Friday 2 December 2011

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

A few months ago, I received a call from my bank requesting me to submit some documents relating to my account. I told them that I gave them the documents when I opened the account and said that if they want them again they should ask me in writing. To my surprise I received an unsigned letter, not even on a letter head which I decided to ignore. A few days later, I received another call asking me whether I had received the letter. I told her I ignored the letter because it was not signed.

Two weeks later I noticed that my account has been blocked and I raised my concern with the customer service department and demanded that my account be unblocked because I was not at fault but to no avail. As a follow up I wrote a letter to the Managing Director demanding that my account be unblocked, sent by registered mail, on October 25, 2011. As of today I have not received any response and my account still remains blocked. Surely it was unprofessional and unethical for them to block my account like this? I maintain that they should first of all unblock my account and ask for those documents formally, not in a forceful manner by way of blocking my account.

Clearly something has gone badly wrong here.

You’re not the only person who finds it very irritating when banks demand information that you’ve already given them. It’s happened to me before and I’ve always insisted that the bank look in it’s existing records before bothering me. Your situation is even worse than that. I can only imagine how angry you must be.

I suggest you write to the bank demanding an explanation, a solution and an apology for their discourtesy. We’ll contact them as well and see if we can apply some friendly pressure.

Update: the account has now been unblocked, a proper letter has been written (on headed paper this time) and they’ll be apologizing for the disruption to the reader’s life!

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I would like to enquire about stores searching our plastic bags and handbags at the door. I thought that there was a law against that.

I would also like to find out about the procedures of lay- bye, I lay-byed a hand bag worth P1,200 at a store in Game City but after I took the bag I noticed that the zip was broken. I went back to the store with the bag and the receipt but they refused to exchange it and are being difficult about the whole issue. What can I do?

Regarding the first issue, I think we have to understand that stores have a right to protect themselves against the high levels of shoplifting some experience. However, I also share your unhappiness with the way they often do this. Decent consumers like you and I hate being treated like a criminals when we shop. I think it’s up to stores to find a way to protect themselves but also not to make us feel humiliated and embarrassed. They could begin with a little courtesy.

Regarding the lay-byed hand bag I think you need to be much more assertive with them. It doesn’t matter a bit that you bought the bag after a lay-bye, the fact is that the bag is not “of merchantable quality” as required by Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations. I think you should go back to the store, politely demand to speak to the manager, politely explain that they’ve breached Section 13 (1) (a) and politely demand that they do something about it. If this doesn’t work then you should politely ask if they’d like some free publicity in The Voice. Just not good publicity.

We had another complaint recently from a shopper who was stopped by the security team in a store in Francistown. They searched her bags but when they found nothing they insisted on strip-searching her, even searching in her underwear. I spoke to a friendly lawyer about this one and she was spitting with rage when she heard about it. This is one we won’t let rest.

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