Saturday, 8 December 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can’t I get my money back?

On the 23rd November I made a booking on booking.com at a lodge in Kasane. I was told to provide my credit card details and that the money will be deducted upon check in. My check in date is scheduled for 21st December 2018 and check out 25th December. The money P6,144 was deducted on 26th November instead.

I then spoke to a tour guide who advised me that the lodge has no TVs in the rooms. I then called the hotel only to find out that it is true and I was booked in a twin room and not a family room as I had thought. I cancelled the booking and was have been told that the money is non-refundable.

I am aggrieved because even if the room was to get occupancy I am still not to get refunded. I will be travelling with small children and would therefore need a room with at least a fridge and TV. I have found alternative accommodation and really want my refund.

Please may your esteemed office assist me in this matter.


Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a situation like this. Even more unfortunately, I don’t have any good news for you.

Booking.com and other travel-related web sites are remarkably useful and you can find amazing deals there and from alternatives using apps like Airbnb. I’ve used both and they’re very useful. When you get to your destination you can then use apps like Uber to make getting around so much easier. And much cheaper. Technology has made travelling a lot easier.

However, despite all the benefits of technology, it doesn’t mean we can ignore the small print when we buy something. In fact, the technology often makes these things easier to see. I checked the listing for the lodge you booked and it was very clear that there was no TV in the rooms and that a fridge wasn’t there either.

What’s more, the listing also described their cancellation policy quite clearly. This says that if you cancel less than 29 days before your check-in date then no refund is payable. You only booked the accommodation 28 days before check-in so they’re not obliged to refund you anything.

The lesson is that the small print always matters and you need to read and understand every little bit of it very clearly before committing yourself.

Must we pay?

We had our son at a private primary school. Last term we went to inform the school that we want to remove the child from school but we were told by the Admin that we can’t do it now even though we have paid the full amount for the third term. They told us we can do that beginning of 2019. During the collections of reports we informed the teacher that we want to remove the child from school but we were told it is not possible but in 2019 we can take the child. We told the class teacher that we wanted to shift him but since we paid in full they will not refund us.

Our challenge is that this Tuesday I went to school to collect the transfer card I was told to write a letter and state why. They told me the Managing Director says they want us to pay a full term school fees because we didn’t give them notice. Our argument is that we came to school and inform them. We were also advising them to look at their camera and they will see us. We are just told that we can’t be helped that’s all.


Giving a term’s notice is completely normal practice with private schools. If you check the terms and conditions in the contract you signed when you first enrolled your child at the school you’ll probably find a clause stating this.

What’s also normal is that this must be done in writing. There’s a principle that states that once an agreement is in writing, that writing is the only thing that matters. Subsequent verbal agreements, conversations over the phone and even face-to-face don’t have any value. Only what’s in writing matters.

I suggest you write the school a letter giving them notice but starting with the words “As we stated to you on [the relevant date], we are giving notice…”. Stress that the notice was given on that date and let’s see if that works. If that doesn’t work, let us know.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Consumer Alert - CBN (“Charity Begins Nathi”)

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

4th December 2018

Consumer Alert: CBN (“Charity Begins Nathi”)

Consumer Watchdog would like to alert consumers about a pyramid scheme calling itself CBN or “Charity Begins Nathi” currently trying to recruit victims in Botswana.

The people promoting CBN claim that for a single joining fee of P100, and then by recruiting others to join the scheme, participants can eventually earn a car worth R1.2million, a house worth R2.5 million and a range of other benefits.


CBN explain that the only activities necessary to achieve these things are “Recruitment only”, “No selling products” and “Simply recruit them to join under you, and you will be making money.”





Section 9 of the Consumer Protection Act of 2018 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”. 
CBN clearly satisfies that definition, admitting that there are no products involved and that money is made solely by recruiting other people into the scheme.

CBN is obviously a pyramid scheme. The new Consumer Protection Act states 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”
and that the penalty for doing so will be:
“a fine not exceeding P100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to both.”
Consumer Watchdog urges people not to fall victim to this illegal pyramid scheme and to alert the authorities if they are approached by any person promoting it.

If consumers are in any doubt they should contact Consumer Watchdog for free advice. We can be reached by phone on 3904582, by email at watchdog@bes.bw or by joining our Facebook group, Consumer Watchdog Botswana.