Saturday 26 March 2016

Home grown

Like most of us I’m always extremely proud of home-grown talent. It delights me every time I hear that one of us has been appointed to a senior position, made lots of money selling shares in their company or is just working really hard to feed and clothe their children. I don’t have any objection to foreign talent making their contribution but it’s always good to learn of local skills as well.

So maybe we be proud of locally produced scammers?

Maybe you don’t think we have them and that all the pyramid schemes, Ponzi schemes and advance fee scams come from other countries?

Well, you’re wrong.

Of course we’ve had plenty of people in Botswana working for scammers. The people behind pyramid schemes like Success University, TVI Express and WorldVentures didn’t get their hands dirty, they were far away sitting on a beach having a fine time while their local collaborators did all the hard work recruiting more and more victims into their schemes. The people luring others into the Eurextrade Ponzi scheme and promising them profits of “up to 2.9% per day” were here in Botswana. The East European gun-runners behind the scheme never even came close to Botswana.

The people running Three Link Connection were also based here in Botswana even though all the money flowed into the bank accounts of “Daisy Mogale” in South Africa.

But so far all these people have only been local agents, they haven’t been the actual creators of the scams. Until now.

Now we seem to have what might be our first genuinely home-grown Ponzi scheme.

A few days ago I got an email from a reader who said:
“Kindly advise on the credibility of House of Investors, who claim to be a registered company in Botswana since 2015. They say their aim is to invest monies and give out 30-35% profit monthly. I have tried to find their website to no avail.”
The reader sent me a document he’d been sent which said they’d been registered since 2015 and that indeed they offered “30%-35% profit monthly or for a desired period on the initial investment. Minimum investment P1,000 and maximum investment P100,000.

However nowhere in the document did it give any idea how these profits might be generated. No clue at all. So I got in touch with the people behind it using their not particularly impressive email address:

Sixty seconds later Google told me that “The email account that you tried to reach does not exist”.

Not very impressive so far. So I SMSed them instead and got the personal email address of the guy behind this scheme. He then sent me an almost identically worded document called “House.doc” that described what seemed to be a differently named, but identical scheme called “Lifestyle Empire”. The only difference was that with Lifestyle Empire the “minimum investment amount is P1 000.00 and maximum is P500 000.00”. But still no clue about how profits would be made.

I emailed the guy and asked him “Let’s say I invest P100,000, what can I expect each month?” His answer was simple. “P35 000 each month”.

I then asked
“How is it possible to earn 35% in a month? What mechanism are you using to earn that money?” He responded “That I can not tell you..then my company will be not useful to you because you might as well start your own..What you have to know as my client is your 35% will be deposited to you every month”.
I asked
“Can you give me just a clue? Is it Forex? Futures or derivatives? Shares? Or does it come from new people joining?”
He replied
“I do money through forex traiding personally but my is something to do with shares and others things that's what I can say only”.
My final question was
“Are you operating as a registered company in Botswana? Have you sought an exemption from registration as a financial advisor from NBFIRA?”
Then finally we got something close to the truth. He said
“We haven't started operating sir and we wont do that until all our paper work has been verified, what we are doing is marking the company,what do hear the view of people about soon as we are done with everything and done with NBFIRA we will be launching the company which we will invite you to..BUT for now our lawyers are just helping us to draft things including the document i sent and also doing there level best to make this a success”.
I promise you that I haven’t changed a single word or punctuation mark in anything this guy sent me.

The truth is very simple. There is only one way that an “investment” can offer 35% per month. That’s if the 35% that goes to you comes from the person who joined immediately after you and then they get 35% from the person who joins after them. They’re called Ponzi schemes and like pyramid schemes they always fail. Always. Sooner or later, and most times it’s sooner, the recruiters exhaust the number of gullible people willing to contribute the new money needed to fund the so-called profits. That’s when the schemes collapse and “investors” find that even if they received some “profits” their initial “investment” has long disappeared, never to be seen again.

So let’s congratulate ourselves. After 50 years we’ve achieved so many things. A stable democracy, impressive national wealth, a vigorous (and sometimes really irritating) free press, schools, hospitals and roads and now our very first, home grown Ponzi scheme.

Should we be proud?

Actually no, this scheme will never take off because I’ve sent all of this over to NBFIRA. They’re not as tolerant and forgiving as we are.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They broke my TV!

I need help regarding my TV that got cracked whilst being transported by a removals company. My household goods was being transported by them from Maun to Gaborone by the company. Collection of my goods was delayed because my employer took time to pay off the agreed amount to the company but finally something was agreed on. I went there and collected my dirty stuffy household goods. They didn’t check anything with me when I got there, my truck was loaded immediately. When I got home I found out that my TV had cracks. I notified the Maun manager. The Maun manager then referred me to the Gaborone manager where I failed to get help. I was just told that there is nothing that can be done even if I contact high manager I will still get the same answer. Please help me resolve this issue. My TV is still only about 3 months. I cant be paying for something that I’m not going to be using.

You are right to feel wronged. The company had an obligation to treat your property with the same level of care that you would have done if you’d moved your goods yourself. Correction, a HIGHER level of care because they were being paid to take care of them.

I suggest you contact the company and demand to know what insurance polices they currently have that cover the damage to your property. Any reputable company will have such insurance and they should have told you about it before they moved your goods. I don’t even think that it’s acceptable, as some shipping and courier companies do, to allow you NOT to have insurance. Insurance should be the norm when a company transports your property for you. But that’s just my opinion.

I think you should write to the company and ask for details of the insurance they have and also remind them that Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations requires a company like theirs to deliver services “with reasonable care and skill”. Ask them what they plan to do to fix your problem.

We’ll also get in touch with them to see if they can explain themselves.

Just seven days?

I bought a microwave at from a store in Gaborone. This microwave was from the display. After sometime I realised it was not a built in for my designed kitchen. I pleaded with the management to take it back. When I returned it we realised that the knob for turning the plate was missing. As it was not checked when leaving the shop we could not know whether the microwave left the shop with that knob or not. They took it back and gave me a voucher for my money. I did not mind that. Now my problem is that the want me to use the voucher (P1 200) within 7 days. My argument is that I have not won this voucher and there is nothing that I want to buy within the 7 days, I wanted to use that money at my convenient time as I am planning to buy a fridge in future and this is my money not a gift.

First things first. The store has actually been quite generous in taking back the microwave. They weren’t under any obligation to do that. It wasn’t their fault that the microwave didn’t fit into your kitchen, was it? They weren’t obliged to do anything to help you, particularly as it was missing a part that it’s possible you lost. I think you’re lucky to be dealing with a store that wants to help you out.

Meanwhile this business about the voucher only lasting seven days seems a bit unreasonable to me. I understand that it can’t last forever but a week seems a rather short time. Maybe a month or two, maybe even 90 days would be more reasonable.

Given that the store have been reasonable so far I think it’s worth asking them nicely to extend the validity of the voucher to 90 days. It’s worth asking at least. We’ll also be happy to contact them to see if they can’t continue to be a generous company who want to help their customers.

Saturday 19 March 2016

Scams. Yes. Again.

People sometimes tell us that we can stop talking about scams now. Everyone understand, we’re told. Everyone now knows that you can’t win a lottery you didn’t enter, that total strangers don’t contact you offering to share their inheritance with you, that miracles don’t actually happen.

But it’s not true. There are still plenty of people out there who don’t understand, who still fall for what many of us would think are obvious scams. The gullible are still with us.

And guess what? It could be you or if it isn’t you then it could be someone you know and care about.

A member of the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group said she’d been looking for jobs overseas and received the following email:
“We received your curriculum vitae, we have gone through your (CV) and congratulations we have decided to offer you administration job at dubia, sharjah college. we just finished recruiting our hotel jobs at london united kingdom, we just
confirmed about you from your Refree; if you are willing to Relocate and like the offer, send us your 2passport photograph and your international passport page, we will pay your visa fees and flight fee, our Processing fee is just a little token of four hundred and fifty dollars, you will send it through Monogram or western union with (annytravel and tours recruitment services) send us Mtcn code when sendin your passports, please Note that the school will give you 2years working visas and you can renew after expiration once you don't have any disease, we will process your documents 2days after payment and it to your mail adress and one copy through Dhl, thanks”
I think you skeptics can spot the clues. This appalling typing is supposed to come from a company recruiting internationally? The strange use of punctuation should be clue enough, don’t you think? Above all it breaks the first rule of recruitment. No recruitment company ever offers someone a job without interviewing them first. In 2016 it might be done using Skype but there will always be an interview of some sort. Genuine recruitment companies don’t offer strangers well-paid jobs out of the blue. And another rule. Genuine recruitment companies don’t ever charge the recruit to offer them a job. It’s the company with the vacancies that pays, not the recruit. Always.

Last week we received the following email.
“Please help I don't know if I fell in hands of scammers. I have a male friend in Edinburgh. We met on internet, we have not met physically but we have been communicating on whatsapp since January. Last month he said he sent me a gift through Swift express which he gave me a tracking no. I tracked the parcel until it arrived in Cape Town. He said he paid for it to be delivered to my home. When it arrived I was sent a FNB account number to pay for custom clearance which I couldn't deposit in banks here I decided to send that money through western union. Then after clearance they called they said my parcel has money in it which is not allowed. According to Micheal the company worker he said at airport they decided to fine charge but 10% of that amount and they wanted R8900. I called my friend to talk to them after that he said he has 6900 I pay 2000. After this the company wanted 1600 for insurance as they said they want to deliver the parcel which I paid on the 5 March 2016. Since then I am calling the company number but it's not answered I asked this friend to call them on Tuesday and he also said they are not answering. When I track the parcel it's there awaiting clearance. Please help me.”
The “romantic scam” always involves the same elements. A friendship that develops online with someone affluent and professional in a country far, far away. A friendship that very quickly becomes romantic, despite the two people never having met in person. Sometimes they’ve never even spoken on the phone.

That’s when the shipment emerges. The supposedly loving boyfriend say he wants to send his new love a package of goodies, usually jewelry, laptops, iPads and cash. A few days later that’s when the victim gets the message this lady mentioned. The parcel apparently arrives in Cape Town and is seized by the authorities and she is forced to pay the customs agent money for it to be released. Using Western Union.

There are so many questions that skeptics will ask. Why would the package be in Cape Town and not Johannesburg? Why would the South African authorities want payment when that’s not the destination? Why would they require payment using a money transfer service and not a bank?

The bad news is that we didn’t get to this one in time. By the time she contacted us she’d already sent the scammers over P5,000. That’s money that she’ll never see again. Scammers don’t offer refunds.

Of course both of these cases are advance fee scams, they’re both all about that money they want from the victim in advance.

Occasionally they want something else as well.

Last year a woman contacted me asking about her “friend” who had sent her a package It was the same story but this time there was a difference. I told her the bad news, that her “boyfriend”, the package and the shipping agent were all fictitious. “He doesn’t exist”, I told her. “But he does”, she insisted. “No, he really doesn’t”, I replied. “But I met him”, she said, “He’s real”.

It seems that this particular scammer met her in Johannesburg a few months beforehand and they spent a romantic weekend together before he left “for the USA” from where he said he’d send her the package. This was a new one for me. I’m used to scammers screwing their victims financially, but to do so in the flesh was a surprise to me. A rapist as well as a scammer. A new low.

So I make no apology for going on about scams. I’ll continue doing so until every single person in the country knows how to spot one and protect themselves.

Friday 18 March 2016

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay?

A company approached my organization last year about their package of advertising our organization on their website. We asked them to bring a sample to organization, they did and I told them that I will have to consult management regarding this issue. In their samples the information they gave about the organization was limited and I had to collect more from my team to submit. While waiting I started receiving calls demanding for payments I asked them what payment as I have not yet approved nor sent them final details of what to include on the website. They told me that I have signed and agreed to the advert.

That is when another company started calling us asking us when we’ll pay them and sending us their bank details. They sent an invoice for R2,970.

We’ve dealt with the company who contacted you before. Their practice in the past was to invite people to advertise their businesses on their directory site and they would then fax the company a form confirming the details of their advertisement. What customers often didn’t notice was that the small print of the form committed them to a year-long contract, at that time for P295 every month. Regardless of what you said they would insist on that year’s payment. The contract even said “Thereafter the agreement shall continue for an indefinite period unless notice is given one month prior to the expiry of the initial period” so you might even end up committed for a lot longer.

Of course this is all unsupportable. Your entry on their preposterous web-based directory is trivial. All it shows is your company name, address, phone number and email address. How is that of any value in 2016 when your own web site has all that? And who actually uses an online directory site these days?

I suggest you email the company cancelling the deal, saying that you have no evidence that anyone with the necessary authority had the right to agree to the contract. Tell them that you don’t want your details in their directory and that you will not have any further contact with them. I’m certain they’ll just go away and leave you alone. I’ll be happy to contact them to confirm that this was our advice and they should stop bothering you and the rest of us.

Why must I pay him?

I need your advice on a certain estate agent with whom I had agreement with to sell my house for me in Mogoditshane since last year in October until I decided to cancel the sale agreement with them because I was not happy with their service, I had chase every time. I need feedback on the progress of the sale of my house. Now the agent expects me to pay him the entire amount of the 4% that he would charge if he has sold my house. When I ask him why doesn’t he have a cancellation fee instead of me paying the whole amount, he doesn’t give me an answer. Before I signed a mandate with them, I asked the other agent who is a partner to this agent about the cancellation fees and he told me there was a cancellation fee, Now the other guy is denying it and he says I should write a letter to them informing them that I’m cancelling the sale agreement and that I will pay them the agreed amount, but they are refusing to give me a copy of the mandate I signed with them before I decide to write them the letter of cancellation.

Is he serious? He failed to sell your house and yet he stills want to be paid? Would you pay a taxi driver for a journey you didn’t take? Would you pay a restaurant for a meal they didn’t serve? So why would you pay a real estate agent for selling a house that he didn’t sell?

Regardless of any nonsense about cancellation fees just write him a letter reminding him that he failed to do what he was hired to do and that he was in breach of Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations by failing to offer service “with reasonable care and skill”. Make it clear in the letter that you no longer require his services and will not be paying him a single thebe.

You should also contact the Real Estate Institute of Botswana and check with them that this guy is registered with them as the law requires. He also should be abiding by their code of conduct which I’m sure says that they should behave a lot better than this guy.

Friday 11 March 2016

Amazing5 – Another Ponzi scheme

We received an email last week from a reader who asked “Hello! watchdog l want to invest my money in a company called Amazing5 based in UK. l want to know if l can trust it.”

The same reader has approached us twice before asking similar questions about two other firms that he thought might make him loads of money. So what about Amazing5? Is it a scheme that can be trusted? Or is it a scam like the other two schemes he’s asked us about?

Here’s some background.

The web site for Amazing5 (“Amazing Intelligent Investments”) is very slick. It has pictures of beautiful mountains, sleek Apple computers and good-looking people. It says:
“Amazing 5 Limited offers you a wide range of professionally managed funds designed to meet your investment needs. Our investment portfolios are designed in such a way that each participant, regardless of the income level, can fully participate and earn money.”
Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? It goes on to say:
“The key to our long-term financial success is working hard to identify and develop opportunities that create Multi-Streams of Income. Maintaining diversity and establishing opportunities across the globe is what makes a true success. Currently, we are working on projects in some of the most exciting industries with operations in the world’s top markets.”
Did you notice that none of that actually says anything? They don’t actually give any clues about how they make money.

Their Frequently Asked Questions page asks “Is Amazing5 Limited officially registered?” and the answer they give is “Amazing5 Limited is a fully registered investment company based in the United Kingdom”. That’s completely true, they do indeed give an address right in the heart of the business center of London.

But that’s where you can begin to find a few suspicious things. Yes, the company is indeed registered in the UK but it was only formed in September last year and has precisely one Director, Richard Pardee, a 30-year old “broker” who appears to have no traceable history. More importantly, although the company is legitimate I can also find no trace of it being registered with the authorities in the UK that govern financial services. That’s the first major warning sign.

Then there are the claims they make. They claim that if you invest between $20 and $500,000 with them for 31 days you’ll earn a return of 5% every day. Yes, every day. They suggest that after the month you’ll have earned a 155% return on your investment.

But here’s a major warning sign. You only get to keep the interest. Your “investment” will never be returned to you. They say this quite clearly. On your behalf they ask “Do I get my investment principal back?” and the answer is:
“No, your investment principal is absorbed into the investment plan to generate future interest (which in total will be greater than the principle) thus it’s included in the profit. Once the investment period has ended your principal will expire, not returned.”
Well, at least they’re honest. They keep your money and, if it’s true, all you’ll ever see is the interest you’ll earn. But of course it’s not true. Here’s a simple truth. There is no genuine investment scheme that can consistently earn you 5% every day. There simply isn’t. There never has been, there never will be. The ONLY way that a scheme can offer that sort of return is if the “profits” are coming directly from the “investments” of other people joining the scheme. If I join today and invest P1,000 the P50 in profits I get tomorrow actually comes out of the P1,000 that you contribute tomorrow when you join. There’s no growth in value, just a growth in the total amount invested. It’s what they call a Ponzi scheme.

Just like all the other Ponzi schemes we’ve seen, just like Eurextrade, the so-called profits can only last until the scheme exhausts the pool of gullible new recruits or the word spreads that it’s a scam and everyone loses confidence and tries to withdraw their earnings. This happens to ALL Ponzi schemes sooner or later.

So to answer the reader’s question, no, you can’t trust this scheme. It makes ridiculous claims about earnings that can only be made by running a Ponzi scheme that will inevitable collapse. Despite it’s impressive address in the City of London this is actually no more than a “pay as you go” serviced office facility. There’s nothing wrong with this in principle but you should expect a lot more from an investment company who wants you to trust them with your money.

This is a company that has only one Director with no traceable history. It even has an element of a pyramid scheme to it. Their web says you can “receive up to 20% referral commission” if you recruit other people into the scheme. Again, just like Eurextrade.

I’m also suspicious about their London connection. I suspect they have no real link to the UK at all other than when they quickly registered a company there, something anyone can do. I suspect they’re Russian.

The clue is in the web traffic. Half of all the visitors to their web site are from Russia, followed by visitors from Ukraine, India and Brazil, the other countries they clearly have in their sights.

And yes, clearly they are considering us as well. Only one reader has contacted us about them so far but I suspect that’s just the beginning of it. Remember that Botswana will be high on their target list. We might only be a small country compared to Russia, India and Brazil but we’re the country with the reputation for being gullible and na├»ve. Eurextrade exploited that, why won’t these guys?

Amazing5 makes promises that are too good to be true. It’s a Ponzi scheme that will collapse in the same way that ALL Ponzi schemes eventually collapse. Do you really want to be left poor as a result?

There are no easy, quick ways to become rich.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is BigOption authentic?

Hello Consumer Voice! I came across this business called BigOption, their business is about how they can help you make money and be a millionaire. So I would like you to help with the Authenticity of their business?

BigOption is in the binary options trading business. They claim that if you join you can “Get up to maximum 85% profit” on your investment “in less than an hour”. Their web site describes binary options as “a financial opportunity that offers investors a fixed price and a fixed return. Binary Options are also known as fixed or Digital Options and are traded only on the internet.”

The concept is actually very simple. You select two commodities such as foreign currencies and you bet whether their relative value will increase or decrease. For instance, you might select the exchange rate between Euro and the US dollar. There are only two possibilities of what can happen, they say. The rate can go up or it can go down. You gamble on which you think will happen and you can win and make a profit, or lose and get nothing. Two options, so they call it binary. So far, so simple.

But let me ask you two questions. Firstly, if profits of 85% are possible why aren’t these people keeping this idea secret and making money for themselves? What do they gain from you joining their scheme?

Secondly, if such profits were really possible don’t you think banks would be doing it and earning this sort of money for themselves?

The answer is the same for both questions. These profits are NOT really possible. This company makes money from you joining. They are the ones making the huge profits, not you, not me and not the banks.

It’s simply impossible to make that sort of return. I found an interesting quote about binary options. Gordon Pape, writing in Forbes magazine said: "If people want to gamble, that’s their choice. But let’s not confuse that with investing. Binary options are a crapshoot, pure and simple."

Please don’t waste your money.

Must I answer silly questions?

I stand to be corrected if need be. I get very irritated when I walk into a bank to deposit money and I am asked a question which I think is stupid, Where did you get this money. I have been with the same bank for over six years but today they ask me where I get the money I am saving. Am sure this is the reason why you find some people keep large sums of money indoors causing money not to circulate. Is it correct for banks to be asking this question?

I know this is frustrating but this isn’t actually the fault of the bank. Banks in most countries are required by law to identify the source of significant quantities of money as part of the anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering rules. Our banks are covered by the regulations issued by Bank of Botswana that demand this information. They don’t have any choice.

However, I am skeptical. Surely a terrorist or crook is going to lie, that’s what people like that do all the time. They’re experts at lying. They’re not going to suddenly confess that they stole it or that it’s the profit from a drugs sale, are they? Even a moderately talented criminal will be able to forge documents suggesting that the money was legitimately obtained.

I also have to ask whether these regulations actually achieve anything. Much of the money victims in Botswana paid to Ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes and simple scams like Eurextrade, TVI Express and Three Link Connection was paid through legitimate banking systems. Did these questions help stop them stealing people’s money? No, they did not.

So the lesson is simple. Yes, the bank IS required to ask you and yes, you ARE required to answer. Truthfully. But be skeptical about whether they’re just wasting your time and theirs.

Monday 7 March 2016

Consumer Alert - Amazing5

There is a fairly new Ponzi scheme on the market calling itself "Amazing5". They claim you can earn 5% per day on your "investment" for 31 days.

This is nonsense. No investment can ever consistently earn that amount. It's a Ponzi scheme.

Also be very careful about believing anything they say about themselves. So far I can find nothing truthful about them except that they are a company registered in the UK. Other than that it all seems to be untrue.

Read more about them in Mmegi this coming Friday. Meanwhile please don't even think about giving them your money.

Saturday 5 March 2016

Who needs a makeover?

Which industries need a makeover? Which industries need to take an an urgent look at their image? I think I know a few.

Some are obvious. Wherever you are in the world you’ll find that second-hand car dealers have a terrible reputation. They’re seen as only one level above crooks and as people you need to treat with a lot of caution. Of course, we all know that there are some who are perfectly trustworthy but I’m sure you’ll agree that many of them are dodgy.

Micro-lenders are another group who we all suspect are untrustworthy. Things are a lot better now than they were ten or fifteen years ago. In those days the micro-lending industry was completely out of control. Luckily our friends at NBFIRA had a tremendous effect but I suspect it will take a LONG time until we overcome our instinctive distrust for them.

Then we have furniture stores. I know for a fact that very few people trust them. The way they use hire purchase has understandably led to most of us thinking they’re dubious.

I know all of this because I have evidence. About a year ago we conducted a survey of almost a thousand people asking them how they rated the honesty of various industries. Only 8% said they thought second-hand car dealers were honest. Only 18% and 22% said micro-lenders and furniture stores were honest respectively. Clearly they have a long way to go.

Of the twelve industries we asked people about, only three were thought to be honest. New car dealers, banks and supermarkets were the only ones where more people said they were honest that dishonest. However, before any bankers reading this start feeling complacent and proud of themselves I need to tell you something that might make you think again. Only 46% of the people we questioned said they thought the banking industry was honest. Less than half of your customers trust you.

It’s even worse for the insurance industry. The worrying news for them is that our survey suggested that less than a quarter of the people think the insurance industry is honest. A massive, worrying, sixty percent of people described their entire industry as dishonest.

I genuinely think that’s a real concern. Insurance is such a powerful, reassuring thing to have that the idea that most of us don’t trust the companies selling it to us is deeply troubling.

A few months ago we heard a story about a guy who crashed his old Toyota Corolla into the back of a Range Rover causing some minor damage to its rear bumper. It was entirely the Corolla driver’s fault and at no point did he deny his responsibility for causing the accident. Luckily for him, or so he thought, although he had no insurance, the Range Rover driver was fully insured. A few weeks later he got a call from the Range Rover driver who explained that he’d submitted an insurance claim for the repairs to his car but had been forced by his insurers to pay an “excess” of about P3,000 and would the Corolla driver pay him that amount back? Being a good guy he immediately said he would, thinking that was the end of the matter.

But that wasn’t the end. No way. Months later he received a letter from the Range Rover driver’s insurance company. They needed him to pay the balance of the repair costs for the Range Rover, a total of P20,000.

That’s when he came to us. Did he really have to pay? The other guy had been insured, hadn’t he? Wasn’t it the job of the insurance company to pay up?

Yes, yes and yes. But he still had to pay. It’s all about personal responsibility. The Range Rover driver and his insurance company were the innocent parties. Our friend the Corolla driver caused the accident and it was his job to pay for the damage he caused. The fact that the Range Rover had the foresight to buy an insurance policy is good but it only protects him, Mr Range Rover, it doesn’t protect Mr Corolla. If Mr Corolla had been sensible enough to get his own insurance policy, it would have protected him. His insurance company would have shouldered the burden. Without such a policy Mr Corolla must foot the bill himself.

Think about the nightmare situation. What if instead of just damaging the Range Rover’s bumper, he’d completely destroyed it? Instead of a repair bill of P20,000 he would be facing a bill for replacing the entire vehicle. It was a Range Rover. It could have cost him more than a million. How many of us can afford that sort of bill? Mr Corolla would have been ruined.

The point of this story is what it taught me. Most people don’t understand insurance and I think that’s why they say they don’t trust the insurance industry. Nobody from the insurance industry has ever taken the time to explain to them what insurance is really all about: the “transfer of risk”.

That’s why the insurance industry needs a comprehensive makeover. Like banking does. And pretty much all of the financial services industry. They all need to start work on a major project to convince us that they’re honest, trustworthy and reliable and that they are the sort of people with whom we can safely entrust our money. They need to start educating us on how their products really work.

At the moment I don’t think they’re doing enough. It’s time for a major industry makeover.

That’s if they want us to continue lending them our money. They do, don’t they?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my tablet?

I bought a brand new tablet for P1,400 on the 4th November 2015. I used it until the 28th of November when the screen just blacked out while I was using the device. I took it back to the shop since it had a warranty coverage of 1 year. They referred me to their technician who works at KB mall.

The first time I consulted him, he told me it was a virus. He fixed the device and within 3 days I took it back for the same problem, that time he said it was the battery. He changed the battery and I used the phone for 2 days and I had to take it back for the very same problem, the technician told me it was the devices belt. He fixed it and brought it back again. Within another 2 days, it had the same problem, I was referred to the same person and this time he said it was a physical damage on the tablet of which I was responsible of. This time the shop told me that I had to wait for the technician to go to South Africa to buy a new screen with which he will replace the current one and I will have to pay P250 to the technician. Since there has been no response.

Is there anything else they can blame?

It sounds to me like you are being given a sequence of rather pathetic excuses. Clearly they don’t have any idea what’s wrong with your tablet and they are inventing new explanations every time you take it back.

As readers will know Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that suppliers must sell goods that are “or merchantable quality”. This is defined as “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased”. Clearly your tablet fails this test. It’s not of merchantable quality in any way.

When this happens you have a right to one of three possibilities, the three ‘R’s: a replacement, a repair or a refund. However, it’s not up to you to decide which of these you get, that’s up to the store. They have a right, for instance, to try and repair the device. That’s only reasonable but I don’t think they’re being reasonable any longer. They’ve tried to fix this device four times now and each time they’ve come up with a different excuse. I think you now have the right to say they’ve had ample opportunities to fix it, it’s now time to choose one of the remaining ‘R’s. It’s time either for a replacement or a refund.

I suggest you contact the store and tell them this. We’ll do the same and see if they’ll see sense.

Can the loan shark humiliate me?

I have a loan from a cash loan in Kanye since December. My first instalment was supposed to be in January 2016, but it did not go through as there were insufficient funds. The manager then decided to come to my workplace to demand the payment. The embarrassment and humiliation was so much on my side so I told them that I would look for money to pay them. I also heard that they went to my place to demand payment. Upon hearing this, I wrote a letter explaining the situation to them and told them that I would pay month end of February.

Now, today whilst I was at work, the manager once again showed up, bear in mind that payday is only tomorrow, she told me that I should pay as they did not get the money. I was so embarrassed once again in front of my students. So my question is that is it legal for them to come and harass me at work? Are there no other ways that they can use to demand their payment?

No, they certainly do NOT have the right to harass you like this. Yes, they’re entitled to chase you for the money you owe them but they still have to do this reasonably. Humiliating you at you workplace and in front of your colleagues is not permitted.

I suggest that you speak to NBFIRA, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, regarding this company and see if they can intervene. They can check that this company is actually registered with them and is operating in accordance with the rules NBFIRA have put in place. They can also warn the company to behave more properly in future.

You can reach NBFIRA at 3102595 or 3686100.