Friday 8 February 2008

The Voice - Dear Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer's Voice

I recently went to a computer store that advertised in The Advertiser to buy a cheap computer for use at home. The computer cost P2,499 which seemed like a very good price. I paid them a deposit of P1,000 and went the next day to pay them the rest. However then they told me I had to pay extra for software. I assumed that the price included everything but they wanted P600 more from me. I couldn’t afford this so I told them that I had changed my mind and wanted my money back but they refused.

What can I do?

You can demand your money back immediately. The Consumer Protection Regulations are very clear. If a supplier mislead you about what you were buying you can cancel the whole deal. Then they must return your deposit to you without delay. From what you say it sounds like they misrepresented the computer they were offering you. Unless you told them that you were a computer expert they should have assumed that you were not. They should have explained to you that the computer you were buying wasn’t useable unless you bought the software it needs to work.

Computers are like cars. A car doesn’t work without fuel, a computer doesn’t work without software. They should have told you this before taking your money.

The other question is what they offered to give you for the additional P600. Every computer requires an operating system and additional software that allows you to write letters, use spreadsheets and send email. You can get some operating systems and software for free but most people use Microsoft Windows and Windows software, most of which you have to buy. P600 seems a very strange amount either for the free stuff or for the software you must buy. It’s possible what you were offered was illegal.

The lesson is to ask up front what you are buying and get them to put it in writing. Then take it to someone you trust who knows about computers and get their advice. Never, ever, under any circumstances accept pirated software. It won’t work properly and you will have no legal rights. Be warned!

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