Saturday 31 October 2015

Inform yourself

Every day it becomes more important for consumer to inform themselves about how things work. Not understanding can lead to unhappiness, embarrassment and poverty.

Let’s start with modern technology. In the last month I’ve been forced to remove twelve posts from our Facebook group because they appeared to be advertising pornography. In fact they weren’t linking to porn at all, they just linked to advertising sites that (I assume) were trying to boost their popularity and therefore earnings by getting as many clicks as possible.

The thing that interests me is how these links came to be posted. Almost every time I contact the member of the group who posted them their answer is roughly the same. One said:
“My fb acc was hacked yesterday morning by sum1 in Lagos, this person has been posting malicious and xplicit content on diff groups. Pliz ignore those msgs. I sincerely apologise for th disturbing msgs. I am now in control of my acc n hv since changed security n access details to improve th security. Thanx for notifying me.”
But that simply isn’t true. Nobody in Lagos has “hacked” his Facebook account. The truth is much simpler, and potentially more embarrassing.

When people see these links offering pornography some are tempted and click on the link and are then faced with a request to allow the malicious web site or Facebook app to post on Facebook on your behalf. Tempted by the prospect of seeing something titillating they say Yes. The app then starts doing exactly what it has now been permitted to do, posting the very same message that first tempted that Facebook user to click on it, but this time using his or her name. In fact that’s how it happened the first time. This is nothing more than an app spreading itself virally, just like someone with the flu. Every time they cough or sneeze some people are infected and then start coughing and spreading it further themselves. In exactly the same way, every time a Facebook user clicks on a suspicious link and then gives permission for the app to post on his behalf, the virus is spread further.

The lesson is a simple one. There are people out there who will do their best to abuse your Facebook presence to make themselves some money. Ask yourself this. Why would you believe a total stranger who offers you online pornography and then explicitly asks you to trust them and hand over your Facebook identity?

If you’re worried you should sign on to Facebook right now, click on Settings and then on Apps and see who you’ve previously permitted to post on your behalf.

It’s not just technology that people don’t understand. Insurance is perhaps the biggest areas of ignorance. One of the commonest questions we get asked runs like this:
“Please help. If I surrender my Mmoloki funeral policy from Botswana Life will they refund me all the money I paid?”
Unfortunately, so many people fail to understand what you’re buying when you sign an insurance policy. You’re paying someone else, in this case an insurance company, to take a risk on your behalf. If something bad happens during the period of the policy that it covers, such as a car crash, a break-in or a death, the insurance company will pay for things instead of you having to do so. However, the critical thing is that it’s not the payout you’re buying, it’s the cover that might (and only might) lead to the payout. No payout is guaranteed. If the bad thing doesn’t happen then there’s no payout. But if it does happen you don’t need to worry about the money.

Insurance companies make money by knowing the chances of bad things happening and then calculating how much they should charge people so that they take in slightly more money in premiums than they are likely to pay out. Those of us who have made claims are benefiting from those who were lucky enough not to have a problem.

Several times in the last few months we’ve been asked the same question about insurance. If several people have included the same person in their funeral plan policies can they all claim when that person dies? Several people have apparently been told that in these circumstances only one person can submit a claim and get the money. That’s simply incorrect. One of the big insurance companies told us, in very simple terms, “This is definitely incorrect. We pay benefits based on whether or not all premiums are up to date and not based on how many people had covered the deceased.”

So everyone who has a fully paid-up policy can submit a claim.

And finally there’s an issue of pricing. Is it legal for companies to sell things in Rands? Part of the confusion is that certain stores display price stickers showing prices in Rands as well as stickers in Pula. We all understand that this is because they import goods from their mother companies in South Africa but my question is why they don’t take the time to remove the Rand sticker when they put a Pula sticker on?

The rules are actually very simple. You and I can buy and sell things in any currency that we choose to. I can sell you my car in Pula, US dollars or Russian Rubles so long as we both agree to it.

Perhaps what’s more important is that certain stores obey the law but show us contempt. The issue isn’t the currency of sale, it’s the price that matters. If Woolworths are selling an item for R18.95 in SA why do they sell it in Botswana for P18.95? At current exchange rates it shouldn’t cost more that P15 at the most. Yes, maybe that’s a very small difference but if that’s the case with every item they’re selling they’re making a lot of extra money from us.

So why can’t they explain to us how that works?

Friday 30 October 2015

The Voice - Consumers Voice

Is this just a scam?

Please assist, I would like to know if this is legit or its just a scam. The person said hes in France and can loan us some money to start businesses here in Botswana and Africa. His email says

“I'm in France, particular lender, I work with enough Bank, the interest rate is 2%, as a document I simply request a copy of your ID or passport and some additional information. Then the notary will contact you to settle your loan contract that will be signed, so that your loan is approved and there Bank to directly send your money by bank transfer.”
He said the conditions were
“To be major. Being of good character. Being consent for a 2% interest for any request. The repayment term varies from 06-360 months. Be prepared to provide certain information and documents. Being mutually agreed to sign a loan agreement. Your loan repayments are necessarily fit your budget. You may request reimbursement of your modulation mode up or down every 06 months.”
This is certainly a scam, there’s absolutely no doubt about it. Real lenders don’t operate like this. Real lenders certainly don’t lend to people in foreign countries at unbelievably low interest rates. Real lenders can express themselves properly. And I bet the email he sent you didn’t even use your name? That’s because he probably sent it to thousands, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands of people at the same time.

This is the beginning of an “advance fee” scam. Sooner or later they’ll ask you to send them money, perhaps for attorney’s fees, an account opening charge or a tax payment, either way that’s what the scam is all about, that money in advance.

Please don’t send them any money, just ignore them and delete any further emails you get from them!

Can I get a refund?
I booked for accommodation at a Bed & Breakfast at Mogoditshane for P300 on the 8th October at about 1740 and we put our bag in the room and about 1810 we were called by a customer to attend them. We spoke to the receptionist and narrated the story and requested the refund and he told us that it is not possible for them to refund us. I request the number for the supervisor and he gave the cell number for the manager, I gave my partner the number and he called but the manager said their policy does not allow refunds.

He asked the manager where is the policy he talking about been displayed so that we can read for ourselves and said it has not been displayed and failed to give the reason why it not displayed and then he was given the email address and he said he will email it the following day in the morning and up to now he has never done that and no follow up call that he made. He was told that we have not option but to report the matter to Consumer Watchdog and he said we can go ahead no problem.

I am asking your office to assist us in getting the refund or any possible option.

Unfortunately I’m not sure that you’re entitled to a full refund for a couple of reasons.

Firstly you did actually occupy the rooms, even if just for a very short while. I’m not sure whether the rooms were “used” in any way, but technically they had been and might require cleaning before being offered to another customer. Certainly if I was the next guest after you in that room I would want it cleaned before I occupied it.

Secondly, and more importantly I think they might be justified in withholding your payment because you effectively “blocked” the room for the night. They could have offered the room to another customer who would have stayed and paid the full rate for the night. By booking the room and then leaving at the last minute you effectively prevented the B&B from offering it to someone else and earning income as a result. Giving you a refund would lose them that night’s income from the room.

You ask about whether the no-refund rule should have been displayed. Not necessarily. Not all rules need to be displayed for them to be enforceable. It’s common practice for hotels and B&Bs not to refund some or all of the payment if people fail to stay the night having previously booked it. It’s not a strange or unreasonable thing.

Sorry that I can’t be more helpful.

Monday 26 October 2015

Breaking news: a press release from Multichoice Botswana

This is the full text of a press release from Multichoice Botswana:
MultiChoice Africa brings BBC First to Botswana

Second new BBC Worldwide global genre brand to launch on DStv with popular shows Downton Abbey and EastEnders

26 October 2015: MultiChoice Africa is delighted to inform our viewers in Botswana that we have listened to their requests and have made the decision to bring BBC First to their television screens from 27 October 2015. On this channel, DStv Premium subscribers will be able to catch top-rated British drama series such as Wolf Hall and Peaky Blinders along with EastEnders and the latest season of Downton Abbey.

Following the refresh of the BBC Worldwide channels in September, MultiChoice Africa introduced BBC Brit (DStv channel 120) alongside BBC Lifestyle and CBeebies on the Premium, Compact and Compact Plus packages. Lately, we have received an increase in requests for content that was moved to the new channel, BBC First, during the refresh. As a company that values our loyal subscribers, MultiChoice Africa decided to also add this channel to the DStv platform as part of our continuous efforts to provide our viewers with content they want to watch.

“Subscriber satisfaction is a high priority for us. When we realised that our valued subscribers were highly disappointed at missing out on their favourite shows which were moved to BBC First during the BBC channel refresh, we went back to the drawing board to re-evaluate our decision on BBC First,” said Billy Sekgororoane, General Manager MultiChoice Botswana. “We sincerely apologise to all our loyal subscribers for our initial decision to not acquire BBC First. That was an error in judgement on our side. We hope that the addition of this channel will reassure them that we do listen to them and we are still committed to ensuring they receive the best programming variety in the world.”

BBC First will be available on channel 119 to the DStv Premium package and will air from 18:00 - 01:00 CAT daily.

BBC First is the new home of the great original, innovative British drama. With award-winning talent in front of and behind the camera, the channel gives audiences the chance to see unforgettable stories that challenge, immerse and entertain – all from a distinctly British perspective. The new channel will challenge perceptions and exceed expectations while delivering quality entertainment content to discerning viewers.

In October on BBC First, viewers can look forward to highly rated and star-studded BBC drama offerings including Wolf Hall, a historical mini-series based on Hilary Mantel’s Booker-winning novels about the rise of Thomas Cromwell in Henry VIII’s Tudor court, starring Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis (Homeland).

Smash-hit period drama Downton Abbey returns for its much-anticipated fifth series in addition to brand new sci-fi time-travelling heroics in Doctor Who S9 and sun-drenched murder-mystery series Death in Paradise.

BBC First is also home to long-running soap opera EastEnders (celebrating its 30th year of chronicling the ups and downs of the colourful inhabitants of London’s East End), airing Monday to Thursday at 18:00 and Casualty airing Fridays at 18:00.

Joel Churcher, General Manager and Vice President for Africa, BBC Worldwide commented: "The BBC is known for producing outstanding drama with fans of our shows spanning the globe. I’m delighted that we are able to introduce even more innovative, distinctive British drama to the African market through BBC First, alongside our current channel portfolio, BBC Brit, BBC Lifestyle, CBeebies and BBC World News”.

Among the highlights in store for the coming months are the World War One-era gangster drama Peaky Blinders (starring Cillian Murphy), Cold War spy thriller The Game, popular detective series DCI Banks and the new psychological thriller Fortitude, set in a close-knit community in the icy Arctic.

Other top-drawer fare coming up on BBC First is the riveting film Burton and Taylor, centring on the twilight years of this A-list couple’s volatile relationship, starring Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth Taylor and Dominic West as Richard Burton.

A new detective series, Father Brown, stars Mark Williams as a Catholic priest with a penchant for solving crimes in the pastoral English countryside. Set in the 1950s, it is based on the stories of GK Chesterton. And the first season of Happy Valley, the hotly anticipated BAFTA-winning police drama series set in a small town, will also premiere exclusively for BBC First viewers.

For unmissable round-the-clock British drama at its most compelling and innovative, tune in to BBC First, DStv channel 119, from Tuesday, 27 October 2015.

For more information, please visit

Notes to editors:
About BBC Worldwide
BBC Worldwide is the main commercial arm and a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Its vision is to build the BBC’s brands, audiences, commercial returns and reputation across the world. This is achieved through investing in, commercialising and showcasing content from the BBC around the world, in a way that is consistent with BBC standards and values. The business also champions British creativity globally.

In 2014/15, BBC Worldwide generated headline profits of £138.6m and headline sales of £1,001.8m and returned a record £226.5m to the BBC. For more detailed performance information please see our Annual Review website:

Breaking news. An email from Multichoice Botswana.

BREAKING NEWS. An email just came in from Multichoice Botswana. It goes like this:
"Good Afternoon Richard,

I’d like to share this release that will be going out to the media shortly.

We know a lot of your followers have been understandably upset with the fact that MultiChoice Africa countries, including Botswana, were not to receive BBC First. We escalated the issue and have finally got relief. BBC First will be on our platform as of the 27th October 2015. At this time I am unable to confirm the exact time the channel will go active, but I will communicate this in due course.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and do thank all of our subscribers for their patience."
Am I permitted to say RESULT!!!?

Saturday 24 October 2015

Do things change?

Yes, of course things change. But sometimes VERY slowly.

Even though it sometimes challenges my patience I do understand that all the best change is evolutionary, not revolutionary. The best change is that which has happened gradually, little step by little step. Sudden, radical change usually ends up failing. History has shown us that revolutionary political change usually results in starvation, dictatorship and war. Revolutionary change in business ends up with the “New Coke” fiasco (youngsters can Google that one).

For me the most frustrating thing is how long it can take for a community to learn lessons from each other and from the nation’s experience.

Two people have asked in the last week whether two different investment opportunities could be trusted. The first was an advertisement on Facebook which said:

“My Dear Botswana Friends. Are you aware that Botswana is officially open to trade with Gold Bullion? Accept for RSA it’s not allowed in most of Southern Africa. This is a huge window of opportunity for a Batswana to take advantage of and to make money with gold. Click on this link and join my International GoldRule Club for free and we will teach you how!”
If you click on the link you visit a site called “Lightminded: Rich Mind Rich Man”.

The opening paragraph on this site says:
"I want to share with you something that is already changing the financial world, as we know it, forever. When I discovered it for the first time, I was blown away - and I do not get blown away easily. A few moths [sic] ago I teamed up with top international cashflow creation experts to develop a program, which enables us to create unlimited cashflow, and we are now ready to share it with you."
You know already, don't you, that there’s something fishy going on when you see a phrase like "enables us to create unlimited cashflow"? And you know that whenever someone who has discovered an amazing money-making scheme wants "to share it with you" you have to ask yourself why?

Another clue is when he says:
"Please don't send me a message asking me what this is about. Just follow the steps if you want to know what it is about!"
Here's a free tip. Any money-making schemes that is secretive has something to hide.

Once you’ve read all this silliness you’re invited to click on yet another link where you can join this guy’s “Gold Club”. And guess where that link takes you?


You might remember Karatbars being aggressively marketed in Botswana a couple of years ago with similar stories of the riches you could make. The scheme is based on buying very small quantities of gold and of course recruiting people beneath you to both buy the mini-gold and recruiting further levels beneath them as well. In fact the price you paid to buy this gold is much higher than the real gold price and besides, the price of gold has been steadily dropping since 2012 so it’s hardly a great investment. What was more interesting was how they marketed their business in Botswana. One of their local representatives claimed that the German Embassy, the Department of Mines and BURS had all endorsed their scheme. This wasn’t true and I know this because I asked them and they all denied it. Then came an even bigger lie. They said that the “doubting thomases then went to consumer watch dog. They also gave us a thumbs up.”

That was an even bigger lie. Not only had we never given them “a thumbs up”, in fact we’d been saying (and continue to say) that they’re a pyramid scheme and that people should never, under any circumstances, join their ridiculous scheme.

Unfortunately my suspicion that they’d gone away was wrong. Karatbars and their ridiculous scheme is still around and the danger is that many people will continue to fall for their scheme, losing not only time and effort but also money.

The good news is that many more individuals are skeptical of such schemes but we have a long way to go before we develop a community “herd immunity” that will protect the nation as a whole.

Despite what Mmegi readers might think people are even still falling for the multitude of scams present on the internet. We are still often asked whether it’s possible that a corrupt South African government minster really does want to offer a randomly selected stranger $30.5 million or if it’s possible that you’ve “won $350,000 in SADC promotion” or even if you’ve won millions in the Euro Milliones Spanish Lottery Prize Award that you never entered. Bizarrely we still get these questions from people who have already been asked to pay over the “advance fee” that all scammers are after.

But some things DO change. Perhaps.

In 2013 the Competition Authority approved the acquisition of all the Woolworths stores in Botswana by the Woolworths Group in South Africa. Woolworths in SA said they wanted to streamline their operations and offer their customers in Botswana improved services, better product quality, greater localization of supply and price reductions.

So the question is simple.

Did these things actually happen? Have you noticed a difference? Are their prices better than they were in the past? Do they offer a better range of better products? Above all, the big question that everyone is asking is how do their prices compare to those charged for identical products in their stores in South Africa?

Visit our Facebook group and you’ll see a link to a very simple online questionnaire that asks you these questions. Please spare 2 minutes of your time and let’s see whether Woolworths has in fact changed. If so we can congratulate them. If not…

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is it my job to submit a claim?

Sometime back I learned with concern that if five people buy a funeral cover for the same individual at Botswana Life, only three of them will claim when the time of need comes, with the rest loosing out even though they have been subscribing for the cover all the years. If this is true then my question is, is this fair business practice by Botswana Life? Why do they have to receive the monies if they know u wont claim. Isn't this stealing from us?

I’m not quite sure I understand your question. If you’re asking whether there is a rule that says only three customers can claim against their funeral policy when someone dies then no, that’s not the case. Someone else asked us about this a few months ago and we contacted Botswana Life and they were very clear. Their representative told us:
“We pay benefits based on whether or not all premiums are up to date and not based on how many people had covered the deceased.”
It simply doesn’t matter how many people cover an individual in their funeral policies. When that person passes away, everyone who covered them can claim, so long as their premiums are up-to-date.

On the other hand, if you’re asking whether Botswana Life are responsible if some of those people who covered the deceased just fail to submit a claim, then no, it’s not Botswana Life’s fault. It’s up to the policy-holder to submit a claim, it’s not the insurer’s job to chase the customer and ask if they want to claim.

If a loved-one passes away it is the responsibility of everyone who covered that person to promptly submit a claim. And they must do it quickly as well, there’s only a limited period in which claims can be submitted. Read your insurance policies again as soon as you can or call your insurer and ask them what the conditions might be.

We have a big problem with insurance in Botswana. Many, many people simply don’t understand what insurance is and how it works. Come on the insurance industry. Get out there and start educating us on why insurance is so important!

Where’s my cellphone?
I need help with this issue. I bought a cellphone from a furniture store with one year guarantee. After a few months the phone failed to function and I took it back to the store. This was back in August this year. Its now October and I still have not received my phone. I never get any update from them unless I personally call them although they had promised to offer me continuous updates. Every time I inquire on the progress of the phone repair I get the same answer: that they are still awaiting instructions from their South African office on whether to fix the phone or give me a new one. I wrote a letter to them last week demanding what is due to me and I still have not been dignified with the courtesy of a response.

So far I think you’ve done everything right. You waited patiently and have now demanded that the store offers you a solution. So far, so good.

The basic facts are simple. When you bought the phone you had a right (as described in Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations) to expect it to be “of merchantable quality” which the Regulations define as “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased, as it is reasonable to expect in light of the relevant circumstances”. So long as you don’t mistreat it, you can expect a cellphone to work properly for the duration of the warranty. Clearly this cellphone failed that test.

Section 15 (1) (a) of the Regulations says that you’re also entitled to services that are delivered “with reasonable care and skill”. When they try to sort out a problem they should do so carefully and skillfully. Clearly the store fails that test.

I think it’s time to escalate the situation a bit. We’ll get in touch with the store management and see if they can’t get things moving a bit more quickly. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, do you?

Saturday 17 October 2015

Ignorant or stupid?

There is a huge difference between ignorance and stupidity.

Ignorance simply means not knowing something. Stupidity is not being able to know anything. I’m entirely ignorant about Mongolian poetry but I know what both Mongolia and poetry are and if I decided to I could probably learn about the subject. So I hope I’m not stupid.

At Consumer Watchdog I have to confess that we do sometimes encounter people who are stupid. Really, really stupid. But for every stupid person we meet we probably meet another 99 who are simply ignorant. They’re certainly not stupid but there’s just an area of their lives (like Mongolian poetry) where they simply don’t have the knowledge needed to make rational judgments.

Someone contacted us recently asking:
“I hit another car from behind and it only damaged the rear bumper. The accident was reported to the police where I was charged with careless driving. The owner want me to repair her car so can I be charged and repair the car at the same time?”
I’ve done my best to explain to this reader that there is absolutely no connection, legally, morally or practically between him being charged for careless driving and paying to repair the damage to the other guy’s car.

Firstly there’s the law. Section 51 of the Road Traffic Act describes “Careless and inconsiderate driving” and says that:
“If a person drives a motor vehicle without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons, he shall be guilty of an offence and shall be sentenced to a fine of not less than P100,00 or more than P500,00, or to imprisonment for a term of not less than two months or more than six months, or to both."
Actually I understand that the fine is now much higher than when the Act was first enacted.

Regardless of what happens or what any other driver says or thinks, it’s illegal to drive in a careless manner on our roads and the Police are empowered to punish people who do so. The fine the reader paid was to the State, not to the other driver whose car he had damaged.

Then there is the compensation he owes to the other driver. He damaged his car and he is the one who should pay to fix it. The other driver is entirely innocent so why should he have to pay to repair damage that someone else caused? He’s already been inconvenienced by the damage to his car so why should he be further inconvenienced by having to pay for it?

We had another question from a consumer whose wife had also been in a minor car accident. Nobody had been hurt but some damage was done to the other driver’s vehicle. Everyone involved accepted that the collision was her fault. The other driver claimed against his vehicle insurance policy and his car was repaired. However, while the other guy’s insurance covered the repairs there was an “excess” amount of P3,000 that the other driver was required to pay. This is common in insurance policies, there is an amount that the policy doesn’t cover which the insured person has to pay. So the other driver came to the husband, the owner of the vehicle, and asked him to pay him back for that sum of P3,000 which he willingly did.

Months later the other driver’s insurance company wrote the husband a letter demanding that he compensate them for the entire cost of the repairs, P10,742. He asked: “Am I legally bound to pay this amount? If so can it be paid in monthly installments?”

The answer is simple. Yes, he IS required to compensate the insurance company. The other driver did nothing wrong, so he deserved to be paid back for his losses and the insurance company didn’t do anything wrong either. They were both “innocent parties” and they deserve to get their money back. It’s perfectly normal practice.

Of course what he should have done is have his own vehicle insurance policy. That way his insurers would have paid the price for him.

Another reader asked:
“is it lawful to blacklist someone with ITC Botswana and still continue charging him/her interest?”
The answer is simple. Yes.

Not only is it lawful, it’s also entirely proper and, even though the reader might have forgotten it, he agreed that this would happen when he signed the initial agreement. I don’t know the details of the case but I bet he bought something on hire purchase or borrowed money and later got into trouble paying and fell behind with the payments. As the original agreement will have said, when that happens the company is entitled to start charging interest on the late payments and to continue to add more and more payments to the growing debt as they are missed. As the debt grew he will have fallen further and further into debt as the interest and the interest on the interest grew.

Then the company is also entitled to declare to a credit reference agency of their choice that he is massively in debt to them. Firstly they’re entitled to do this because it’s true, they’re not lying, but also because in the original agreement he signed there will have been a clause saying that he permitted them do it.

All three of these questions are founded on ignorance (no, not stupidity) about the way in which things happen when you have an accident or borrow money. It really is rather embarrassing that in 2015 there are people who have never been properly educated on the basics of how money and the law work. Isn’t it about time these issues were taught in schools as an essential part of the curriculum?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

My battery is flat!

I bought a car battery from on the 12th December last year. Some while ago the battery could not start the car. This started about 3 months or so ago when it used to require recharging. But now it has completely died. On the 21st September, I took the battery to back to the store in Gaborone West where I was told it needs charging. I then left the battery for charging.

On the 22nd September 2015, I went to collect the battery and I was told it was not covered by warranty as one of the terminals had been hammered by a hammer. However, I am of the view that the battery had a factory defect as it required constant recharging outside the car.

I would like to be refunded my money or battery replaced as it is still under warranty. Is this possible?

This is a tricky one as it seems like a case of “your word against theirs”. You claim one thing, they claim another. However, they can’t just make claims like "one of the terminals had been hammered by a hammer” without having very clear evidence for the claim.

Section 13 (1) (b) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that a “supplier of a commodity or of a service shall fail to meet minimum standards of performance if” … "the supplier quotes scientific or technical data in support of a claim unless the data can be readily substantiated”.

If they want to claim that you hammered the terminals they have to substantiate that claim. You should ask them for that evidence. Until that point you have a right to expect the warranty to be respected.

Where’s my laptop?

Last month I took my laptop to a repair center for fixing because it had LCD panel fault. Upon arrival at the repair center it was agreed that the repair center would diagnose the machine for any and all faults and issue me with a report. This report was supposed to include the faults identified, the quote on the cost of repairs and whether i approved the fixing of the machine.

I have on numerous occasions checked to inquire as to the progress of the diagnosis process but now one month and few days later matters are still unresolved. On the 4-5 visits I made to their premises I have only met with the technician who is handling my case once on 29/09/15, who assured me that the next 3 days he would have something feasible for me. After not receiving any response in the mentioned period I tried contacting the repair center but I was given an excuse that they were still processing my quote and that I would receive it on the next day.

In the agreement it was stated that one of the terms would be paying a P200 fee for the diagnosis report. I understand that I do not have an obligation to pay such an amount since the repair center have not performed the obligating event.

I have made up my mind to withdraw from my agreement with the repair center and would like advice on how to go about it in a way that will not make me liable for any breach.

I think you need to write these guys a letter, fax or email saying that given the unacceptable delay in providing you with a service you are formally cancelling the agreement you had with them. Tell them that unless they provide you with a quote within 24 hours you will consider the agreement cancelled and that they must return the laptop to you the following day in the same condition as when you delivered it to them. Mention that you do not believe that the P200 is payable given their failure to offer the service they proposed.

Tell them that if they fail to do this you will be contacting Consumer Watchdog, The Voice, the Consumer Protection Unit, the local council and the head of your religion of choice.

You might also want to tell them that they have clearly breached Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations and have failed “to meet minimum standards of performance” by offering service that clearly that was “not rendered with reasonable care and skill”.

If they don’t cooperate let me know!

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Karatbars - They're back!

Someone alerted me to an advertisement on Facebook.

It started with a very nice image.

And then there was this.

So obviously you click on that link and you end up here:

The opening paragraph says:
"I want to share with you something that is already changing the financial world, as we know it, forever. When I discovered it for the first time, I was blown away - and I do not get blown away easily.

A few moths [sic] ago I teamed up with top international cashflow creation experts to develop a program, which enables us to create unlimited cashflow, and we are now ready to share it with you."
You know already, don't you, that there's something fishy going on when you see a phrase like "enables us to create unlimited cashflow"? And you know that whenever someone who has discovered an amazing money-making scheme wants "to share it with you" you have to ask yourself why?

Another clue is when he says:
"Please don't send me a message asking me what this is about. Just follow the steps if you want to know what it is about!"
Here's a free tip. Any money-making schemes that is secretive has something to hide.

This is what you're meant to do:
"Step 1 – Click on the GOLD link below and join my Gold Club now for free. When landing on the page, go to registrations and register as an "AFFILIATE". 
      GOLD LINK 
Step 2 – After you completed Steps 1 the system will notify me and I will send you another link, which will give you access to our free online training material and to our popular full day CASHFLOW Training Workshops."
And guess where that takes you?

Remember Karatbars? That was the pyramid scheme based on the sale of micro-quantities of gold.

That would be gold, the price of which has been steadily dropping over the last four years?

Source: gold
The same scheme whose salespeople on Botswana claimed had been endorsed by Consumer Watchdog?

Of course that was a lie.

I think you know what to do, don't you? Save your money, time and effort.

Saturday 10 October 2015

The Brits are catching up with us

They’re even overtaking.

The UK’s new Consumer Rights Act 2015 has recently been enacted and it gives the Brits some new protections. For instance goods bought by consumers in the UK must now be “of satisfactory quality”. Ok, that brings them to our level. You’ll remember that our Consumer Protection Regulations (enacted fourteen years ago) require suppliers to offer commodities and service that are “of merchantable quality” which it defines as meaning “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased”. Roughly the same thing.

Another new British rule states that goods should be “fit for (a) particular purpose” that the consumer mentions to the supplier. Again they’re catching up. Our laws require suppliers to supply goods that are “fit for any particular purpose made known by the consumer”.

However there is one area where they’ve now not only caught up but they’ve overtaken us. Brits now have a new right that I think we should copy.

As well having a right to buy things that are of satisfactory quality they now have the right to insist on certain things if the goods are faulty. To begin with if something is faulty they have the right to insist on either a repair or a replacement. However they now have a new, much more powerful right. If the repair or replacement option fails within thirty days of the purchase the British consumer has a right to INSIST on a refund.

This still gives a store the chance to fix the item or offer a replacement but if that fails then the consumer can cancel the entire deal and get their money back. It’s about time we had the same right. We hear repeatedly from consumers who bought a cellphone or laptop that persistently went wrong and all they ever got were endless promises of repairs. This new rule would still allow a store to repair an item (which is only reasonable) but if means that if after a few weeks the customer still doesn’t have a functional device they can go back to the store and insist on a full refund. It’s their right.

The other big change in the UK’s law is that these rights now extend to digital content as well as physical content. Fewer and fewer of us are buying music and software on disk these days and instead we’re buying it online. Those purchases are covered as well and that’s another area where we need to catch up.

However even if we were to catch up, there are still numerous gaps in our consumer protection laws.

In particular we need protection against the massive upsurge of business and investment “opportunities” that make false promises about the income and profits that can be made. You’ll remember the Eurextrade Ponzi scheme that was targeted specifically at Botswana and was aggressively marketed within the country by its local representatives. They claimed that the scheme could offer “up to 2.9% daily”. That was clearly nonsense but we know of many people who lost their life savings to this scam. Slightly less malign are the multi-level or network marketing schemes that offer a false opportunity to make money from the recruitment of multiple levels of people beneath each recruit. The evidence that these promises are false can be seen in the figures these companies are forced to publish in other countries, showing that only a very tiny minority of recruits make any profits at all and the vast majority make a loss.

I propose an addition to the Consumer Protection Regulations in the list of “acts of unfair business practice” along the following lines:
"advertising business or employment opportunities with claims of income or profits that cannot be readily substantiated"
There’s also an urgent need to include compulsory “cooling off” periods and an absolute right to clarity in contracts.

Cooling off periods are an essential protection for consumers. You might argue that consumers who make rash decisions should face the consequences but there are many situations when they are pressurized and manipulated by sales people into taking decisions they later regret. They need an opportunity to change their minds.

Suppliers will argue that cooling off periods will inconvenience them and will cost them money recovering their goods, but we can protect them from that. The cost of the return can be deducted from the deposit the customer gave the store when they signed the agreement.

Some countries, such as South Africa, provide limited cooling off periods but only for direct selling, not when the consumer initiated the purchase. Other countries provide such periods in a wider range of circumstances. This is an area where we are lagging behind and I think we need to be a step ahead. I propose the following as a starting point:
“Any agreement relating to a sale of goods on any form of deferred payment shall contain a statement explaining that the customer may cancel the agreement in writing within 5 days of signature of that agreement. Any penalties applied by the supplier as a result of the cancellation may not exceed the amount of any deposit made when the agreement was signed.”
We also need to insist that stores, particularly those who sell on credit or hire purchase are much, much clearer about the content of their contracts and what will happen if the customer experiences problems repaying. We hear regularly from consumers who genuinely didn’t understand how their agreements worked and who often end up impoverished as a result. I suggest the following:
"It shall be an unfair business practice for any supplier who offers products or services for sale by way of any form of deferred payment not to clearly and completely explain to customers, in writing and before the customer signs any agreement, the details of the agreement, the penalties that might be applied and obligations incurred in the event of default of payment."
Our current consumer protection laws are very good but we can’t risk falling behind other countries. We can’t let our laws fall behind.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will my warranty extend?

I have a consumer's rights question. Let's say you buy a very expensive product with a 2 year warranty. A month before the warranty expires, the thing stops working. The company happily honors the warranty replacing it with a new item. However, 2 months after the warranty expires (3 months after supposedly replacing it with a new product), the product acts up and the company says "the product has reached its life span and now needs to be completely replaced for P7,000."

The fact that the "new" product only lasted 3 months makes me doubt that I indeed received a new product when it was replaced, since these products are supposed to come with a 2 year guarantee because of their durability. However, is this one, the one that was replaced, under the same initial product warranty?

So my question is the replacement product that was supposed to be brand new be good for the same period of the initial warranty? Or is it okay to give a person something that is about to die right before the warranty expires knowing it will last the next month or so to get them past the warranty and then they will be forced to buy an entirely new product again?

I know it seems bizarre but that’s how warranties work. When you buy an item it will normally come with a warranty that is valid for a specific period, most times just a year but in this case two. That warranty is something that was included in the purchase price.

Put simply that warranty is only valid for the period you paid for. Unless you pay the supplier even more (an “extended warranty”) it will expire at the end of the term you purchased. Even in your situation where the supplier offered you an entirely new replacement item towards the end of the warranty, it will still expire as planned unless you buy an extension (which very few suppliers offer).

There are some suppliers that will offer a short warranty to a repair or sometimes to a replacement but unless you pay them money it will only be for a very short time.

You haven’t been disadvantaged here. You got a full warranty for the item you purchased.

Can I pay cash?

I ordered two 8 piece set of curtains at Homechoice in July this year and they took long to deliver them but stated that they are out of stock (which they did after my confirmation on how far my order is). Last week I received my stuff through the post office and then I informed them about sending just one piece of my order instead of two. They told me again that they managed to send only what I have received and that they do not have the curtains in stock. Thats when I requested to change to pay cash not credit as the money was now very low as compared to the order I made. I was informed it will not be possible to change the order from credit to cash. Really I'm failing to understand their reasoning more especially that their receipt has the 'cash price' and the "credit price'.

Organizations that sell things on credit or hire purchase are always reluctant to change their minds because that’s how they make money. In fact the MD of a furniture store chain (not HomeChoice) told us years ago that his business wasn’t actually selling furniture, it was money-lending. Why would they be keen to see you take that potential money away from them?

My personal view is that this is something we should campaign for: the right to convert any hire purchase agreement to a cash payment at any point during the duration of the agreement. That way if any of us had a windfall we could pay off perhaps the most expensive form of debt any of us might have. It would be no different to settling a bank loan early.

We contacted HomeChoice to ask about your situation. They said: “converting from instalment to cash, is not something that we promote as a business. We allow customers the opportunity to make an informed decision of how they would like to purchase our products, cash or credit, and action according the customers wishes.”

However given your peculiar circumstances, presumably because only part of the shipment was made, they’ve agreed that you can convert to a cash payment. Thanks to HomeChoice for being flexible!

Monday 5 October 2015

Consumer Alert: 4 Corners Alliance

4 Corners Alliance are still around actively trying to recruit people throughout Botswana.

4 Corners Alliance say that their scheme provides:
"a cutting edge financial education series, arming you with the groundbreaking knowledge you need to reach long term financial security".
They go on to say that they offer:
"a robust set of 31 books, distributed through six purchase levels, with timely and engaging Financial topics with a broad spectrum of topics ranging from mindset and motivation to some serious financial education that will put the control back where it belongs–with you. We’ve placed a unique business emphasis on helping you reach your full potential and explode your income so you can take your lifestyle to thrilling new plateaus."
However what you see when you visit their web site and attend their presentations will be what all pyramid and Multi-Level Marketing schemes really concentrate on: the opportunity to make money from the scheme.

Four Corners Alliance will tell you that they’re not a pyramid scheme because they sell products. Once you’ve joined their scheme you can buy a range of electronic books on financial literacy. But here’s the flaw. Four Corners Alliance will sell you these books for between $16 and $399 but you can also get these and similar books elsewhere for much less than those prices. However as with all pyramid schemes the key thing they encourage you to do is to recruit other people beneath you. In order to do this you need to spend significant amounts of money to buy the right to sell the books and so do the people beneath you.

I think this table from their web site says it all (it's not the original table, I retyped it).

What shape is that?

Unlike some of the real Multi-Level Marketing schemes like Amway and Herbalife who have been forced to publish the income figures for their distributors, Four Corners Alliance don’t do this. They can’t prove any of the claims they make about people becoming rich.

I urge you not to waste your time, effort and money on this and every other pyramid scheme.

Friday 2 October 2015

Who cares?

Sometimes I wonder whether certain companies care even slightly about their customers. Do they actually give a damn?

A reader posted a message about her experience at a jeweler in Gaborone after she had visited and bought an expensive ring.
“They did not have any ring boxes, so I suggested they give me one of their little black velvety display pillows. I would then go and buy a ribbon and a try to make something up by myself. Lo and behold the manager refuses. After the lady behind the counter found one, standing with it in her hand the manager with a most haughty attitude, takes it out of her hand and quietly exclaiming that it would be unacceptable as it is display material only. She preferred to rather let me go without anything and chose NOT to compromise and allow me to leave a happy customer.”
I don’t think it’s reasonable, after buying an expensive piece of jewelry for it to come in a box, do you?

Another customer of the same jewelers posted that she had: “experienced that bad service two weeks ago at airport junction. Gave the manager a talking to and she was not even bothered.”

Yet another customer reported that when she had a problem with them the “manager had exactly the same attitude.”

In fact we’ve had a number of complaints about the same store. This seems like a pattern, not just a one-off slip-up. I think it suggests that the manager doesn’t give a damn. Unluckily for that manager there are competitor stores that have developed much better reputations for high quality products but, perhaps more importantly for excellent service.

Another consumer complained to us about a furniture store. She visited this store, which is renowned for the quality of their produce, to buy mattresses. After paying them a deposit of P2,000 they told her that the mattresses would be shipped shortly afterwards. Only then did they tell her that the full amount must be paid before the goods would even be shipped from the warehouse in Johannesburg. Apparently, even though she was a regular customer who had bought from them before and who had experienced delays and difficulties with them, they weren’t prepared to be flexible. She told us that a few days later she received a call from their South African office “and the lady told me to go and pay before they could send my order. She explained that their warehouse is full as Batswana order stuff and not pay when their goods arrive. I explained to her that this was my 3rd order, which I would pay once they confirm that the goods have left and she refused. So I told her that I would go and cancel the order and get my deposit back and she said it was okay.”

Unfortunately when she went back to the store all she got was further hassle with the manager. Even though she knew her bank account details the manager demanded to see her bank statements or a blank cheque before a refund could be made. That’s when she contacted us.

Let me stress that nobody is denying that customers should pay for items before delivery, but demanding full payment before they have even arrived in the country is asking a bit much, particularly as the customer had been led to believe that the deposit was all the commitment that was necessary.

We called the manager and explained that this wasn’t the only case like this we’d heard of.
We also explained that Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations demands that when an agreement is properly cancelled (like in this case) a deposit must be “promptly” made. Despite this, she still hasn’t got her money back.

Is this another store that doesn’t give a damn?

We also had a very long complaint from a reader who had booked an expensive trip to Nigeria to visit TB Joshua’s “Synagogue, Church Of All Nations”, SCOAN. In July last year she paid the local agent P1,000 for “administration” and a further P7,800 for “food and accommodation”, hoping to travel in August. However after a series of delays, mix-ups and silence nothing actually happened. In December she paid him a further P5,000 for the flights to Nigeria only to be met again with silence.

She told us that when she finally tracked him down he “promised to sort the issue and said that I will go with the May group, which he also failed to do. Towards the end of August when I finally managed to get hold of him he then promised to refund me at the beginning of September. As of now he hasn't done so and my efforts to get hold of him have been futile as he does not take my calls.”

So here we have yet another case of someone not giving a damn about a customer’s money or the moral obligation to deliver what was paid for. Is there any irony in this being for a trip to see someone some people (but certainly not all) consider to be a moral leader?

I genuinely don’t know how some people live with themselves knowing how badly they treat people, their customers in these cases. I know that I would have difficulty getting to sleep if I had taken large quantities of someone else’s money and not refunded it or if I had treated my customers with contempt.

I think I’d also be upset if, like the bogus SCOAN travel agent, I was about to be dragged to the Small Claims Court by an abused customer.

I genuinely don’t know why some people, some companies seem determined to treat their customers, the ones who hand over their hard-earned money, with contempt. However I do know that these days when we have more and more competition, many of them will be out of business soon and I will be someone happy to hear that.