Saturday, 24 August 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my refund?

Good day.

Sometime around August last year, a member of my church went around selling tickets for a concert that was to be hosted in Gaborone. My two friends and I bought tickets for P250 each. That concert did not happen last year and we were told that they were waiting for the artist to get her visa to travel to Botswana and that the concert would happen in March this year. This did not happen either and we have been trying to recover our money to no avail. The person we paid keeps telling us that the organisers let her down and she has been promising to refund us the money but not keeping those promises. What is our recourse in this situation? Thank you for your assistance.


I can understand why you call yourself “frustrated”. I would be too in your position.

In theory, the situation is quite simple. You paid this woman for the tickets and if she can’t provide them then you deserve a refund. Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Act says that when a transaction is “rescinded, cancelled, or otherwise terminated”, the supplier must “promptly restore” any deposit or payment made. Note that the law says ”promptly”. It doesn’t say exactly how quickly that should be because every case is different but I think we all know when something is NOT prompt. From March to today, that’s five months. That is certainly NOT prompt. I think we can all agree on that.

I contacted the lady you paid for the tickets and she’s been just as unhelpful to me. She’s blaming other people as well although my detective work suggest she might be more closely connected to the organisers than she lets on. She’s given me the contact details of these other people but they don’t seem interested in responding either. Curiously, I contacted the same people before regarding the same failed event. You clearly weren’t their only victim. It seems to be a habit of theirs.

I suggest that you contact her and tell her that you’ll be approaching the Small Claims Court for an order against her for the money you spent. I’ll contact them as well just so they know what’s coming. Maybe that threat will encourage them to do the right thing? Eventually.

I feel robbed!

I need clarity on something. There was an advertisement by a furniture stores for a bed which indicated that the instalment was P209 however when I got to the shop it was a different figure altogether (P349). I asked the lady in the shop about it but she said they made a mistake, I took the bed because I wanted it but I need to understand if the reason I was given was fair enough. I feel robbed. What can I do so that other consumers cannot fall into the same trap?

I’m a little confused.

Firstly, let’s talk about the incorrect figure the store advertised. Technically, the store broke Section 13 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations by selling something not as it was "advertised or represented". They advertised instalments of P209 and that’s what they should have been. However, we all sometimes make mistakes. I don’t think we can reasonably expect the store, assuming the mistake was genuine, to lose 40% of the money they wanted to make from your purchase.

The problem you now face is the you entered voluntarily into an agreement and you’re now committed to it. Personally, I think it was a mistake to sign it if the difference was so great. Unfortunately, you agreed to be a victim of their mistake.

As for preventing other consumers from falling into the same trap? I think they just need to read and understand every document they’re asked to sign, BEFORE they sign them. They also need to think a lot more carefully before signing ANY hire purchase agreement.

I also think that consumers need to educate themselves, or to be educated on these issues. Watch the media, you might see us doing exactly that very soon!

Saturday, 17 August 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why are they charging me?

I would like to request your help with a recurring problem that I have with my bank. In a nutshell, money is mysteriously taken from my account and they are unable to provide me with a reasonable explanation why. Since November last year 2018 an amount of P650 was deducted monthly from my account will out my consent. When I protested to my bank, I was told that a furniture store was the one deducting my money.

The strange thing is that I have never bought anything from them ever and I wanted an explanation from my bank as to who authorized them to take money from my account without my knowledge. They failed to give me a satisfactory answer, and instead resorted to using big accounting jargon to make it appear complicated to the lay man that I am. Both would point a finger at each other and I was stuck running between them. Eventually, I had to close down the account and open a new account to solve this problem. However, I was shocked when yet again another deduction happened on the 26th of July and this time the money deducted was P900.

I don't earn much and struggle to make ends meet even without the deductions. You can imagine how hard it is to explain to people such as my landlord. I feel like the bank is taking me for granted because I have no one to stand up for me nor can i afford to seek professional help. Please help me by being that voice.

This is outrageous and completely indefensible.

I’ve already contacted the bank on your behalf asking them to investigate. Surely somewhere in their records they have the original documentation, the forms that someone completed to set up the monthly deductions? You have a right to discover whether something went wrong and how your account was used to pay either someone else’s debt or a non-existent one.

If it’s shown that this was a mistake you’ll also deserve a complete refund of the money you paid. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear from the bank.

Why won’t they pay him?

Please help my dad. He got a funeral plan in February and paid upfront up to end of August then he covered his niece then last week his niece passed away. He went to them on Friday asking for the claim to bury his niece. Firstly they said they are still assessing if they can give him the money and he should come back on Friday. Then on Friday they told him they closed the account and there is no how they can help him and now went back frustrated. Now they say they can't help him, he can't claim. He doesn't know how to read or write.

Firstly, my condolences on the loss of your father.

I contacted the insurance company and they looked at your father’s policy and the news isn’t good. The policy your father bought has a 6-month waiting period before the customer can make a claim. That’s quite a common thing with many insurance products and medical aid schemes. In your father’s case he’d only had the policy for 5½ months so hadn’t quite made it to the time when he could claim.

Then there’s more. Even though your father was the person who paid for the policy, the insurance company tell me that it was in his niece’s name. I suspect that’s because your father wasn’t able to read or write? Maybe he asked her to be the signatory? Whatever the reason, now that she’s passed on, the named policyholder is no longer around and that’s why the policy has now been cancelled.

Meanwhile, here’s a bigger question. How exactly did an insurance company sell this policy to someone disabled by their inability to read and therefore fully understand the policy they were getting? What efforts did the salespeople make to ensure that their client fully understand it? Did they explain the waiting period? Did they explain the consequences of putting the policy in the niece’s name rather than your father’s?

Section 17 (1) (g) of the Consumer Protection Regulations forbids a supplier from taking advantage of a consumer's because “of disability, illiteracy or inability to understand the language of an agreement”. Section 6 (2) of the new Consumer Protection Act of 2018 does the same thing, outlawing them from exploiting consumers due to their “physical or mental disability, literacy, inability to understand the language of an agreement or contract”. People such as your father who have the misfortune not to be able to read or write deserve to have that respected. Is that too much to ask?

Saturday, 10 August 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my insurance?

I would like to know the proper channel to follow when complaining about the insurance company that does not want to pay the promised benefits while claiming.

In my case the was is a portion in the brochure that say the we shall claim the following with no extra cost being cow worth P5,000. P3,000 worth of grocery and P5,000 for tombstone. This same brochure is still being advertised as we speak. Upon claiming we received only money for burial and the three benefits we were told we will receive only one item. They said the policy holder was suppose to pay P3 extra to qualify and therefore we won’t receive any. We requested for the policy documents and we were told it was verbal since they were dealing with group and members of the said group are largely illiterate to understand any obligation from the insurance company. Kindly advise me of which step to take if advisable to do so since the insurance company always say they will come back to us but are taking forever now. My fear is the same brochure is being given to people as they sell their products.

This is unacceptable. I wonder if this insurance company know how many rules they’ve broken?

To begin with they’ve misrepresented their product by not explaining that the policyholder needed to pay extra for the benefits they were offered. Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations forbids a supplier from selling a product that “does not match any sample or description given to the consumer”. Section 13 (1) (e) says they must offer products and services “as advertised or represented”. Section 17 (1) (g) outlaws exploiting a consumer’s “illiteracy or inability to understand the language of an agreement”. I could go on.

I don’t know how long ago you took this policy but earlier this year, NBFIRA, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority published their new Policyholder Protection Rules that cover the sale and delivery of insurance products. These rules say that a person or company selling an insurance policy must disclose “any special terms and conditions, exclusions, waiting periods, loadings, penalties, excesses, restrictions or circumstances in which benefits will not be provided”. They also say that when any advice or information is offered verbally, that advice must be put in writing within 30 days.

I think you need to speak to NBFIRA as soon as possible and get their advice. They have the power and the willingness to use it.

Where’s my medical aid?

Hello Richard. Please help me with my medical aid. In January 2019 they closed my account even though my payments were up to date. I only noticed this when I was trying to do my payments end of January. Apparently the account was closed around September 2018 without my knowledge. I've been sending them emails asking them to tell me how long was my account closed up until Jan 2019 and haven't got anything yet. They only managed to reactive it in March 2019 and they have been deducting my monthly payments directly from my account since March. I haven't balanced the December and January fees yet (the one they refused to take back in January after they closed my account for no reason and without letting me know). Last week I received a message that my account has been suspended due to non payment of December and January fees. I send them an email (sent it to 5 people who are aware of my case) but haven't got any response from any of them. Today I received another message that my account has been terminated.

We all make mistakes. None of us are perfect because we’re human, not robots.

However, I’m a little less tolerant of organisations that make mistakes. Yes, they’ll happen occasionally but why do they happen repeatedly and why do they sometimes become so complicated? Why also, when mistakes happen, don’t they get fixed as soon as possible?

Your medical aid company had several opportunities to look into your situation and fix it. There’s really no excuse for taking so long to fix your problem.

The good news is that I contacted senior managers at your medical aid company and they promised to intervene and do their best to sort things out, unlike their more junior staff.

UPDATE: The senior managers got back to me, saying that they contacted the customer, apologized and have agreed a payment plan that allows him to catch up and get back to normal. Finally!

Saturday, 3 August 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must she have the receipt?

Please assist us here. I am writing this on behalf of my little sister who has had a bad experience with store in Main Mall.

She purchased a laptop charger and was not issued a receipt, the assumption was that the cashier forgot to give it her at the time nonetheless when she tried to use the charger it did not work. So she's gone back to the shop and was told she would not be assisted because there was no receipt. However, she knew who she had dealt with and at the time of going back to the shop was told the cashier man was not in and should check again a day later. A day later she went back and was told he had been fired.

She talked to the store owner who was adamant that he would not refund her because of the no receipt. Our contention is that there are other store employees that verified that she had bought at the shop and confirmed this to the owner and he still wouldn't help. She's seeking a refund as the charger doesn't work and would want to go look for another one elsewhere.

Can you help us with this matter?

Unfortunately, I’ve heard of this situation many times before and it’s always very frustrating. Usually it’s when people have misplaced or thrown away their receipt that they have difficulties, not like your sister’s case when she was never given one. I might have had some sympathy for stores in the past but in 2019, surely almost all stores use an electronic till when they sell something? Surely their till, or the computer system behind it has a record of the sales they made? If they don’t, how do they keep track of the VAT they owe BURS? How do they keep records to show the owner the profits they’re making?

I simply don’t believe that the store can’ verify that a particular item was sold on a particular date and a particular time, even if they can’t say who bought it. In your sister’s case, there are even witnesses who confirm that it was your sister who bought the charger. I think it’s safe to assume that the store owner is not a very nice person. Or not a very good businessman. Or both.

I suggest that you visit the store and explain that Section 17 (1) (d) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that the store is not allowed to cause “a probability of confusion or of misunderstanding as to the legal rights, obligations, or remedies of a party to a transaction”. See if that has any effect?

UPDATE: It wasn’t necessary. I was told that “after getting back to them and threatening to engage your services the store manager has agreed to pay her back and has collected the refund and given back the laptop charger.” Good news but why do some stores make life so difficult?

Where’s my refund?

Please assist if you can. My girlfriend and I booked with a guest house at Kazungula. We were requested to pay 50% up front in order to reserve our 3 night stay. We send proof of payment which was never acknowledged. When requesting for acknowledgment the manager got angry and cancelled our reservation and promised a refund. Even up to now he hasn’t refunded us. This was for the 14-17th July.

I’m not sure why some people in business allow their bad temper to show itself to their customers. Frankly, I don’t care whether this or any other business owner, manager or employee is having a hard day, argued with their partner this morning or had a bad night’s sleep. I know it might seem hard for them, but I expect them to offer a service that is as good as it can always be, regardless of their mood.

I’ll contact the owner and see if he can be a little bit more even-tempered.

UPDATE: He responded and assured me that you will get your refund before Wednesday of this week.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Was I right to repay them?

Good day. I need some advise. I bought a car through a bank loan in 2013 which was then repossessed in 2016.

The bank sold the car and the new owner bought it at about 140 000 and the balance of the loan was 144 000 which I continued to pay until early this year. I have just been advised by a family member that once the car is repossessed and sold, I was not supposed to pay the remaining balance for the loan since the car was not in my possession.

Is this true? If so would I still claim my money back. My question was if goods are repossessed and sold does one still continue to pay even if the goods are not in their possession?

Unfortunately, your relative is wrong.

When you buy a vehicle (or anything else) through a bank loan and then you stop making your payments, the bank is entitled to do their best to recover the money they lent you. However, if they use either the loan agreement or a court order to repossess the vehicle that doesn’t mean the debt goes away. Your case is a good example of this. From the figures you mention, it seems that you still owed the bank P284,000 when the vehicle was repossessed although that might have included penalties, interest, debt collection, legal and court costs. The vehicle was then sold at auction for a mere P140,000, leaving a balance of P144,000 that you still owed to the bank. They’re entitled to get that back from you by whatever legal means they choose. If you look at your original loan agreement you’ll find it says they can do this and your signature on one page and your initials on every other page show that you agreed to this. It even proves that you “understood” the agreement, even if you didn’t!

However, I don’t think that lenders (and other companies) do enough to make it perfectly clear what will happen if you can’t afford to keep up the payments. I think they need to be a lot clearer.

I suggest that you explain to your relative that this is how borrowing works. I hope he or she isn’t spreading this misunderstanding too far! Trying to avoid our debts will only get us into even more trouble.

Must I pay if I break something?

I wanted to know, if a customer break an item on a shelve in a shop with no intent, but by mistake does the customer need to pay the shop for the broken item?

Yes, you need to pay. If they insist.

Think of it this way. Imagine I’m not a friend or relative, not someone you care about, I’m a total stranger. If I came to your house and accidentally damaged or destroyed something that was of value to you, what would you expect me to do? Wouldn’t you expect me to replace it for you, or at least make a contribution towards the cost? That’s what I would expect if the roles were reversed.

I don’t think it’s any different in a store. Remember that a store is just another private place, although one the public is invited to enter. If I enter the store owner’s premises and break something, don’t you think I should replace it?

Some might argue that the store has insurance that covers losses but don’t forget that the price of the item you broke will be way less than the “excess” amount the insurance company would require the store to pay before the insurance company pays out. Even if it didn’t, the store wouldn’t want to go through the hassle filling in forms, submitting claims and dealing with the inevitable delays. It’s much simpler for them to ask you to repay them for the amount they lost.

Meanwhile, if the item damaged was of little value, a pleasant store manager or owner might overlook it, particularly if it was just an accident. However, as we’ve all learned, not all store owners and managers are that pleasant.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Radio show notes (NBFIRA Policyholder Protection Rules) - 23rd July 2019

Source: Wikipedia
I was on DumaFM today with friends from NBFIRA talking about the new Policyholder Protection Rules relating to insurance products.

So what do these Policy Protection Rules say?

No background, no history, no lengthy (and boring) explanations of laws, regulations and small print, what actually matters to you and me?

Cooling-off period

A customer can now cancel an insurance policy within 30 days of receiving the policy. Not 30 days from agreeing to the deal but from when the policy actually arrives and they’ve had a chance to read and digest it. If they choose to cancel, they’re entitled to a refund of any premiums paid, minus any admin expenses the company has incurred.

However, this obviously doesn’t apply if the customer has made a claim in that period.

Penalties for termination, cancellation or withdrawal

If there are any penalties for cancelling or termination a policy, the company must disclose these when the policy is being sold. Not some time later when the consumer asks to cancel.

Importantly, this covers those policies that have an investment component and where the commissions and charges are “front-loaded”, being deducted in the early stages of the policy rather than throughout it. The people selling these products MUST explain that if the policy is terminated early then the customer might get little or nothing back in the early years.

Claims procedures

Companies must explain the claims procedures and how long they will take.

Complaints procedures

Companies must explain their complaints procedures, and also that NBFIRA can assist customers with problems.

Oral agreements

Anything said to a customer when the policy is being sold must then be put in writing within 30 days of the discussion.

Blank or incomplete forms

Policy holders must not be asked to sign blank or incomplete application forms.

Choice of insurance

(I like this one a lot.)

Anyone entering into a loan, credit or lease agreement that requires insurance MUST be allowed to use an existing insurance policy that they already have, if it’s suitable. So someone who already has a household insurance policy can use that to cover something they buy on credit or hire purchase. This is good because thee insurance policies most stores offer are incredibly expensive.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get my money back?

Last month I bought a ticket for my niece from Ethiopian Airlines to travel from Botswana to London in June and return in August. When she reached the airport she was told she doesn't have the necessary paperwork to allow her to travel and will have to travel at a later date. The next week when we wanted to rebook with all the paper work now we were told that we have to pay P2000 to rebook of which we were never told about from the beginning. We decided to cancel the whole trip and seek a refund and we were told the ticket was non-refundable. The value of the ticket was close to P8000.

Please do advice accordingly your help will be appreciated.

I don’t think I’m going to make you any happier.

International sounds glamorous but it’s much more likely to be a stressful experience, even when things go well. In this case the stress you niece experienced must have been overwhelming.

However, here’s the problem. There are various reasons why an airline might prevent someone from boarding the flight they’ve already paid for. Maybe their identity documents don’t exactly match the booking that was made? I know it seems petty but things like the spelling of your name, whether you include middle names and initials, ID and passport numbers all matter. If they’re not exactly the same as those given when the booking was made, then you might have problem.

Then there are the immigration requirements that various nations impose. Some demand that you can prove you have enough money to get by while you’re in their country. Others need proof of the address where you’ll be staying. Some demand a letter from the person or organisation hosting you. Many demand that you have a return ticket showing that you really mean to leave their country. Remember also that if you’re going on a journey which goes through a country in between your home and your final destination then the intervening country might also demand these things.

The other thing to remember is that if someone reaches their destination and is refused entry, it is often the airline that transported them that is forced to pay for the return flight. Airlines will then try and recover that cost from the passenger. That’s why they can be so strict at check-in.

The lesson is ALWAYS to check with the country you flying to, the countries through which you transit AND the airline what documents you need to provide. Then check again. Most countries have this material online but it’s also a good reason why an experienced travel agent can be very helpful.

Are these claims real?

Richard, what are your thoughts on this that I was sent. It’s from a local Facebook page.

My thoughts? They’re bad ones. My emotions? Anger, irritation, outrage and fear. I’m angered that people are advertising such dangerous nonsense that poses a real threat to health. Longrich agents have a long history of making illegal claims about the products they market but these claims are some of the worst I’ve seen.

Let’s face some simple facts. These magical, apparently magnetic panty liners are utter nonsense. There is no evidence that they can do anything that the advertisers claim. The only thing that can deal with a hormonal imbalance or an irregular ovulation cycle, that can unblock fallopian tubes, remove fibroids, reset “a displaced womb” and address infertility is medicine. Real medicine, not this illegal hogwash.

Yes, this IS illegal. Sections 396-399 of the Penal Code outlaw the “prohibited advertisements” that offer such treatments. They also breach various consumer protection laws by making false claims and they are also totally ignoring BOMRA, the Medicines Regulatory Authority who I’m sure will be outraged that such lies are being spread by Longrich distributors.

It’s also incredibly dangerous. Someone suffering these complaints urgently needs to consult a doctor rather than buy bogus products from the liars making these claims. If just one person fails to consult a doctor thinking that Longrich products can treat their disorders and suffers as a result, then these distributors have blood on their hands.