe money) are entitled to send debt collectors and attorneys after us to collect their money. Wouldn’t you do the same if the situation was reversed?

Secondly, creditors are entitled to register our debts with credit reference bureaux. Their databases hold full financial records, both good and bad. These records allow other lenders to make sensible judgments about whether they should lend us money based on our previous history.

In this vase the customer has a history of defaulting. Why would another lender trust him?

We've put him in touch with a debt counsellor who should be able to help him sort out his finances.

5. Plastic bags. Again.

Are they banned? They were meant to be banned on 1st November but the Powers-That-Be changed their minds. So they're not banned yet. BUT they will be, sooner or later.

And the other issues. The so-called “Plastic bag levy”? Did it ever exist?

No.

What happened was that a compulsory standard for plastic bags ("FDS 186:2016, Plastic carrier bags and flat bags — Specification") was introduced but the Botswana Bureau of Standards. This meant that stores were then mean to offer us higher-quality plastic carrier bags that cost the stores more money. They just passed the cost on to you an me.

But be warned. Plastic bags will be banned along with plastic bottles and straws, sooner or later. Get ready now.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Did the broker claim my money?

I had a funeral policy for my mother from 2008 up until 2016. I defaulted and the service provider, the insurance broker told me that they were cancelling it. That was fair enough. My mother then passed away last September and I heard that the broker claimed the money on my behalf without my knowledge? Is it possible?


Firstly, please accept my condolences on the loss of your mother.

This is suspicious but I suspect unlikely. Firstly, it’s important to understand that there’s a big difference between an insurance broker, who works for you to find an insurance policy that best meets your needs and the insurance company that actually provides the policy. A good broker can be incredibly useful. They have the expertise that most of us lack in understanding all the small print, the terms and conditions, the exclusions and complicated language only spoken by insurance experts. They can advise you on the best product to choose.

However, sometimes brokers go bad. You only have to read the newspapers to see occasional notices from NBFIRA, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, the agency that regulates the insurance industry, saying that they’ve closed an insurance broker and warning the public not to do business with them.

For example, we’ve heard of several cases where brokers have taken premiums from customers but neglected to pass the money on to the insurance company. This can happen for years and the customer only finds out when something unfortunate happens, they make a claim against the policy and the insurance company tells them that they cancelled the policy ages ago. That’s when they discover that the broker spent the money on beer, hoping that they’d never claim and discover the broker’s crime.

However, this is a first for me. I’ve never heard of a broker submitting a claim on a customer’s behalf and keeping the payout for themselves. It sounds unlikely but I’ll contact the insurance company for you. If you’re convinced it’s true, you should also contact NBFIRA and ask them to investigate. I know that the people there will be keen to investigate!

I can’t get a loan to pay off my debts!

I have a question here, I want to know how this thing of sending names of debtors to ICT works. I’m owing a cash loan and they sent my name to ICT. Now they are starting to take legal actions on me. The problem is that they have blocked me so I can’t have even a short loan to clear them. Is it not double punishment? Is that how it has to be?


Please don’t think I’m being rude. You’ll need to forgive me for speaking plainly.

This is how things work. If you fall into debt, as you did with this cash loan company, like any other creditor they’re entitled to take legal action against you to recover their money. I’m sure you would do the same if the situation was reversed and it was them that owed you money, wouldn’t you?

Separately from the debt collection, like any other company to which you owe money, they’re entitled to register that debt with a credit reference bureau like TransUnion (the newer name for ITC). They’ll record that you owe them money so that other potential lenders can make an informed judgment on whether you’re likely to be a good payer or a bad one. While that debt is outstanding, other lenders can see that you still owe another company money and they are entitled to judge what risk you pose to them based on that information. Again, reverse the situation. If I approached you and asked to borrow some of your hard-earned money and you discovered that I already owed your friend lots of money and had failed to pay her back, wouldn’t you think twice before giving me your cash? My history of not paying my debts would make you think twice about how likely I would be to repay you, surely?

That’s the situation you’re in. Your history of not paying a debt has made other lenders unlikely to lend to you. Can you really blame them for being cautious? I suggest that you concentrate on repaying the debt to the cash loan company and then see if you can get your finances back to normal. If you like I can also put you in touch with a reputable debt counsellor who can help you do this.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where are my photos?

Good day Mr Harriman. I'm kindly seeking your advice. We paid a local photography company for wedding coverage last year around June-July. The wedding was held on October 7th 2017 and its been over year now still waiting for our package. We paid them about P13,400. We have followed up and followed up to this day but they are tossing us from pillar to pillar, story after story, they are not taking our calls anymore, they only respond once in a while through WhatsApp.

We didn't sign any agreement with them because we had assigned a family friend who is a friend to the photographers to handle the photography part but we have proof of payment. We used bank transfer to pay them the total charge once off. The family friend has tried to intervene but to no avail. Kindly advise.


I know I’ve said this before but what is it with the wedding industry? All industries have a proportion of players who are crooks, shady or dishonest but when it comes to the wedding trade, they seem to have much more than their fair share. Every week, without fail, we hear a story like yours, sometimes about photographers, other times venue hosts, caterers, suppliers of furniture who have badly let a customer down.

Don’t they understand that weddings are meant to be special days, days that aren’t easily repeated? Don’t they understand that a higher level of service and reliability is needed? Clearly some of them don’t.

I suggest that you write the photographer a letter saying that he has 14 days either to give you the photos or to give you your money back in full. Make it perfectly clear to him that if he fails to do either you’ll immediately take legal action against him to recover your money.

Also, please give me his details and I’ll see if we can apply some pressure.

Last minute update. I contacted the photographer and he assures me that you’ll get your photos within a week. We’ll see!

Should they compensate me?

I'd like to ask what to do in a situation whereby I bought some food in a store which I later found to have gone bad after a bite or two. I took the item back and was told by the store that indeed it had went bad. They replaced it with on OK one and said because they didn't make me pay for it, they had compensated me. I did not feel satisfied considering that I had first been thrown from pillar to post before seeing the manager who also said the same thing. Also my time spent in going back to the store. I just wanted to ask from you, is there compensation that I should have received in that situation or an apology is as far as it can get?


Technically, I suspect that the store is correct. You bought an item of food that wasn’t “of merchantable quality”, as required by Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations. The store then selected which of the three Rs (refund, repair or replacement) they preferred, in your case a replacement. You suffered only minimal financial costs in this unfortunate experience as well as the loss of time so I don’t think you have a very good legal claim for compensation. But then I’m not an attorney.

But there’s something much more important here. What the store did was technically correct but in my view it’s not nearly enough. This wasn’t a cellphone that malfunctioned, this wasn’t a minor inconvenience, this was something much more important. This was a food safety issue. You were lucky that the food you bought didn’t harm you and I think the store needs to understand that. They also need to understand that they were lucky as well. I think you should speak to their Head Office and alert them to the failure at the store and the risk it posed to you and your family.

Realistically I don’t expect them to do very much regarding compensation but I do think you’ll have done us all a favour by alerting the company to a serious failure of their food safety practices.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 22nd October 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Have I been hacked?

A consumer asked us whether he had been hacked. He'd received the following email:
“I infected your operating system with a virus and have been monitoring you for a long time. Even if you changed the password it does not matter, my virus intercepted all the caching data on your computer and automatically saved access for me.

I have access to all your accounts, social networks, email, browsing history. I have the data of all your contacts, files from your computer, photos and videos. I took screenshot through the camera of your device, synchronizing with what you are watching. I think that you do not want all your contacts to get these files, right?

If you are of the same opinion, then I think that $564 is quite a fair price to destroy the dirt I created. Send the above amount on my Bitcoin wallet. As soon as the above amount is received, I guarantee that the data will be deleted. Otherwise, these files and history of visiting sites will get all your contacts from your device. Also, I'll send to everyone your contact access to your email and access logs.”
He asked: "What should I do?"

It's simple. Do nothing.

While all of the things this email claims have been done can be done, I doubt it's been done to this guy. If they had, don't you think the "hacker" would have used the victim's name when he made the threat?

This is a scam that plays on our fear (and ignorance) of hackers and what they can do. Many of us remember the WannaCry ransomware attack from 2017 when computer users around the world had their documents encrypted and a ransom payable in Bitcoin was demanded to decrypt them.

This is just a scam email that has been sent to many potential victims, including Consumer Watchdog. Just delete it.

Meanwhile, be very careful about the web sites you visit, the apps you download and the attachments you receive in your Inbox. Be very careful.

2. Green World

Do you remember the press release from the Ministry of Health and Wellness last month regarding Longrich (and other) products? It's worth reading again.
“The Ministry of Health and Wellness wishes to notify the public that the following complementary medicines are not approved for use in Botswana, Xiangzhiling products, C24 tea, Table Charm products and Longrich medicinal products. … any person selling these products or any other related products will be charged according to Section 23.1.2 of the Medicines and Related Substances Act … liable to a fine not exceeding P100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to both”
Now we have another purveyor of lies and threats to our health. Green World. This advertisement was found in a supermarket in Gaborone.


Zoom in a little further and you can see the health claims they make.


I contacted the number given on the advertisement and got the following response.
“My name is Marshall. Am an international distributor of Green World herbal products. All our products are organic. Meaning they are grown in a natural environment where there are chemicals, additives or preservatives added to them, also there are no side effects. We treat all known disorders. Just to name a few: Diabetes type 1,2,BP, Cancer, Obesity, Period pains, Fiberiods, Libido, Low sperm count, Infertility, Prostate disorders etc”
"We treat all known disorders"? Really?

We've referred this to the enforcers at BOMRA, the Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority who are gradually taking over from the Drug Regulatory Unit in the Ministry of Health and Wellness. I expect we'll see some action very soon!

P.S.. The ridiculous medical claims are a side show. Green World is a pyramid scheme.



3. Where’s the refund?
“I engaged a kiddies party planner for a package for a birthday party on 28th of October. My package was that they would be providing venue and I hire equipment and do my own decor. I paid 50% of the P2500 fee which was P1250 on 28th September. I had to cancel the booking on 11th October and requested for a refund but I was only refunded 50% of my deposit which is P625. This "policy" was never mentioned and was surprised that I didn’t get my P1250. I did not complete any booking form or any documentation. Everything was just communicated on Whatsapp. Is this correct to not give me my full refund?"
Are deposits refundable? That depends on the agreement you signed with the supplier. You didn't sign an agreement? So how can either of you prove that the deposit was refundable or not?

There's nothing wrong in principle with non-refundable deposits. The supplier books or buys equipment, ingredients for food, staff, a band, all sorts of things in advance of your booking and it's not fair to leave them with that burden if you cancel at the last minute. Also, they might have turned away another booking because you got there first?

The key thing is to have a written agreement that explains these things.

So what if there's isn't an agreement? Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations probably applies and any deposit should be "promptly" restored.

4. Am I covered?
“I had an accident on my way to work and my vehicle overturned. The Police charged me with driving without due care. I kept on contacting the insurer throughout the process and yesterday I received a letter of claim rejection citing I broke the law and the cover clause of accident/loss avoidance. They say the vehicle has been rendered beyond repair.”
Yet again, a reminder that we must read agreements before signing them. And then read them again. Then keep on reading them until we understand them.

All insurance policies have some exclusions. Life policies don't cover you if you commit suicide. Medical aid schemes often don't cover pre-existing conditions. Vehicle policies don't cover you if you were drunk or if the vehicle was unroadworthy at the time of an accident.

This particular policy doesn't cover you if the police charge you for a traffic offence and this customer was charged with "driving without due care".

The general rule with insurance policies (and with many other things in life) is that you get what you pay for. The cheapest policies with lower premiums generally come with lower levels of cover, higher excess amounts and more exclusions. Higher premiums generally mean better cover, lower excesses and fewer exclusions.

Friday, 26 October 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get my deposit back?

Please advise on this situation I am in.

I engaged a kiddies party planner for a package for a birthday party on the 28th of October. My package was that they would be providing venue and I hire equipment and do my own decor. I paid 50% of the P2500 fee which was P1250 on 28th September.

I had to cancel the booking on the 11th of October and requested for a refund but I was only refunded 50% of my deposit which is P625.This "policy" was never mentioned and was surprised that I didn’t get my P1250. I did not complete any booking form or any documentation. Everything was just communicated on Whatsapp. Is this correct to not give me my full refund?

It is actually normal for there to be a cancellation fee when you book someone or a company to deliver services like this. If you think of it from the service providers point of view you can understand why this is done. Depending on the service they’re booked to provide, the supplier has to book equipment, food and drink, staff, a band, clowns, security, who knows what. If the customer then cancels the supplier can be out of pocket.

In your case, where you were just booking the venue but providing your own materials the principle is still the same. When you booked the venue, did they later turn away other customer who wanted the venue? Will they lose business because of your cancellation?

However, it’s normal practice for any company with some common sense to have a booking form that describes this so the customer can see, understand and accept the cancellation conditions it contains. It was probably very unwise of this supplier not to ask you to complete such a form. You might not have any luck but I think it’s worth writing to the owner of the venue saying that you never agreed to any non-refundable deposit condition so you’d like your deposit back “promptly” as required by Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations 2001. Good luck!

Have I been hacked?

I received an email which said someone had hacked me. The email said.
“I infected your operating system with a virus (trojan) and have been monitoring you for a long time. Even if you changed the password it does not matter, my virus intercepted all the caching data on your computer and automatically saved access for me. I have access to all your accounts, social networks, email, browsing history. I have the data of all your contacts, files from your computer, photos and videos.

I took screenshot through the camera of your device, synchronizing with what you are watching. I think that you do not want all your contacts to get these files, right? If you are of the same opinion, then I think that $564 is quite a fair price to destroy the dirt I created.

Send the above amount on my Bitcoin wallet. As soon as the above amount is received, I guarantee that the data will be deleted. Otherwise, these files and history of visiting sites will get all your contacts from your device. Also, I'll send to everyone your contact access to your email and access logs.”
What should I do?

Nothing. Do nothing at all.

While the technology does indeed exist to do all the things mentioned in the threat, I seriously doubt that it’s the case here. If it was true, don’t you think they would have used your name when addressing you? Don’t you think they would have been a bit more detailed, a bit more specific? Don’t you think they would have taunted you with some of the “dirt” they claim to have gathered?

In this case I’m certain that this is a scam. Don’t send them a thing.

Meanwhile, please be VERY careful what you download from the web and about which web sites you visit. It certainly IS possible to be infected with malicious software (“malware”) that can do a variety of bad things to your computer and the data contains. Be careful!

Friday, 19 October 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why won’t they pay?

I had an accident on my way to work and my vehicle overturned. The Police charged me with driving without due care. I kept on contacting the insurer throughout the process and yesterday I received a letter of claim rejection citing I broke the law and the cover clause of accident/loss avoidance. They say the vehicle has been rendered beyond repair.


This is a very good example of why you should read every agreement you are asked to sign, BEFORE you sign it. All insurance policies include a number of exclusions, situations when the policy doesn’t cover you. For instance, some household insurance policies won’t cover you for losses if you leave your doors open when you go out.

With vehicle insurance policies there are also often exclusions. For instance, most vehicle insurance policies won’t cover you if you’re charged with drink-driving, or if your vehicle was unroadworthy at the time of the accident. In both of these situations it’s reasonable for the insurance company to say that you might have brought the accident upon yourself.

In your case the insurance company are very clear about what they think. When they rejected your claim they said that you broke one of the clauses of your policy which says that you should “take all reasonable steps and precautions to prevent accidents or losses”. According to the police report you sent me, you overtook a vehicle that was already indicating that it was going to turn right, and you crossed a white line while doing so. Their position is that you brought the accident on yourself and that’s why they say you’re not entitled to a payout.

Your policy says you’re entitled to ask the insurance company’s CEO to review their decision and I suggest you do that. However, I wouldn’t be very optimistic.

Are these jobs real?

Please over the past two weeks have seen a series of ads for jobs for different organisations that look too good to be true. The links look suspect, pay & qualifications unbelievable.

They ask people to type YES or JOB and people are responding. I’m thinking it's a way to steal your details through Facebook. Is it possible it can be looked into to warn people of these ads?


Many thanks for alerting us.

We’ve been warning people about these fake job offer scams for many years. The bad news is that they’re not going away. The good news is that more and more people like you are skeptical, spot the clues and avoid becoming a victim.

The biggest clue is that the jobs they offer are too good to be true, just like you suggest. They advertise amazing jobs in far-flung, exotic places, offering enormous salaries and tremendous benefits such as housing, medical insurance, travel expenses and cars.

The way these scams work is simple. They offer you a job with all those exciting benefits and just before you’re about to get the airline tickets, the advance on your salary, whatever else they’re offered you, the story will change and they’ll tell you that you have to pay them a fee. Sometimes it’s a legal fee, more often it’s for your visa to travel to the country they’ve mentioned, either way it’s a fee in advance for something. That’s why they’re called “advance fee” scams. It’s all about that fee.

You are also correct that very often these online advertisements are used to gather personal details from people that can be used for a range of criminal purposes. The sort of information victims give to these fake recruitment companies can easily be misused. Our personal, ID and passport details, our qualifications can all be used to establish fake identities and then who knows what might happen.

Congratulations to you for being skeptical. Keep spreading the word!

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 8th October 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Motshelo schemes
"I borrowed P2,000 from a motshelo and I’ve been paying interest of 30% but at the end of August I did not pay and even this month I won't be able to pay as I don't have money at all. I explained this to the person who borrowed me that I’m not able to pay until end of October as I recently got a permanent job. Now the money is P5712. She is now threatening me that she will report me though I tried to explain my situation. How do I go about this? Is this right?"

2. Paper straws?

The ban on plastic bags is imminent I suspect we'll also soon have bans on other plastics goods such as straws, bottles, and other forms of packaging.

Is this the right thing to do? Yes, it certainly is. Yes, it' will be inconvenient but consider the environment damage. done by plastic products. Something must be done and these bans are a step in the right direction.

BUT, what about the quality of alternatives?

We received a complaint about the paper straws offered by one particular restaurant that clearly didn't see so good. In this case the manager of the restaurant responded, acknowledging the problem and saying that:
"I am confident that this issue will be resolved asap and a paper straw that is user friendly will be find very soon. Please bear with us in our process to become environmental friendly. Your input means a lot to us to improve our service."
One step at a time...

3. Longrich (again)

The people desperately trying to sell Longrich products and recruiting people into their scheme concede that Longrich is a pyramid scheme. In a WhatsApp conversation with one recently I asked
“Is it possible to make money from Longrich without selling products?” 
Their answer was simple:
“Yes.”
Section 9 of the 2018 Consumer Protection Act defines a pyramid scheme as a scheme:
“where participants in the scheme receive compensation derived primarily from their respective recruitment of other persons as participants”.
It also says that:
“A person shall not directly or indirectly promote, or knowingly join, enter or participate, or cause any other person to promote, join, enter or participate in … a pyramid scheme”.
Longrich is a pyramid scheme.

And it gets worse. One of the people recruiting for Longrich posted a picture of various products she claimed to have purchased.



Included in this selection were Longrich's miracle sanitary pads, that appear to offer "Magnetic Energy", "Anion" and "Far infra-red"?


The Longrich BioScience web site claims that:
“Magnetic Strip provides 3 natural energies (magnetism, anion and far infrared) that greatly enhance blood circulation, cell vitality, detoxification, bio-enzymes, resistance to bacteria and immunity against any infection. It prevents many women problems.”
It goes on to claim that:
"Far-infrared can stimulate local blood circulation and micro-circulation, prevent gynaecological diseases and relieve dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain) by raising the temperature. Far-infrared can prevent and help to treat mens's prostate condition and hemorrhoids; it can absorb foot sweat and eliminate foot odor".
This is all pseudoscientific nonsense. Worse still, it's dangerous.

Here's some good news. The Ministry of Health and Wellness issued a Press Release.

It said:
The Ministry of Health and Wellness wishes to notify the public that the following complementary medicines are not approved for use in Botswana, Xiangzhiling products, C24 tea, Table Charm sonke products and Longrich medicinal products. These products are currently advertised on social media and sold through network marketing throughout the country. Therefore any person selling these products or any other related products will be charged according to Section 23 (1) (2) of the Medicines and Related Substances Act which states that

“(1) No person shall import, export, manufacture, distribute, sell, promote, advertise, store or dispense any medicine or cosmetic, unless the medicine or cosmetic is registered by the Authority. (2) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding P100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to both.”
“The public is advised to always seek advice from the Ministry of Health and Wellness Drugs Regulatory Unit about any medicinal products advertised to them. Should you find anyone selling or advertising this product or any unapproved medicinal products please contract the Ministry…
A pat on the back to the Ministry and the Drug Regulatory Unit. Another pat on the back to the Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority who are gradually taking over responsibility from the Drug Regulatory Unit.

4. Crystal Cell

Just as we begin to see the end of the Longrich's products, another bogus products appears. Crystal Cell.


“This product heals cancer.” Really?

The people peddling this dangerous product claim that it's based on stem cells.


They strongly suggest that it can be "used" with stroke, traumatic brain injury, learning defects, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, wound healing, baldness, blindness, deafness, myocardial infarction, diabetes, cancers, arthritis. It can even be used with "missing teeth"? Are they serious?

But this is plant stem cells, not human. They can have no effect at all.

I think the Drug Regulatory Unit and the Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority will be getting some more calls, don't you?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why won’t they fix it?

I bought a black TV stand from a store in Palapye last month for P1830. On Friday 21 September I noticed that the stand is peeling. Looking closely I found that its not only peeling off but its cracking on the leg. On the following Tuesday I went to the store to lodge a complaint. The supervisor said there is no guarantee or warranty and there was nothing they could do to help me. She went further to say that its a first to hear of a situation of this kind since they started selling these TV stands. I then asked to see the store manager but he did not bother to come out of his office to help me, instead he told the supervisor to tell me that there is nothing that they can do about the situation.

Please help. I want an exchange or my money back.


A store manager that doesn’t want to talk to customers with problems? Let’s see how long his business lasts.

The current Consumer Protection Regulations are quite clear about your rights. Section 13 (1) (a) says that commodities or services must be “of merchantable quality” which means “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”. So you can’t expect miracles but you can expect a TV stand to function as a TV stand for a reasonable time. However, there are certain situation in which this protection doesn’t apply. That’s if you agree to not having the protection of the law. A store can invite you to waive or abandon your rights and, if you agree to that, then the rights don’t exist. That’s why you’ll sometimes see a sign in a store saying that there’s either no warranty or a very limited warranty for certain goods they sell. Section 17 (1) (e) of the Regulations forbids a store from demanding consumers waive “the implied warranty of merchantability and fitness for use, unless a disclaimer is clearly and conspicuously disclosed”. So there must be a obvious sign saying this. However, the next section, 17 (1) (f) says that the store can only claim the consumer waived their rights if “the consumer has specifically consented to it.” I think that means something in writing.

I suggest that you go back to the store and explain this to them. If that fails, write them a letter complaining about their failure to honour your legal rights and copy it to us as well as the Consumer Protection Unit. That should make things happen!

Can she charge so much?

Richard I need your help to understand something. I borrowed P2,000 from a motshelo and I’ve been paying interest of 30% but at the end of August I did not pay and even this month I won't be able to pay as I don't have money at all. I explained this to the person who borrowed me that I’m not able to pay until end of October as I recently got a permanent job. Now the money is P5712 excluding August and September interest which is 30% each month. She is now threatening me that she will report me though I tried to explain my situation. How do I go about this? Is this right?


This is most certainly NOT right. I think the person running this scheme needs to be informed about a number of things. Firstly, she needs to know that despite motshelo schemes being considered an informal form of lending, they are still covered by NBFIRA, the Non Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority. You need to get in touch with NBFIRA immediately and see if this scheme has been registered with them and if they can intervene.

Secondly, she needs to understand a piece of law called the “in duplum” rule. This says that when a debt is settled, the amount of interest must not exceed the capital amount outstanding. You only borrowed P2,000 so the interest on top of that can never be more than P2,000. That’s just the law.

Lastly, she needs to understand that even if the law doesn’t forbid it, 30% interest per month is outrageous. There’s even a word for it: “usury”. Maybe you should ask the woman running this scheme if she claims to be a Christian. If she does, ask her to examine Ezekiel 18:13. Then she should examine her conscience.

Meanwhile, and I don’t mean this to appear sacrilegious, I suspect NBFIRA will have greater effect over her than the Bible and her conscience.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 24th September 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Can they charge me for the refund?
“I bought goods at a certain shop in Molapo Crossing. I swiped my card to pay but now I returned goods the shop owner demand that I pay certain percentage since I was swiping. He says it's bank charges for swiping.”
Banks charge retailers for swiping (I think 5%?). Nevertheless, it's still in their (and our) interest to swipe, it avoids the risks of cash.

I suspect that when a store swipes to refund someone when they return an item, they have to pay that swiping fee again.

Remember also that we only have a right to return things if there was a fault with the item you purchased, not if you chose the wrong item or just changed your mind.

2. They blacklisted me #1
“I bought a TV at on hire purchase. A few months later I closed the credit by paying with cash. A few months later I get a call from creditors that I owe the store. I went to enquire about my account settlement and it seems that they didn't close it. Now my name is registered with ITC. I have been trying to talk to them so that I am assisted. They are not assisting me as I would have liked. It's been 4 months now. Kindly help me. My life has been really affected. I am missing job opportunities at banks and I can't get financial aid because of my bad credit record that was caused by the negligence of the store staff.”
“Negligence”? That's way too mild. I prefer the words “unprofessional” and “incompetent”.

The customer did the right thing, they paid off a debt as soon as they were able to and now they're being punished for it?

Paying off debt is ALWAYS a good thing to do, after you've set aside your emergency fund of three months outgoing, better still six.

We've already contacted the store in question.

3. They blacklisted me #2
“My boyfriend was blacklisted unfairly by Home Choice without even his knowledge. He ordered goods, they did not reach him when he checked at the post office they confirmed on the system that the goods were returned to Home Choice because there was no communication. When they called for payment he told them that he didn't receive the goods. Instead of resending them they blacklisted him and he only found out about it yesterday when he was processing a loan.”
We've heard this and similar stories many time. HomeChoice purchases aren't delivered, end up being returned, but the customer is still billed and sometimes listed with credit reference bureaux.

What to do? Make sure that you always and promptly contact HomeChoice when products aren't delivered or they're returned.

We’ve contacted HomeChoice (again).

4. Are we being sued?

In comes an email entitled "Court Notice".

 
“Our law firm is re-issuing the attached lawsuit filed against you by our client which requires your urgent attention. COURT SUMMONS Imminent: If this is not rectified within the next 48 hours. Read the lawsuit thoroughly. Regards, Paralegal - MML Law Firm.”
There are various warning signs. The email came from “info@legaconsult.com”. That domain appears to be genuine and used by a legal consultancy in Bulgaria. Notice also that no names were mentioned, neither theirs or ours.

The critical issue is that attachment. Inside that compressed "zipped") attachment was a Windows executable (".exe") file. What would that do if executed? Will it steal data? Would it encrypt all the documents on you computer and demand a ransom like WannaCry did two years ago? Would it install a keylogger that would record everything you typed, including your internet banking username and password?

The lesson is very simple. Don’t open email attachments from unknown sources. Never.

5. An old friend is back

I thought they'd gone away, but the paddlers of the Syntek "Xtreme Fuel Treatment"are still peddling...
“Here is the products that reduces fuel consumption resulting in increased kilometres per litre. It prolongs engine life and reduces engine wear. Improves vehicle performance and horsepower… Or join now and make money”.
We covered Syntek and their preposterous product in 2015, including quite an extensive review of the documents they claimed showed their product worked. It did not. On the contrary, it showed that there was NO evidence of any effect.

Think about it. If it worked, the petroleum industry would have bought it by now, either to use it and make more money or to suppress it. If it worked, wouldn't Botswana Oil have invested in it? They haven’t, none of them have.

Did I mention that it's a pyramid scheme?

6. Qualifications and awards

It's important to be skeptical. About everything. In particular it's important to be skeptical about the awards, prizes, qualifications and titles people say they've been awarded. For years we've been reporting the various fake qualifications people have obtained and the fake establishments that sold them their fake degrees. We've also covered the fake awards people received.

Some will remember the “International Biographical Centre” that awarded people various titles, including the “International Order of Merit” and the “Twentieth Century Achievement Award” and who could place you on the list of “2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century”.


Recently, Limkokwing University have very proudly announced that their founder, Tan Sri Limkokwing:
"has been bestowed with the title Lord Limkokwing of Holton, UK in recognition of his decades long advocacy of fusing the best talents of education, industry and peace-building to change the world."

That seems curious to me. He's not a British citizen and has no strong connections to the UK. Has he really been made a Lord? So I asked. Specifically, I contacted the House of Lords in the UK and asked them if they knew about this.

They said:
"We can confirm that Lord Limkokwing of Holton is not a member of the House of Lords. Not all persons with the title ‘Lord’ or ‘Baroness’ are members of the House."
They continued:
"The vast majority of people with a title are not members of the House of Lords, for example those people who purchase a title"
Yes, you can purchase a title if you aren't awarded a real one. Obviously I'm not suggesting that Limkokwing has done anything wrong. Not at all. However, I am suggesting that their claim can be misinterpreted with many people likely to think that he is a genuine Lord, a genuine member fo the House of Lords in the UK.

In fact, he's probably as much of a Lord as I am.

Which I am.

If it's good enough for others, it's good enough for me. Following the example of others claiming the title of Lord, I claim it myself. I bought myself a Lordship. Along with my two ordinations, that now makes me Rev Rev Lord Richard Harriman. Don't forget to stand up when I enter the room.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can they charge me for the refund?

Good day. I bought goods at a certain shop in Molapo Crossing. I swiped my card to pay but now I returned goods the shop owner demand that I pay certain percentage since I was swiping. He says it's bank charges for swiping. Where do I report such?

I think this depends on why you returned the goods.

If there was a problem with the goods, if they were faulty or if the store misled you about them, then you’re entitled to return them and get some solution from the store. Right now you don’t have a right to demand a refund in this situation but you are entitled to one of the three Rs, a refund, repair or replacement but it s usually up to the store to decide which of these they offer you. Most importantly, regardless of what they offer, you shouldn’t be required to pay anything for this to happen. It’s the responsibility of the store and perhaps the manufacturer to pay the price.

However, the situation is different if there was nothing wrong with the goods and you’d just changed your mind about the goods. In that situation, the store isn’t actually obliged to do anything to assist you. They might because they’re nice people, they like your face or they just want to offer excellent service, but you can’t oblige them to. After all, in this situation, they’ve done nothing wrong, have they?

When a store swipes your card they pay the bank for the pleasure of doing so. It’s only a few percentage points of the price you’re paying but it’s nevertheless a price they pay and it’s one of the many ways that banks make money. It’s actually benefits the store because they don’t need to take, store and transport as much cash with all the risks that poses. I don’t know this for sure but I suspect that if you bring the goods back and they swipe again to refund you the money, they have to pay that percentage again? Whether they’re charged once or twice doesn’t matter, the store had to pay the bank for you to purchase the goods. Why should they have to incur that cost just because you changed your mind?

They blacklisted me!

Kindly help me. I bought a TV at on hire purchase and the method of payment was a stop order. A few months I closed the credit by paying with cash. A few months later I get a call from creditors that I owe the store. I went to enquire about my account settlement and it seems that they didn't close it. Now my name is registered with ITC. I have been trying to talk to them so that I am assisted. They are not assisting me as I would have liked. It's been 4 months now. Kindly help me. My life has been really affected. I am missing job opportunities at banks and I can't get financial aid because of my bad credit record that was caused by the negligence of the store staff.

Firstly, congratulations on doing the right thing, settling a debt as soon as you possibly can. It’s something everyone should do whenever they can afford to do so, particularly with hire purchase agreements but also with home and vehicle loans and credit cards. As soon as you have some spare money, after setting aside your emergency fund (of at least three months outgoings), pay off as much debt as you can. Do this before you even think of savings schemes. The interest you pay on debt far exceeds that interest you earn on savings. That’s another way that banks and other lenders make money.

Having done the right thing, I can only imagine your frustration at being punished for doing so. That’s not how things are meant to work.

I think you should be speaking to the store manager and demanding a solution before you start causing them severe trouble. I think you need to remind them that Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations requires stores like this one to offer services “with reasonable care and skill”. Clearly they have failed to do this in your case. I think your choice of the word “negligence” is correct but too polite. I would use words like “incompetent”, “unprofessional” and some others that The Voice won’t allow me to use.

We’ll also get in touch with the store’s Regional Manager and see if he can shake some sense into his staff!

Sunday, 23 September 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I take action?

I need advice. I bought a car and it looks like the dealer tampered with the mileage of the car. Also he was once told about the car engine problems but sold the car without servicing it. By luck I took the car to the same garage he once took it to only to be told that he knew about the problems prior to selling it. Can I take him to task for selling a car with mechanical faults without disclosing to the consumer?


You most certainly can. But first some background. When you buy a second-hand car you’ll often see that the agreement or the invoice or receipt will include the word “voetstoots” or sometimes “sold as is” or “sold as seen”. What that means is that the dealer makes no particular claims about the state of the vehicle. They’re not making any promises and it’s up to you and me, the buyers, to make sure that the vehicle is in a condition we’re prepared to pay for.

That’s why you should always inspect a second-hand vehicle thoroughly before buying it. If, like me, you’re not an expert mechanic then you really must find one who’ll accompany you. If you don’t know one, maybe approach the mechanic who serviced your last car and offer him or her a small inducement to assist you after work. Trust their judgment if you don’t trust your own.

However, the “voetstoots” clause isn’t absolute. For instance, a car dealer can’t use it to cover up the fact that they’re lying to you. If you ask a question about the state of the vehicle you’re thinking of buying the dealer is required to tell you the truth. That’s another reason why you should take an expert mechanic with you. They’ll know which question to ask. I would always ask the dealer if they’re prepared to state in writing the condition of the vehicle before they sell it. If they refuse, you’re entitled to ask yourself what they’re hiding.

In your case I think the first thing you should do is quite simple. Go to the Police and lay a charge against the dealer of “Obtaining by false pretence”, as forbidden by Section 308 of the Penal Code. If that doesn’t have the desired effect, try the Consumer Protection Unit in the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry. We’ll also get in touch with the dealer and explain to him the error of his ways.

Is it right to force me to pay?

I bought a television on hire purchase. I later notified them that I am no longer working and made a payment plan on how I am going to clear my arrears. I was then called by a debt collector who wanted to me to pay the full amount just once off. My total arrears are P3100 and they expect me to pay the whole amount all at once. At the moment I can only manage to pay P1000. I tried explaining to the debt collector and all she wants is to repossess the television. I want to know if it is right to force the customer to pay the full amount yet I’m making an effort to clear the arrears.


No, I don’t think it’s right. However, that depends if the payment plan was agreed by both you and the store and if, more importantly, you’d kept to the agreement. If the agreement you refer to actually existed and you did honour it, then the store needs to stick to it as well. However, if it didn’t exist then there’s nothing for them to stick to. If it existed and you failed to keep up the payments you agreed, then the store is entitled to set debt collectors on you to recover the money you owe them.

Most importantly, I think you should resist every effort they make to repossess the TV. Don’t think that by giving up the TV the debt will disappear, it won’t. Even if they take the TV away all they’ll do is auction it for a fraction its value and deduct that amount from the balance you owe them. You’ll still owe them a large amount of money and you won’t have a TV to watch.

Whatever the situation might be, I suggest that you contact the store and ask them to confirm what their intentions might be. And then get whatever is agreed in writing. Remember that verbal agreements aren’t worth a thing when you’re dealing with an organisation that can afford attorneys and debt collectors.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 17th September 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Can the bank move my money around?

"I have accounts with my bank for a long time and was credited with various debit and credit cards. All has been smooth for all the years until I failed for the first time to pay my loan monthly instalment and, within a week, they transferred all the balances into my loan account without prior communication. Please assist."

Can banks do this? Can they transfer from account A to account B without your consent?

Yes, because you told them they could. You might not remember doing so, in fact you might not ever have done this knowingly but hidden deep in your loan agreement was a clause saying they could do exactly this.

However, it would have been polite for them to have called or emailed you in advance, don't you think?

2. Should they repair the TV?

"I lay-byed the television just two months ago and I took it home for use. A week after the purchase my TV slightly hit a wall when it went dark. Two days later I went back to the store to inform them about the damaged product, they did not help me and so I decided to look for help were I could find it better, Consumer Watchdog. I bought this television very expensively and it's really sad and heart breaking to lose such much money on a product I never really used and enjoyed."

The warranty that comes with items like this only covers you against manufacturing or design faults, not accidental damage while the item is in your custody.

Ask yourself this. Who caused the damage? Did the store? No. Did the manufacturer? No. Did the customer? It looks like it.

IF this consumer had taken out a household insurance policy they might have been covered. Yes, insurance can seem expensive, but it's often not as expensive as not having insurance.

3. Will they really delete my email?

In comes an email that many other people have received.

“Dear watchdog, Our record indicates that you recently made a request to shutdown your e-mail and this request will be processed shortly. If this request was made accidentally and you have no knowledge of it, you are advised to cancel the request now. However, if you do not cancel this request your account will be shutdown shortly and all your email data will be lost permanently.”


Seems worrying. I can imagine how someone would be tempted to click on the link to prevent their email being "lost permanently". However...

If you hold you mouse pointer over the "Cancel De-activation" link, you see this, where the link will really take you:

Why would our email provider, who are based in Botswana, link to a domain in Poland (".pl")? Note also that the link includes the email address that was targeted. Clicking on this link will confirm to the scammers behind this that this is a valid email address, just making future attacks more likely.

I removed the email address from the link and went there. Be careful if you ever do this yourself. The web site (which has now been removed) provided a form that asked for my email address and password. Imagine what scammers could do if they had access to all your email? What could they discover about you? What passwords, bank account details and guilty secrets are stored in your online email account?

4. Longrich – is it a pyramid scheme?

Someone posted an invitation in the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group to join a WhatsApp conversation. I joined the WhatsApp conversation to see what was happening. It turned out to be for Longrich.

They claimed that
“we have supplements, skin care, toiletries ,weight loss products. Buy a once off stock of R1000/ R1500/R2000/ R2500. you get pvs which are point that you accumulate and move ranks within the business. Recruit 3 members and teach them to do the same. you will register them under u. you also get pvs when your downlines join under you.”
They also claim to offer incentives to their recruits including:
“3 free international trips per year. R11200 cellphone incentive. R6200 petrol incentive. Minimum car incentive is R60 000 and maximum R600 000. Housing incentive worth 1.5 million.”
I then asked a simple question:
“is it possible to make money from Longrich without selling products?”
Their answer was very simple:
“Yes”
Section 9 of the brand new, 2018 Consumer Protection Act says that:
“A person shall not directly or indirectly promote, or knowingly join, enter or participate, or cause any other person to promote, join, enter or participate in… A pyramid scheme”
A pyramid scheme is defined in the Act as a scheme
“where participants in the scheme receive compensation derived primarily from their respective recruitment of other persons as participants”
So, is Longrich a pyramid scheme? At least one of its recruiters says so.

But there's more…

And it gets worse.

One of the people recruiting for Longrich posted a picture of various products she claimed to have purchased.



Included in this selection were Longrich's miracle sanitary pads, that appear to offer "Magnetic Energy", "Anion" and "Far infra-red"?


When various members of the Facebook group questioned her about these claims, she responded by claiming that:
“magnetic energy simply means the adhesive sticks better than other sanitary liners and pads. there is nowhere they have stated they have used magnetic energy.”
So she suggests that Longrich make no claims about "magnetic energy" relating to their sanitary pads? Really?

Take a look at the Longrich BioScience web site relating specifically to these pads. It claims that"
“Magnetic Strip provides 3 natural energies (magnetism, anion and far infrared) that greatly enhance blood circulation, cell vitality, detoxification, bio-enzymes, resistance to bacteria and immunity against any infection. It prevents many women problems.”
It goes on to claim that:
"Far-infrared can stimulate local blood circulation and micro-circulation, prevent gynaecological diseases and relieve dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain) by raising the temperature. Far-infrared can prevent and help to treat mens's prostate condition and hemorrhoids; it can absorb foot sweat and eliminate foot odor".
This is all pseudoscientific nonsense. Worse still, it's dangerous.

But there's more...

A member of the Facebook group contacted us privately saying that a relative had paid P2,500 to join Longrich earlier in the year and:
“up to now if you ask the results she gets upset apparently she needed three people under her to start earning which she had found but still those need 3 more people under each of them.”
She and others have explained how upsetting, humiliating and disruptive schemes like Longrich can be. They actively encourage recruits to recruit from among their circle fo friends, family members and workmates and this only has one effect, to ruin those relationships.

Longrich is, if you believe their own recruiters and the Laws of Botswana, a pyramid scheme that sells dangerous, illegal products and that ruins relationships.

I think the time has come, as have the right laws, to show these schemes the way to go home.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

The 2018 Consumer Watchdog Conference - Thanks!

The 2018 CW Conference - Thanks!

Having caught up on the coffee I missed during the event and getting some sleep, I think I’m approaching normality again. I’m now in a state to thank various people.


THE SPEAKERS

Potlako Mawande from the Gambling Authority and Renee Yezo from Ture Interior Architects spoke about the truly amazing space that they created for the Gambling Authority. Sorry Thuli Johnson and Potlako Mawande, I’ve been telling people to make up reasons to visit the GA to see how a parastatal can look. Maybe you should charge people for tours?

Cornelius Ramatlhakwane and Cliff Lekoko from BotswanaPost talked about how they transformed a parastatal into a profit-making entity for the first time in its history. Cornelius is an inspirational leader and he’s the sort I’d want my children to work for.

My dear friend and hero, Nkata Seleka from Sleek Foods told us about the progress they have made since she spoke at the 2016 conference. A massive deal with KFC Botswana, new products and a future involving exports to SA, she proves that we can make businesses and brands in Botswana. She’s an inspiration to us all.

We’ll overlook the next guy who spoke about social media and who then gave an update on the new protections the 2018 Consumer Protection Act offers us. He was terrible, we probably won’t be using him again.

Kabelo Binns from Hotwire was, as always, predictably inspiring, talking about the art of business and the qualities needed in creating a successful personal brand.

Uyapo Ndadi, another national hero and his associate Phatsimo Mphetolang spoke about the art of using the law to protect ourselves.

Professor Kiran Bhagat, doctor, scientist and passionate exponent of holistic medicine and friend asked about the Art (and Science) of Medicine and why a deeper understanding of health issues is needed. We shouldn’t just be treating the symptoms, but the causes of ill-health.

THE WORKSHOPS

Endless thanks go to the remarkable people and organisations that ran the workshops on Day 2 of the Conference.

James Fern and Toyin Omotoye from BDO talked about the art of creating a healthy attitude towards money. Donald Molosi led participants through some truly remarkable activities, exploring the link between theatre and customer service. Renee and Tumelo Yezo showed how it’s possible to create remarkable, uplifting, stimulating spaces that bring out the best in an organisation and its people. Mariam Sethi of IT-IQ and her team also explored how technology is enabling people to become so much more creative in the ways they work. Simba Mariri took delegates through a challenging, eyes-widening, thought-provoking exploration of The Art of Thinking. Nkata Seleka of Sleek Foods, Lebogang Mmono from Just Ginger, James Briscoe from The Daily Grind and Othatha and Bokang Mokgwathi from TsinaTota Honey showed that creating a proudly local brand is not only possible, it’s happened so many times. Finally, Mophato Dance Theatre, well, more about them below.

THE SPONSORS

We could have held a conference without the sponsors but it wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting, entertaining and successful. Vast thanks must go to those at Stanbic, Orange, Hollard, Multichoice and Cell City. Thanks must also go to Milky Lane for what they do best. Ice cream for everyone!

THE CREW

The Consumer Watchdog team led by Thato Mbikiwa were, as always, remarkable. We couldn’t have done it without you. JP Glanville and the team from Showgroup were, yet again, amazing, giving us light, sound, video, music and a stage from which to perform.

Bonni Dintwa is extraordinary. You can’t get a better MC than Bonni, perhaps because he’s even more insane than we are? He gets us, how we like to be different, how we like to challenge, disrupt and sometimes even amuse. He’s a star.

Finally, the glue that holds our conferences together, has always been the Mophato Dance Theatre. These extraordinary people are a national treasure. Their energy, passion, drive, imagination, creativity and flair are unbeatable. They are truly amazing.


The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why did they take my money?

I have run accounts with my bank for a long time and was credited with various debit and credit cards. All has been smooth for all the years until I failed for the first time to pay my loan monthly instalment and, within a week, they transferred all the balances into my loan account without prior communication. Let it be known that I had been in communication with the bank once I realised the difficulties ahead. I was made to write a letter which was never responded to. Please assist.


I’m sorry to say that there’s probably nothing that can be done to help you with this.

The reason I’m pessimistic is that this is how banking works. If you have various accounts with a bank and one of them falls into arrears or becomes overdrawn without approval, the bank is within its rights to move money between your accounts to remedy that situation. So if you fall behind with your loan or your current account goes overdrawn by P500 and the bank sees that you have P10,000 in your savings account, they can move the P500 from the savings to the current account without consulting you first.

The reason they can do this is simple. It’s because you agreed they could. You might not remember it or perhaps you didn’t notice but when you signed the loan agreement there was a clause saying that they could do this. This is common practice with bank loans. Obviously if the bank had some sense of customer service they would have contacted you first and asked what was going wrong and maybe offered you some help but they weren’t actually obliged to do that. In your case you say you alerted the bank to the problems you were facing but clearly that message ever got through to the right people. Or perhaps it did and they decided they didn’t care.

We can contact the bank and see if they can contact you and explore ways to help you but remember that bank aren’t charities. They want your money. Kindness is not on their list of priorities.

Why won’t they repair my TV?

I am launching a complaint about a television I bought not so long ago and upon returning the television I did not find help although I am entitled to the guarantee and warranty services that we had agreed.

I lay-byed the television just two months ago and as we agreed to the three months lay-bye policy I paid my TV in time until I finished it on the 23rd August when I then took it home for use. A week after the purchase my TV slightly hit a wall when it went dark. Two days later I went back to the store to inform them about the damaged product, they did not help me and so I decided to look for help were I could find it better, Consumer Watchdog.

I bought this television very expensively, P1490 and it's really sad and heart breaking to lose such much money on a product I never really used and enjoyed.

I really and kindly hope my request complaint will be met. Thank you.


I’m very sorry but I don’t have any good news for you. The warranty that comes with something like a TV guarantees you a solution if there’s either a manufacturing problem with the device or a subsequent fault during the warranty period. The warranty does NOT help you if the TV is damaged accidentally or carelessly after it’s delivered and that seems to be what happened here?

Think of it this way. Did either the manufacturer or the store break the TV? Did either of them do anything that led to the damage the TV experienced? Was it, in any way, their fault that the damage happened? I think not.

I know it’s too late for you in this situation but the best advice I can give you is to get a household insurance policy. Yes, this costs a little money but it would have paid for the repair of replacement of your TV when this accident occurred. It would also have covered anything else that might have been damaged or lost. Insurance might seem expensive but only until the first time you submit a claim. That’s when you realise that not having insurance can be a very expensive oversight.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should they refund me?

I need advice on this issue, my four year old child goes to a preschool and he has been going there for the past three years. I have always paid school fees on time and in most cases prepaid the entire term.

I have prepaid this term's school fees, this is the term beginning August 2018 and ends October 2018. My wife has been recently transferred and we told the school that we will be moving the child to a different school.

The head teachers has categorically refused to refund us the prepaid portion of the school fees. He refused to give reasons why as well. Please advise on the best cause of action.


Unfortunately, I don’t think I can give you any good news. Normal practice with private schools is that you’re required to give notice of your intention to cancel your child’s place at the school. Normally, it’s meant to be full term’s notice and I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Your child took a place that could have been offered to someone else’s child and if they refund you the fees you paid in advance, the school is going to lose out. Is that really fair on them? You’ll probably find something in the contract you signed with the school that describes this in detail. Any sensible school would certainly include such a condition to protect their interests.

This is very similar to the notice periods you’ll find in many other contracts, whether it’s a tenancy agreement, a contract of employment or a mortgage or bank loan. You can’t just terminate the contract without some sort of notice period or penalty. That’s why it’s so important to read any agreement thoroughly before signing it so you know in advance about conditions like this.

All I can advise you to do is to see if the headteacher of the school is prepared to be flexible, but I must warn you, don’t be optimistic.

Where’s my refund?

I bought a bed on the 16th July from a furniture store for P3,000 cash and they promised to deliver the bed immediately. A week passed and the bed was not delivered, despite the daily promises that the store made that they will deliver the bed every day when I called to make follow up. On July 23rd I asked for a refund because I had not received this bed which I had fully paid for. They asked for my ID and proof of banking details to facilitate the refund, which I submitted and they promised to make payment in a week’s time because a refund is a long administrative process on their side. After week and a half I made follow up about the payment, and I was told there were missing supporting documents that I had to submit.

I was very angry because I don’t understand why they had to wait for my call to tell me there were missing documents but I submitted the ID on the 8th August, 2 days after they had requested them. They then promised payment will be made but to this day I have not received my payment and they are taking me from pillar to post and there has been no feedback whatsoever on their side, I have to call them every day at my expenses and they are just not helpful. What can I do?


I think that the first thing you should do is to stop being so patient. It’s now time to become very, very impatient. You bought your bed almost two months ago, you asked for a refund shortly after that and there is absolutely no reason why it should take this long to be processed.

I think you should write the store a letter reminding them that you cancelled the purchase and exercised your right under Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations to demand a refund, explaining that they’ve completely failed to honour their side of the contract you both agreed. Make it clear to them that you no longer want the product. Tell them that if they fail to give you a full refund within a certain period, perhaps seven days, if you’re feeling generous, two if you’re impatient that you’ll take legal action against them.

Meanwhile we’ll contact the store’s head office and see if the Managing Director can’t accelerate things a little. You’ve been patient enough.