The big theme for Consumer Watchdog in 2019 will be consumer education. Lots of it.
But where do consumers need to be educated? What are the biggest threats to our welfare? What do we need to know?
We asked the member of the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group what issues they thought we should address. This is what they said.
1. The small print
One of the biggest mistakes consumers make is not reading and understanding the small print of agreements before signing agreement. The lesson is very simple. Don't EVER sign something you haven't read and fully understood.
There are also times when it's critically important that consumers DO sign things. Whenever you buy or sell something, make sure both parties sign a sale agreement. It doesn't need to be complicated, it just needs to identify the seller and buyer, describe the condition of the item and the sale price, acknowledges that full payment was made and that ownership has now been transferred. Add a date and some signatures and you have a sale agreement.
It's not a consumer issue but we recently received the following message:
“i have been working as a security man since the 24th until the 9th, the man is refusing to pay and during the time i was working for him, he didnt take good care of me nor enquire about my well-being, right now he is not answering my phone when i tell him to pay me, please help me out”I asked "Did you have a contract of employment?" He responded:
"No sir, we just agreed by word of mouth and that was the first and last time i saw him"He's likely to be out of luck.
Benjamin Franklin apparently said that, "in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes".
So many people contact us asking about the taxes and duties imposed by BURS on imported goods. We need to do some more research.
3. Medical aid
Yet another form of insurance but it is still often misunderstood. What is covered? What's excluded? The answer, like with any insurance policy, is to ask questions and understand the policy before you commit to it.
4. Consumer rights
Consumer need to know a lot more about their existing right, those offered by the 2001 Consumer Protection Regulations but now we have the new 2018 Consumer Protection Act. That will be a key part of the 2019 project.
5. Bank charges
One of the banks recently started charging certain customers a P10 monthly fee which came as a surprise to many of them. When prompted, the bank stated that they had alerted customers in newspaper notices last year. But is that good enough?
Banks are required to publish details of their charges but what does "publish" mean? In 2019, surely it means Facebook and Twitter as well as the newspapers?