Sunday, 17 October 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where is it?

I commissioned a company to make a plant stand for me. They insisted that I pay a 70% deposit, which I did and I have the paperwork to prove it. They told me the work would be done in 4 - 8 working days. That did not happen and they requested an extension which I agreed to.

Two months passed without the stand and I requested my money back. Numerous times they said they would deposit the funds and I think it has been 4 months now. Now they won't pick up my calls and I am not sure whether I need to take them to the police or where to go to get my money back.

Let's talk about the Consumer Protection Act.

Section 14 (1) of the Act says that when a supplier:
"undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of a consumer, the consumer has a right to … timely performance and completion of those services".
Note that it says "timely performance". That means they must deliver the services in a reasonable time. Obviously that can vary depending on the circumstances. Some services take longer than others. But these guys told you that it would take just over a week. You were kind enough to give them an extension but I don't think you meant four months, did you? I don't think you said they could go silent, did you?

The same part of the Act also says that a supplier must give a consumer "timely notice of any unavoidable delay". This is actually very simple to understand. Suppliers are required by the law to keep their customers updated on progress and inform them of any delays. But perhaps more importantly, it's not just the law, it's good customer service. It's just reasonable behaviour.

I contacted the supplier and he's at least talking to me. He claims to be out of the country but I don't think that should make any difference. I'll keep the pressure up.

A simple rule about prices

In the last few weeks several people have contacted us reporting problems they'd experienced with prices. Most often people have told us about times when the price of an item at the till was higher than the price on the shelf. I know that's happened to me, it's probably happened to you as well. 

One of the consumers who contacted us had a slightly bigger problem. She'd ordered a large number of cookware items from a supplier at a price that both she and the supplier agreed, P107 per item. That price was discussed over the phone and in various messages.

But then it went wrong. The supplier called her to tell her that the items had arrived but the price was now P124, not P107. Obviously she complained, reminding the supplier that this wasn't the agreed price. After some argument they offered to discount this new, made-up price of P124 down to P118.

The consumer and I had a chat and I suggested she give this company some free education. She told them that Section 7 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a supplier:
"shall not advertise any particular goods or services as being available at a specified price in a manner that may result in consumers being misled or deceived as to the actual availability of those goods or services from that supplier, at the advertised price".
She told him that Section 11 (3) of the Act says that a supplier:
"shall not charge a consumer more than the price indicated or displayed for goods or services".
I also suggested that she tell him that Section 23 (1) (a) of the Act also states that a supplier may not:
"unilaterally amend the terms of the contract or agreement".
Finally, I suggested that she remind them that any breach of these clauses of the Act can lead to:
"a fine not exceeding P50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both". 
They had a quick think and offered her the items at the original price of P107.

See what a little education can achieve?

Saturday, 9 October 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

My TV is broken!

On the 23 April 2021, I bought a 55 inch Telefunken smart TV. This television started developing some horizontal lines and eventually the situation worsened in August. I decided to take back the TV to the store on the 23 September where I bought it and expecting that I will be given a new one. I was told that It will be fixed within 21 days and if its not repaired I will be refunded.

Having used the TV for 5 months I feel I must be given a new one or refunded. If it gets fixed I am afraid the gadget will trouble me. Currently we have no TV to watch we are waiting for the store to repair.

May your office help me in this situation? 

I know it's frustrating but the store does have the right to try and repair the TV. Once. 

The starting point is that Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a consumer
"has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects".
But life isn't that simple. Sometimes things go wrong. Things we buy sometimes are faulty but we're protected when that happens. Section 16 of the Act says that if the goods fail to meet that standard, the consumer may return the goods to the supplier. It then says that the supplier is entitled to "repair or replace the defective goods" or to "refund the consumer" but it's important to understand that they can decide which they want to do. They are entitled to repair the TV before they choose to give you either a refund or a replacement. I know it's irritating to spend a lot of money on a smart TV and then wait for it to be repaired but that's what the law says they can do.

But there's something that suppliers often forget. Section 16 of the Act also says that if a supplier repairs an item and "within three months the same problem recurs in the goods" they're not allowed to repair it a second time. They can now only refund you or give you a replacement.

My advice is to allow the store to try and repair the TV but make sure you tell them that you know they get just one chance to do that.

I can't get a loan!

I need your help with my former bank. In 2016 I took a loan with them and then in 2018 I paid it off. So last month I went to my new bank to ask for a loan, After a week they called and told me that I have been listed at CRB for bad credit record. Apparently it shows that I am still owing the old bank so I went to them to enquire about the matter. The branch manager told me that they somehow forgot to close the account after I cleared their loan, that's how my name ended up at CRB. I explained to him that this CRB thing is costing me now because it's blocking me in taking loans from other banks. The manager promised to help me and assured me that my name at CRB will be cleared within 3 days.

It has been two weeks now my loan at the new bank is still suspended because the old bank didn't close that account. Is it possible for you to get hold of them for me please.

Let's talk about another section of the Consumer Protection Act. Section 14 of the Act says that when
"a supplier undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of a consumer, the consumer has a right to (…) performance of the services in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect".
I don't think that means we can expect perfection. Sometimes bad things happen but I think the law says that if mistakes are made, we have a right to expect them to be fixed. Quickly. Not next week. Not in two weeks. Not when the bank feels like it.

Never forget that banks have invested vast amounts of money (our money, in case you forgot) in technology, staff and training so they make profits as efficiently as possible. There is no reason why they can't use these systems, processes and people to fix your problem.

Maybe we should remind them that the maximum fine for breaching the Consumer Protection Act is a heavy fine or prison time. Do they really want that?

Saturday, 2 October 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my lay-bye?

On the 20th August I went to a shop in bus rank Gaborone. I did a lay bye, Today I went to pay off the remaining balance but unfortunately I forgot my receipt at but I have taken a picture before I left home,

I went to the shop paid the remaining balance but the cashier told me they will need the hard copy. I explained and asked to explain to the boss there but she did not want to talk to me at all. I stood there for more than 15 minutes asking her to come out of her office. She later came and refused to help me but I had my identity card and the soft copy but still did not want to help me. They refused to give me the goods. I got so angry and ended up raising my voice. Things went so bad and everyone was looking. I was stressed that tomorrow is the last day of the lay bye and I cant get help. They told me I will never get the money that I paid last month if I don't collect it the next day but unfortunately i won't be in town that day. Please help me get my money back or I can pay the remaining balance to get the item.

I am so disappointed. Please help.

I don't understand why some people decide to go into the retail business when they dislike their customers so much. Don't they want to make money? Don't they want repeat customers? Don't they want their existing customers telling their family, friends, neighbours and workmates about how good this store is?

These guys are completely disrespecting you. Yes, you forgot the receipt and that was a mistake but this is 2021, the age of cellphones with cameras, online storage and stores with computer systems. In the modern age we deserve to expect the people who take our money to record it in a way that it can easily be retrieved.

All it should take in a situation like yours is for you to prove your identity and to prove that you paid them some money. The rest should be simple.

The solution is simple. In fact they can choose which of two solutions they prefer. Either accept your final payments and give you your property or they should give you a refund. If necessary we should teach them about Section 23 (1) (d) of the Consumer Protection Act which says that "suppliers can't make up stupid rules to screw their customers because they're too lazy to check their records". Ok, it doesn't say that, but it does say that suppliers must not "impose terms and conditions that are unfair, unreasonable or unjust".

Where are my windows?

Good day Richard. Kindly assist us here we have made a deposit towards installation of aluminium windows with a certain company. The agreement was we pay 40% deposit then when we are ready to install they will come to do it. We have since paid the deposit and have been waiting since July and he has not installed the windows. He does not respond to our messages nor does he answer when we call. Last week Tuesday we went to the workshop and he told us he will deliver by Friday when we called he did not respond. He has our P55,000 yet he is not delivering. We are running behind schedule to complete our house. Kindly help us get our money back if he is unable to deliver the service. We have tried to be patient but we have since run out of patience.

Yet another supplier who doesn't care. I sometimes wonder whether some suppliers realize how angry it makes their customers when they stop communicating. And how angry it makes us when they take huge amounts of our money and then try to forget we exist.

I'll get in touch with the supplier and see if he wants to speak to me instead.

I'll explain that yet again the solution is very simple. He can do the work and keep the money or not do the work and give the money back. Is that difficult to understand?

Saturday, 18 September 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can they repair it?

Hello I need your help. I bought a cellphone at a store at Rail Park Mall. The next day I realized that the battery died, the phone loses power so fast I have to charge it every hour. I went back to the store and they refused to change the phone instead they offered to repair it which is going to take 7 days. So what does the law say?

The law is actually very simple in circumstances like yours.

Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a consumer "has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects". That's simple, don't you think?

Section 16 goes on to say that if the goods fail to meet that standard, the consumer may return the goods to the supplier. It then says that the supplier is entitled to "repair or replace the defective goods" or to "refund the consumer" but it's important to understand that they can decide which they want to do. They are entitled to try to repair the phone before they choose to offer you either a refund or a replacement. I know it's frustrating to spend a lot of money on a new phone and then wait for it to be repaired but that's what the Consumer Protection Act says they can do.

However, there's something that suppliers often overlook. Section 16 of the Act also says that if a supplier repairs an item and "within three months the same problem recurs in the goods" they're not allowed to repair it a second time. They can now only refund or you give you a replacement.

My advice is to allow the store to try and repair the phone but make sure they understand that they get just one chance to do to. Just one

Scam warning

We've been contacted by many people in the last few weeks who have fallen victim to scams. The really bad news, the upsetting news, is that scammers seem to be working even harder during Covid to steal our money than ever before. They realise that we're all short of money these days and many of us are desperate to make some more. So desperate that we make some foolish decisions.

Let me give you an example. In fact, it's the experience of several victims. They were approached by people on Facebook claiming that they had a remarkable "investment" opportunity called Marginbase. Specifically, they said that if someone invested P3,800 with their scheme, they would earn P53,950 within 7 days.

Just think about that for a moment. They say you can multiply your money by 14 times in a week. If that was true and you invested your P3,800, multiplied it 14 times in just a week and then repeatedly reinvested the money, after 5 weeks you would have more than P2 billion. After three months you would have more money than has ever existed in the history of the world.

Obviously, this is a scam. It's all a trick to get the P3,800 and it's not the only scam like this operating right now. They all make promises of fantastic profits and all demand between P1,000 and P5,000 to join. It's important to know that the joining fee is just the beginning. Once you've invested, a fake web page will show that you're making lots of money and they'll encourage you to invest even more and who wouldn't be tempted? They say you're making amazing amounts of money and you want to make even more.

Of course, the problem comes when you try to withdraw your money. That's when they'll put up barriers. They'll either say that you need to pay a commission or premium to get your money or they'll claim computer problems or that their systems have been hacked. They'll do their best to keep your money, all while reminding you how much money they claim you're making.

The lesson from this is never to believe anyone who promises you fantastic profits on a relatively small investment. No genuine investment makes miraculous profits and anyone who says they can is either lying, insane or misguided. Please don't waste your money because a stranger, or worse still someone you know, suggests that you can make a fortune. You'll never see the profits they promise and you'll never see the money you gave them again.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my sister's money?

Hello Richard. Please assist me here on behalf of my older sister. This what happened. My sister visited a certain garage at Francistown as she wanted a car. So she was told to pay clearance money of 35k and she did that. Upon the arrival of the car she noticed mechanical faults with the car and she did not take it. As a result she demanded her 35k back. And the garage owner said he will repay her after he sold his faulty car.

My sister ended up purchasing a car from a different garage while waiting for her refund from the first garage. The faulty car was sold but up to now the garage owner is playing hide and seek on refunding my sister. He will say he will pay tomorrow. Next week. Next month. Please help!! What can she do? Its almost 8 months now.

It's people like this guy that give car dealers a bad name.

I know for a fact that there are plenty of second-hand and imported car dealers who are honest, hard-working and committed to serving their customers to the best of their ability. Just not this one.

I've heard too often about people like this guy who insist on trying to sell a faulty item before they can refund someone who gave them a lot of money. It's not acceptable. Was it your sister's fault that the vehicle was faulty? No, it was his and he should face up to his responsibilities to your sister. He took her money, tried to give her a faulty vehicle and then kept her money. Not only is that a gross breach of her consumer rights I suspect it's almost theft.

The time has come for your sister to be much more assertive. She needs to make some demands and give him a deadline. I suggest she contacts him and says that unless he refunds in full within seven days she'll take legal action against him to recover the money he owes her. If he fails to do so, it's time to get even more assertive and get a lawyer involved. He has a choice. Pay up or pay her lawyer's bills on top of the P35,000 he already owes her.

Shouldn't they clear my name?

Can you please help. I have a credit card. In April this year the bank phoned to say that I owe them P1,200 for the card because they were not able to deduct as we have agreed from my account because their system was down. I paid the money in June. Recently I went to the same bank to apply for a loan in the same bank and they declined the application saying that they have blacklisted me even though it proves that I don't owe them after checking.

Are they not supposed to clear my name?

The first problem is that banks aren't perfect. They make mistakes. Their systems sometimes let them (and us) down. Clearly that happened when they failed to deduct your monthly credit card payments. Surely their expensive computer system has the ability to tell both them and you that there's been a problem and then to send a reminder that a payment failed and someone needs to take an action to keep your payments up to date?

However, it was also your responsibility to ensure the payments were made. I know it's easy to overlook this because we trust our banks to get things right. But they often don't so it's up to us to check.

Secondly, the way credit reference bureaus work is that they record facts. The bank will have updated the system to say that you fell behind with your payments and then later updated it again to say that you'd caught up. However, and this is the important point, those updates stay on your record for up to two years. That enables the bank and other potential lenders to see your recent history and make a judgment on whether they think lending money to you is a good or bad risk.

Given that it's the same bank that made the mistake that has since declined your loan application I think it's worth reminding them who actually caused the problem in the first place. Maybe they should take some share of the responsibility for the situation?

Saturday, 4 September 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

I want a working phone!

I bought an iPhone 12 Pro for P17,000 in April from a store in Game City, I kept the phone without using since I didn't have Wifi to register Apple ID, I used the phone end of May but it had a problem with the speaker, at first I thought the problem was because I have not updated the software since the phone kept reminding to update software, at the time I did not have Wifi again. In July I managed to update the software and the problem with the speaker still persisted but I could not return it as I was alone at work however I returned the phone on the 22nd August. They called me after a few hours saying the phone was fixed it had moisture and dirt, however I tested the phone and it still had the same problem and I left it so they can fix it.

They called again on the 24th August saying the phone is fixed but still when I called with it the person on the other side could not hear me so they took it for the third time saying they will fix and call on 26th which they never did. On 27th I went to their store and asked them to give me a new phone or return my money. They told me it will take 14 days for them to fix and they can't give me my money back or a new phone rather they guy said he will give me his phone which he is using.

Please help me 17k is a lot of money.

You're right. P17,000 is a lot of money. You might argue that all customers are equal but let's talk facts. If you've spent P17,000 on a cellphone you deserve to be treated like royalty. You deserve a comfortable chair when you arrive. You deserve a cup of coffee and a biscuit. You deserve to be treated with respect. Yes, I obviously believe that you should be treated with respect if you just spent P17, but I'm sure you know what I mean. Someone who spends P17,000 on a phone is a premier, prestige, elite customer. You certainly deserve better treatment that this store offers.

I think the store need to understand when they sell something that is faulty, they have three options. They can either repair the phone, refund you or replace it. The critical thing is that the store can decide which of these things they want to do. They can choose to repair it if that's what they prefer. That's what Section 16 (3) of the Consumer Protection Act says. However, and this is the important bit that stores often overlook, the Act then says that if "within three months the same problem recurs" then they lose the chance to repair it again. They can only now replace it or refund you. There's no second chance to repair it.

Let's explain this to them and see which option they prefer.

It's not me!

This is my story. This December money has been debited off my bank account. It was a stop order and I didn't know what it was about. I went to my bank to enquire then they assisted me told me it's a furniture store. I went there and the lady who assisted me told me to go to the store in Tlokweng because the person purchased goods there. When I got there they told me that they had been a mixup of accounts and I asked them what I should do with the bank charges that accumulated. They told me that the person would have to refund me but I don't even know that person. I even told them that its their responsibility but even now there's no help. I even closed the account.

So far you've done everything right. You were right to speak to your bank and then right again to contact the store about this. Yes, clearly there's been a mix-up and they need to fix this urgently. Then they need to refund you everything, including any bank charges you've incurred if their mistake took you overdrawn or meant you couldn't make any payments.

You should also demand that they confirm that your credit history hasn't been affected by this at all. Normal practice when you get a loan or buy something on hire purchase is for that deal to be registered with credit reference bureaux. We need to make sure this hasn't happened this time because it would be false. You don't want their mix-up to haunt you in the future.

Update: I contacted the store and they promised to investigate and fix it as soon as possible.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why can't they fix it?

Can I ask for an honest opinion. I bought a PS5 with controllers from a local retailer lest than six months ago. It was brand new with receipts and everything.

Then after few months noticed that the other controller had problems. I then contacted the seller and they advised I bring it back so they take it to Sony in South Africa for fixing since its under warranty from the manufacturer.

Yesterday I called the seller telling them its been 3 weeks without feedback on the progress but to my disappointment they tell me Sony states that they can not fix it and in short he can not help me in that regard. Apparently Sony SA states that they can not fix the joypads and he said customers have been complaining world wide about the controllers being faulty and he said Sony does not have a solution regarding them.

So I'm asking how do I go about such case because we buy these things expensively to be told we can not help you while there is a warranty/guarantee in place still valid. 

What's a polite way of saying 'silly'? 

Ok, let's not even try to be polite. The store is being silly. Very silly. It really doesn't matter whether Sony can or cannot repair the controller, Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that consumers have "the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects" and that if a supplier fails to offer this then we can return the goods. It then says that the supplier must "repair or replace the defective goods" or "refund the consumer the amount already paid as consideration for the goods".

In your case it's very simple. Apparently they can't repair the controller so they have just two options left, replace it or refund you.

And there's one last thing. They're lying to you if they suggest that Sony doesn't have a solution. Sony is an incredibly powerful brand that wouldn't dare to treat its customers this way.

I'll get in touch with the store and tell them what I think they should do.

Update: The customer had what he said was a "heated conversation" with the store manager who first demanded that he pay for a new controller. He stood up for his rights and eventually got a free replacement.

Will they refund me?

I cleared a loan from company X through a loan from company Y beginning of June. In mid June and end of June I was refunded the May and June instalments which I understood because the payroll was already closed. I hoped the last deduction would have been June but that was not the case. In July they deducted again and I had to wait for 2 weeks to be refunded after several daily calls. Even NBFIRA I reached out to them. Its August they have deducted again, the second mistaken deduction. This time around I want to take action against company X for the financial embarrassment and inconvenience they have put me through, also my credit status is in disrepute, not to mention the inconvenience because they take long to refund. I'm thinking of going the legal route, please advise.

You've been very tolerant. Perhaps even too tolerant!

You were tolerant and understanding in the first couple of months when you were beyond the payroll cycle deadline but it's not acceptable for this Company X to take so long to stop the deductions from your salary. It's really not that difficult to do, it's something that happens all the time.

You can of course follow the legal route but I don't think you'll need to go that far. I'm sure we can avoid the costs and bother of taking Company X to court. What scares smart companies more than legal threats is the thought that they might lose customers because of their incompetence. They really don't want you discussing their failure with your family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and random people you meet in the street. That's what really makes them anxious. I'm sure this will get sorted out quickly.

Update: The customer contacted Company X again and made sure they understood his rights. They promised to refund him within days. Let's see if they can keep their word.