Saturday 18 May 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay?

Hello Richard, please can you assist here. This morning my builder bought goods worth P7,000 from a hardware store in Palapye, only to realize they have bought something which I didn't want since there was a communication breakdown. Within an hour I asked them to go and back and ask for a refund bearing in mind we haven't even got the goods and they haven't even left the store yet.

A guy at the store said he can't refund and then said he would charge 5% for a refund and then this rose to 15%. Apparently they are saying they need my ID, what for? Can you assist in this matter?

The first question to ask is who made the mistake here. Clearly if a store makes a mistake it's up to them to cover any costs involved in reversing the transaction. This might include any bank charges they incurred if the purchaser swiped when they paid for the goods. However, from what you say it doesn't seem that the store made a mistake.

The question is who, between you and the builder, made the mistake? You said there was a communication breakdown but I think it's worth a conversation to figure out how the miscommunication happened. Then you can decide who should cover any costs that the store needs.

I'm also happy to contact the store to discuss exactly how much they should charge to reverse the transaction. It needs to be reasonable. I'll also ask them why they need you ID. I can see why they want to double-check that they're refunding the right person but let's check that first.

Where's my refund?

There's this other lady I asked her to design a two piece for me in December. She did that and upon delivery the sizes were too big for me even though she had taken my measurements.

We agreed that she will do another set for me but even today I'm still waiting. When I approach her she always tells me she's working on it since now. I ended up asking her to refund me because she's failing to deliver even now since December last year.

She's not someone who's willing to pay me because she will not even say anything until I text her.

This really is quite a simple situation. Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act says that consumers are entitled to expect services to be delivered:
"in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect". 
An outfit you order should be the correct size. That's not complicated.

The Act continues, saying that when a supplier fails to deliver services to this standard, they must either "remedy any defect in the quality of the services" or "refund the consumer".

In your case you gave her both options, allowing her to remake the outfit but clearly that didn't happen. That's when you correctly demanded a refund.

I contacted the lady and, to be fair, she responded well. She told me that:
"I told her Il refund her, I'm still broke right now". 
When I asked her when you can expect a refund, she said:
"I told her month end but this month was hectic like the past ones. But I'm working on it. It will have to be end of this month."
So let's see. If she repays you at the end of the month we can all be happy. If not, we'll need to think of other ways for you to get your money back.

Saturday 11 May 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my builder?

Please help me follow up with this builder. In 2022 I gave him 3 jobs, roofing for my farm house, landscaping design and doing a staircase and decking for the house. The roofing has been completed but with some gaps to completely close the house. ⁠I gave him a supply and fit job to do a deck, staircase and exterior door to access the outside space. He did some work in December 2022 and disappeared.

After extensive follow-up he came back in July 2023 and a bit of work on the staircase and the door and then disappeared again. After several follow ups he requested me to purchase further materials, which I did (I have now spent more than the contracted amount) but he has still not completed the work. Last week, he agreed he should finish the house. He requested for some more material but has not done the work as promised. I gave him a deposit to do a landscape design and never even got a draft. Richard, please help me follow up so he can complete my work.

I know for a fact that there are some excellent builders. I also know for a fact that there are others who are unreliable, incompetent and even a few who are dangerous.

Let's be charitable and assume this one is just one of the unreliable ones. However, unreliability is no excuse. It doesn't matter what difficulties he was having, he had an obligation to keep you updated and then to do the work you've paid him for. It's not complicated, is it?

I contacted the guy and he responded very quickly. He promised that he'll visit you and complete the work within the next couple of days. Please let me know what happens?

How can I spot a scam?

We all remember Ecoplexus from last year. Some of us remember Eurextrade from more than 10 years ago. Both of these scams took tens of millions from their victims. This year we had the Miracle Farm scam which luckily quickly collapsed. All involved scammers recruiting people we know to steal money from us. That's part of the tragedy of these scams, they make normally good people into criminals. The bad news for the people who "knowingly join" these scams is that Section 9 of the Consumer Protection Act says that they are as guilty as those who promote them.

Unfortunately, the scammers haven't gone away. They are still actively recruiting people into newer scams. So how can you tell if something is a scam? Here are some ways to help you decide.

Firstly, ask the person who invited you to join, why they did so? Did they do it because they're a kind person who wanted to share their "opportunity" with you? If they say Yes, then you know it's a scam.

Next, ask them if the scheme is a registered company. If they say it is, ask for proof. Then check if it's true. If you don't know how to check, ask us.

Ask them how their scheme creates profits. People marketing a real investment scheme will talk about share or commodity prices, dividends or the income a company can expect from selling products and services. People marketing a scam can't do that. They'll talk about cryptocurrency or forex trading, Bitcoin mining or they'll say it's a motshelo or 'gifting' scheme. If you ask them how profits are generated they won't be able to answer you.

People promoting a genuine investment will welcome questions but scammers will very be defensive and ask you why you're asking so many questions. "Just trust me", they'll say. Anyone who says this is trying to scam you.

Above all, scammers will make incredible claims about how much money you can make. They'll tell you that small 'investments' can earn huge profits. They'll also ask you to invest more and more money, encouraging you to 'upgrade' to higher levels with promises of even greater profits. That's a sure sign of a scam.

Finally, remember this simple truth. Anyone who invites you to join their money-making scheme wants to make money from you, not with you.

Saturday 4 May 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my refund?

Hi Richard please help your sister out. I bought a bed from a furniture store. I used it for three months and the base broke. I went back to report the issue. The assistant manager showed us the letter where they say they should replace the bed. The letter was in October last year and I did complain before. Richard I spent the whole year sleeping on the floor and my records shows I was paying them nicely. Last week I went to Gaborone head office to complain more. They took a week again to come back to me. They told me that they want to give me another bed and my reply to them is I don't want anything from their shop. I want them to refund me so I can go buy somewhere else. It looks like they won't refund me.

Almost every day I wonder how some companies survive. So many of them seem to have absolutely no understanding how to deal with customers when things go wrong. They also seem to have no understanding of the laws that protect consumers.

Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Act says that consumers are entitled to receive "goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects". In other words, the things we buy should do what they're meant to do. A bed should be suitable for sleeping in and shouldn't break.

However, sometimes things go wrong and Section 16 of the Act deals with this. It says that if goods are faulty we can return them to the store:
"within six months after the delivery of the goods".
It then says that the store can then choose to:
"repair or replace the defective goods or refund the consumer the amount already paid".
Although the Act doesn't say how quickly a store must do this, I'm sure we all agree that 6 months is too long. Your bed should have been replaced or repaired within days, not half a year. I'll contact the store and see if they can move a little faster than this.

Can I get a refund too?

Please help me on this issue. I bought a couch last September for P7,000. Then in December 2023 I realized that it had torn stitches. I called the shop to tell them and they came to see it and said the person who fixes such is on a holiday so they'll come and fetch it in January 2024. January passed but they never came. I went back to them on the 5th March and met with the manager and they said I should bring it to the shop. I refused till the manager ruled that they will collect it. They collected it on 6th March then on 7th the driver called and said the supplier insisted I should come collect the couch and wash it before they fix it. Then I said No I didn't buy the item from a supplier but from them and coming to recollect it will be a cost on me. On 8th April I did a follow up and they said they've long asked me to come collect it and wash it. I don't know why they can't at least return my money because I bought it cash not even on high purchase. I talked to the manager and he says he will give me feedback during the day and on the 12th April I called again then they said the manager is busy. Please help me Sir.

How can this be so complicated? As far as I can see, the situation is very simple. They sold you a couch that started to fall apart and they should have fixed that quickly. Their accusation that the couch was dirty is a distraction. Their job was to sell you a couch that was usable and to fix it if it wasn't.

However, there's good news. I contacted the Country Manager for the chain of furniture stores and his response to his colleagues was very simple. He told them that "This is poor customer service" and demanded immediate action.

Please let me know when they contact you.

Saturday 27 April 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my deposit?

Kindly assist here. Last year, I made a deposit at a store so I could lay-bye a Sony Soundbar. When I went to settle the balance, I was told that the soundbar is out of stock, and that their policy was to NOT keep lay-byed items in the premises until they are cleared off. I asked them to refund the deposit I had made, but they insisted that they'll order one for me, and that it would arrive within the week. Mind you, last year's "Black Friday" special was still on, all over town. I went back to them 10 days later, and I was told the exact same thing, that "it's not in stock" This was around the 7th of December 2023.

I asked, yet again, to be refunded and they told me to submit my bank statements on some, "it's protocol" and I complied with their tedious 'protocol'. I was assured that I'd get my money "in a week or 2. I went back to them around the 19th, and then every week since then, and each time, I was told a different story. Promises were made to me each time, and not a single one was seen through. Long story short, my refund has been pending, and it has been 4 months now. I relocated, so I don't go to them as often but I call them every week, and I'm just told "We'll get back to you!" which they never do! With that, kindly assist me?

This is intolerable in so many different ways. Firstly, my understanding of a lay-bye is that the item is reserved for you until you've made the final payment. It might not be the exact item you saw in the store but somewhere there should be an identical item for you ready to pick up. It should be quite simple. But not in this case.

I think you were right to demand a refund and it shouldn't have been a complicated thing for them to process. Yes, there should have been some paperwork to complete, confirming that you really want to cancel the deal and for them to process whatever they need to do but I can't see how it would take more than a few days at the most. It's 2024, I'm sure they have the technology to do this. Even if they don't and they're still operating with pieces of paper and pencils, it shouldn't take more than four months to give you your money back. I'll contact them.

Update: They tell me your refund has already been processed. They'll call you.

Can I cancel the policy?

I need your help please. we were approached by an insurance broker and he was telling us about their life cover and investment policy so I got interested but he didn't mention that he is the broker for a particular insurance company which I realised later. I emailed him telling him to cancel the policy because I don't wany anything associated with them because they once did something not good to me. So he didn't reply and I called him and he told me it is not possible to cancel and I will cancel after a year. I told him I will approach the insurance company and he told me they are going to refer me back to him. I realised yesterday when i received my payslip that they have deducted without even enquiring from me. Please help me I want to cancel this policy please.

I think this will be easy to fix. The insurance company will understand that the policy was incorrectly opened and I'm certain they'll close it as soon as you speak to them.

The bigger issue is this broker. He simply can't be trusted. There is a common misunderstanding about the difference between an insurance broker and an insurance company. The most important difference is that the broker works for YOU, not the insurance company. It's the job of the broker to find the right policy for you, a policy that meets YOUR needs. Clearly this guy is working for his own interests and is making up stories when he says you can't cancel the policy. That's simply a lie. Insurance policies have a cooling off period that NBFIRA insist upon. I think we both need to alert NBFIRA that they have a rogue broker to deal with.

Update: The insurance policy has been cancelled.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my ring?

Hi Richard. Kindly help. In December I ordered a custom ring from a store and they said total cost is P11,900. I paid the required 50% deposit of P5,950 on 12th December 2023 and was informed of an 8 week waiting time which I was comfortable with as the wedding was on 05th April 2024. In March because of their prolonged silence I enquired about where my ring is and all they told me was that it is in shipping and they promised that it would be ready for collection on 22nd March 2024 which was not the case.

In all these its always too difficult to get any response from them. As we continued to probe, they decided to send us a temporary ring as the wedding date approached. I tried to show them the importance of having my actual ring on my wedding day and as usual it was always difficult to get any response or updates. They did say they're having a customs issue and that they had to submit invoice and other documents and I questioned why they had not done that all along to no response. I now decided I want a refund because I am convinced the ring does not exist and sent them both an email and whatsapp message and they only respond after countless follow-ups of asking them to treat this as urgent. Looks like they are not willing to?

This is completely unacceptable. It's also enormously insulting.

It's a constant surprise how badly some people operating in the various industries supporting weddings can behave. Almost every week we hear from people who've been badly let down when they've ordered wedding dresses, catering, cakes, transport, furniture and jewellery like you. I really don't understand how these shady suppliers can forget how important the date is. These are not events that can be postponed. They also often cost vast amounts of money.

I'm happy to contact the company and see if they would like the public to know how badly they treat customers on such important occasions.

Must I take defective chairs?

Good morning sir. I would like to raise a complaint against a furniture store in Mahalapye. I bought chairs for P33,000 from them on laybye and finished paying in August 2023. Upon settling the balance, the manager insisted we got chairs from the display since he felt lazy to travel to the Palapye warehouse to collect our chairs, which we turned down because we felt like the ones on display were used hence we wanted brand new ones. He then agreed to give us new ones. After delivering the chairs we found defects. I got hold of the sales lady who promised to report the issue to the manager so that they replace. So when the time to replace came, the manager took us back to the display chairs issue which we rejected.

Ever since then the manager keep on saying I'm coming to change the chairs but he never delivers. Even the same broken chairs, none of the staff came to see what we are talking about. Now we have broken chairs in our living room and we scared that they want to tell us that the chairs have been with us since they never came to recollect them. Unfortunately the info we get is that there is no head office and every shop handles its issues which means we go back to the same people who are giving us attitude whenever we are there. We are frustrated because of this issue to the extent of trying to get hold of the regional manager, the same people gave us the wrong number. Please assist us sir.

Again, this is completely unacceptable. Whether it was a purchase by cash, hire purchase or laybye, you deserve new chairs. Not second-hand, used, repaired, defective chairs or former display models. You deserve what you paid for. New chairs.

I also think it was very unwise of the staff to tell you that they have no Head Office. Because they do. And I know the General Manager. Very silly of them. I'll contact the GM to tell them how badly their staff behave.

UPDATE: The chairs were delivered before I got a chance to contact Head Office. But they still need to know.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get my money back?

Hello Mr Richard. May you please assist me. This situation is about forex trading. There was a certain person who trades for people and he did trade for me. We entered into an agreement that my funds will be given to me after 22 days. This was last year around June. He did make the trade as per the agreement. I put in $100 and up to now he is giving me the round around to give me my money. A service was done but playing around now to give me my money. He said he made $287 plus he was going to add a bit more for the delay he caused me. He has registered his trading as a company with CIPA. I have the contract we signed and all the conversations. He keeps saying he will send my money but up to now it's just stories. He kept giving reasons like BURS was auditing the company but still giving me the run around. Now that this is a registered business I believe he needs to stop playing these games and pay me. Please help?

The starting point here is that this guy can't be trusted. I suspect he's been lying to you since Day 1.

What many of these so-called forex trader gurus do is simply to pretend to be trading for us. They create impressive looking statements and web pages that appear to show massive profits but in fact they just take victim's money and kept it for themselves. Everything you see is fake, all constructed to encourage you to "invest" more and more money with them. They're like muggers that persuade their victims to be mugged over and over again.

Unfortunately, it's unlikely that you'll get your money back. The only chance will be if you contact the Police and lay a charge against him. The good news is that the Police are becoming much capable and willing to take on crimes like this.

Have we waited long enough?

Hello Mr Richard. I'm asking if I may get help from somewhere. My issue is that my mum insured her mum at her bank and their waiting period is 5 months. Mum opened the policy on the 13th February 2023 and they started to debit the money on the 26th March. Her mother passed away on the 27th July and they refused to do a claim saying she not qualifying.

Is it possible?

Unfortunately it is.

Firstly, I'm very sorry for your loss. Whenever you take out an insurance policy it's critically important that you read and completely understand the terms and conditions. Anyone who has seen an insurance policy will know that the T&Cs can be very long, very complicated and difficult to understand. However, it's the job of the insurance company or the broker or agent that sold it, to explain the things that really matter. One of the most important thing that matters is the waiting period that most policies have. Whether it's a life insurance policy, a vehicle policy, a funeral plan or a medical aid, it's incredibly important to completely understand the waiting period before you can claim.

I contacted the bank and they told me that the "policy commencement period is valid 30 days after the 1st payment and in this case the first payment was deducted on 26th March therefore the 1st month of the policy is effective from the 26th April counting 5 months therefore by July the Policy waiting period had not lapsed".

Unfortunately, according to the small print in the policy, your grandmother passed away only 4 months after the commencement date so they don't need to pay anything. I'm sorry I don't have better news.

Sunday 31 March 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay them?

Hello sir. I want to understand something. I was owing a certain clothing store in Gaborone a certain amount of P3,000 but all of a sudden I was called by a certain man saying he is from a certain company sending me their account numbers saying I will be then paying to them the sum of P4,000. When I enquired asking I realised the clothing store have sold my credit/debt to that company but the thing is I'm forced to pay that P4,000. My worry is I have never made any agreement of P4,000 with that company. I don't even know myself what is the right way to go about this?

Unfortunately, there's very little you can do about this. If a company has a debtor who has owed money for a long time without making repayments, it's common practice for them to sell the debt to a debt collector. It's then up to the debt collector to collect as much as they can from the defaulting customer.

The good news is that debt collectors are often a little flexible about the amount they want from you. I spoke to one who even offers a discount to customers who come forward and cooperate. However, the bad news is that debt collectors don't ever give up. It's their job, it's how they make money and they are very good at it.

You also asked whether it's ok for them to collect the money when you never made any agreement with them? Yes, it is ok. If you look back to your original agreement with the clothing store you'll find that it says that they can pass your debt to debt collectors when they choose to do so.

I suggest you contact the debt collector as soon as possible and negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford and that they can accept. Please do it sooner rather than later.

Where's my phone?

Greetings Richard. Kindly advise me here. My younger sister bought an iPhone X 64 GB from a shop by laybye. When we went to clear the balance and collect the phone we found out that they sold the phone she laybyed and offered us to take iPhone X 256GB and told us to top up but we refused to top up so he gave us the latter phone.

After some weeks she found out that the phone has a software problem and it's not even connecting to wi-fi and she went back to the owner to tell him the phone problem and then he said that she will bring the phone for exchange when he receives new stock on Monday. The day arrived but he said stock didn't arrive and he said the next Monday. The next Monday it was the same story and when we spoke to him again he said stocked arrived but there was a different phone and no iPhone X.

I think it's time to say goodbye to this store. Clearly they're incapable of selling you a phone or perhaps even of running a business properly. Firstly they broke their contract with your sister by selling the phone they were meant to have put aside for her and for which she paid them in full. Then they gave her a faulty phone that couldn't do a basic thing like connect to WiFi.

And now they can't even deliver what she paid for. Obviously it's up to her but if I was in her position I would tell them it's over and that I want a complete refund.

I tried contacting the store but I don't think they're interested in responding but together I'm sure we'll get them to respond eventually. Then they can think about doing the right thing.

Update: I messaged the store and their response wasn't very helpful. They said:
"Which one you talking about
And who are you ?
I’m talked with customer
I’m not talking with 3rd person"
But then they did talk. They called me, shouted at me a bit, demanded to know why I was involved and suggested it was wrong of me to contact them.

Eventually they calmed down and promised that your sister will get her phone in 10-12 days.

They said that they told your sister that the phone was refurbished, and not new as your sister thought. I explained that the law is very simple about selling used items as new but they claimed not to know about this. I told them that Section 13 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a supplier who:
"offers used goods shall inform a consumer that the goods sold are used goods by ... placing a label on the goods that indicates that such goods are used goods; and ... placing a notice on the invoice issued to a consumer"
It goes on to say that a supplier that fails to do this:
"shall be liable … to a fine not exceeding P50 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both"
Maybe they won't do this again?