Saturday 29 October 2016

Billcoin - a digital deception

The internet has brought us many blessings. We now have access to a wealth of information that our ancestors couldn’t even have imagined. Some of it’s even true.

It’s brought us facilities that twenty years ago could only have been dreamed of. Despite all their flaws, Google, Facebook and Twitter really have made our lives better.

It’s also exposed us to a greater level of risk.

You’ll probably have heard of the mysterious thing called Bitcoin and chances are, like most of us, you don’t have the faintest idea what it is. In fact, it’s quite simple. Bitcoin is a digital currency. Wikipedia describes it as “a digital asset and a payment system” but I think means the same thing. In principle it’s quite easy to understand. It’s just another currency, like the Pula, Rand, Euro and Dollar, you just can’t put any of it in your wallet or purse and you can’t buy it from your bank. The currency only exists online, out there in the internet somewhere.

That’s what makes Bitcoin complicated and risky. Unlike conventional currencies, all of which have a bank that produces and regulates them, Bitcoin is effectively unregulated. It means that if the market suddenly decides that it’s no longer worth anything it can simply collapse. No central bank is going to step in and bale it out. It means your money can disappear and nobody will do anything about it.

But who knows, the experts don’t agree. Some say it’s the future, others say it’s no more than a glorified Ponzi scheme, reliant on new people pumping money into the thing to keep it alive.

What worries me isn’t Bitcoin, it’s what Bitcoin has unleashed. An endless stream of fake digital currencies that are pretending to be something like Bitcoin but in fact are nothing more than scams.

The latest of these is already gathering victims in Botswana and calls itself Billcoin.

On their web site the people behind Billcoin try their best to explain how you can join the scheme. This was taken directly from their web site without any editing:
“Participant (trader) must very first register towards network to be able to buy IN ADDITION TO sell Billcoins; there is usually the safety measures signal The item must become maintained safe Just as That is another security measure against hackers AND infiltrators. After gaining access for the user-friendly platform subsequently You could be exposed to be able to several chances regarding generating dollars similar to buying coins by no less than R150 in order to registering an Associate pertaining to the bonus associated with 15%. Traders will certainly only withdraw its income right after a great month or perhaps may Choose to help leave The item for you to grow higher In the same way calculations.”
Do you get the impression English isn’t their first language? Do you get the impression that even they have no idea what they’re selling or how it’s meant to work?

They also have a Facebook group that is dedicated to capturing victims here in Botswana. This says
“Introducing the digital coin each platinum Billcoin is 220 Botswanan Pula which pays 410 Botswanan Pula”. It goes in to say that “Botswana we are here to inform you all you will be paid 80% interest pm on platinum BILLCOINS join the investment”.
The obvious question is where does the 80% they promise come from? How does the money grow? How do they convert P200 into P410?

Nobody knows, least of all them. They give no explanation and that’s always a something you should be suspicious about. The people behind a real investment scheme will be open about where the money comes from. Any scheme that isn’t is one you should avoid.

In fact, Billcoin is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. Any money they give you will come from people who join the scheme after you. And rest assured that the money you get back won’t match the money you put in.

Just a few days ago we got a call from someone who had already signed up for Billcoin. She asked us for help in obtaining the Mastercard credit card that the Billcoin recruiter had said she would receive in three days, loaded with all the money they promised she’d earn. Two months later it still hasn’t appeared and the reason is obvious. There is no credit card and there is no profit. The whole thing is a lie.

The tragedy in this case is what this victim was forced to do to get to this point. The scammers had already persuaded her to give them P30,000 and it was our job to try and explain to her that her money was gone, never to be seen again.

That’s when the conversation became more concerning. That P30,000 she’d given them was all the money she had. The only asset this victim now has left is her life insurance policy and she told my colleague that she thought her family would be better off with her dead.

That’s the real effect of Ponzi schemes like Eurextrade, MMM Global and now Billcoin. It isn’t just a few affluent people who can afford to lose money who are affected, it’s the less comfortable who are the most desperate victims, the ones who have so much less to lose.

We do our best to spread the world about schemes like MMM Global, Billcoin and the other schemes that are preying on the desperate but clearly it’s not enough. It’s up to all of us to warn the people we care about, our friends, family and neighbours, that these scams exist and they pose a real threat to our national stability and happiness.

Billcoin is a very good example of this. It is a scam being run by liars and thieves who are hell-bent on stealing money from the innocent and gullible. They need to be exposed and punished. Will you help spread the word?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s the builder?

Hi guys. Two of my aunties have been swindled of hundred thousands. They saw this construction company its Zimbabwean owned in the advertiser and hired them to build them houses. This guy put up wall structures and then he disappeared after asking them to pay 3/4 of the total amount he charged. He’s nowhere to be found and relocated from the house he used to stay in, numbers changed, fired all his assistants. The houses are incomplete. Please assist, where do we go? Who do we talk to?

I’m very sorry but I suspect that your aunties are probably out of luck. It sounds like this guy has skipped the country and if that’s true it’ll be very difficult to get their money back.

However, if he’s still in Botswana, there’s a remote chance that the police can do something. At the very least it’s worth laying a charge against him at your local police station. I suggest you visit them and insist on laying a charge of “obtaining by false pretence” against him, contrary to Section 308 of the Penal Code. That way if he does ever reappear then that charge will be there to welcome him back.

The lesson is a hard one for your aunties but I think other readers who are considering building a house can learn from their misfortune. Firstly you should only ever use a builder that you have some reason to trust. That might be because they already built another house belonging to someone you know and who can comment on how professional they were. Ask about how reliable they were, did they keep up with the project plan and did they do a good job?

Then you need to agree a realistic project plan that attaches strict but reasonable deadlines to each stage of the project. There should obviously be a little flexibility in the plan because there might be delays beyond the control of the builder (like the weather) but it should be a plan that both parties can agree to. The plan must also detail when and how money should change hands. I don’t have a problem with a builder asking for some money up front but three quarters is way too much. However, after any up-front payment, every later payment should be made only when each stage has been completed to agreed standards.

I’m sorry that it’s probably too late already for your aunties but I hope others can learn something from their misfortune.

Is it a real parcel?

I received an email from DHL saying that a parcel had arrived for me but they could not deliver it because it had the wrong address. They said that I should print the receipt they sent me and take it to the nearest DHL office. I tried printing the receipt but it didn’t work. What should I do?

Delete the email immediately. Do NOT try to open the receipt that was attached to the email.

By coincidence I received exactly the same email a couple of days ago. It also said that there was an incorrectly addressed package waiting for me but it was obviously suspicious. Firstly, it wasn’t addressed to me by name. Instead it just started “Dear Customer”. If there really was a package for me don’t you think they’d know my name?

Attached to the email was a file named “DHL Receipt_pdf.7z”. Although you might think that’s a document in fact it’s a Trojan, a type of computer virus that will either do damage to your computer or will simply act as a channel for the package to spread itself further. Like a conventional virus it will either hurt you or the people you come into contact with. Or both.

The other clue was that although the email appeared to have come from a DHL email address,, once I started digging I could see that the email had in fact come from a business in Madagascar. I suspect that someone in Madagascar received exactly the same email , clicked and opened the attachment and then their computer started spreading the virus onto other people like you and me.

This particular virus only affects people who run Windows but that doesn’t mean Mac users like me can be complacent. I might innocently forward an email like this to someone running Windows and harm them. Everyone, no matter what sort of computer you use needs to get use an up-to-date operating system with an antivirus package that they always keep completely updated. If you aren’t protected already please get protection today.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Consumer Alert: Billcoin



25th October 2016

Consumer Alert: Billcoin

Consumer Watchdog would like to alert consumers about Billcoin, a Ponzi scheme that is actively trying to recruit victims in Botswana.

The proponents of Billcoin describe it as a “cryptocurrency” and imply that it is comparable to a genuine digital currency like Bitcoin. In fact, Billcoin is a Ponzi scheme.

The organizers of the scheme are recruiting victims in Botswana using a Facebook group called Billcoin Botswana. In this group they suggest that a recruit’s investment “will be paid 80% interest” per month converting an initial investment of P220 for each “Platinum Billcoin” into P410. However, they give no explanation of where this extra money might come from.

Recent recruits have reported that they were promised a Mastercard credit card they could use to withdraw their “earnings” but this Mastercard seems to be as fictitious as the currency they promote. We recently spoke to a victim of Billcoin who paid them her life savings of P30,000 and who has subsequently received nothing in return. This victim is now depressed and suicidal.

Billcoin is a Ponzi scheme like Eurextrade and MMM Global that preceded it. A Ponzi scheme involves small returns being paid to victims from the joining fees of later recruits. It is effectively “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. However the vast majority of victims are paid much less than they contribute towards the scheme.

Consumer Watchdog urges everyone not to waste their time, energy and money in this illegal Ponzi scheme.

If consumers are in any doubt they should contact Consumer Watchdog for free advice. We can be reached by phone on 3904582, by email at or by joining our Facebook group, Consumer Watchdog Botswana.

Saturday 22 October 2016

Is the customer always right?

It’s a question we’re often asked. Are customers always right?

No, they’re not but I understand what people are trying to say. They’re trying to say that customers should always be treated with respect and that’s something that’s obviously true. Or is it?

The key word is “always”. Yes, of course customers should be treated with respect but only up to a point. There comes a point when you have to take action and be a little less respectful.

A few years ago we were approached by a friend who ran a restaurant. He wanted to know if he’d done the right thing with a difficult customer.

This customer had arrived at his restaurant with a friend one weekend morning and they ordered coffee and cake. Shortly afterwards she called the owner over and told him that she didn’t like the taste of the cake. Ignoring the fact that she had eaten almost all of it before deciding it wasn’t to her taste he apologized profusely and told her she didn’t have to pay for it. In fact, she didn’t have to pay for her coffee either. She seemed happy and went away.

The following weekend she was back and guess what? Exactly the same thing happened again. Having consumed almost all of a different cake she made exactly the same complaint. Although he was beginning to get a little angry he did the same thing again, apologized and reduced her bill to say sorry. She went away happy again.

The next weekend the same thing happened yet again but this time he was more assertive. His patience had worn thin and he politely told her that as his cakes clearly weren’t to her taste maybe she should think of eating elsewhere in future. For the third and final time he cancelled her bill and wished her farewell.

She came back the following weekend. This time he refused to serve her. He reminded her of the previous occasions when she had complained and he’d suggested she should select a different restaurant in future. She was stunned. Only when he made it clear to her that she wasn’t going to be served at his restaurant again did she understand. She’d been banned. Eventually she left, muttering and promising to wreak vengeance upon the restaurant and its owner for the rudeness she’d experienced.

She was a very good example of an utterly unreasonable customer. The restaurant owner was the reasonable one in this situation. She was costing him money and taking up a table that could have been used by a customer who was less disruptive.

More recently I met the owner of a filling station who was also struggling to manage a particular customer. This customer had arrived at his filling station and one of this team had made an admittedly serious mistake. He put the wrong fuel in the car.

Luckily he realized what he’d done before the car drove off. A mechanic was called and the car was taken way to be completely drained and the tank cleaned. The filling station then filled the tank with the correct fuel and the owner wasn’t asked to pay. So far so good. Yes, a serious mistake had been made but the team had done their best to put the situation right again.

But this wasn’t nearly good enough for this particular customer. He now wants compensation although he hasn’t quite explained what exactly he needs compensating for. Yes, he was inconvenienced but his car is back to normal and showing no ill-effect. Maybe he’s spent time in the USA where it is common practice to sue people for emotional distress every time the wind changes direction.

I also heard of a customer who a company described as “the worst customer in the world”. He was repeatedly abusive to their staff, shouting and swearing at them for the slightest perceived offence. In fact, he was so obnoxious they offered to pay for him to close his account and open one with their competitors. Sadly for them, he declined their generous offer and they’re still stuck with him.

An often overlooked aspect of customer service is that there are at least two parties to a purchase. The buyer and the seller and both of them have a role to play, both of them in particular have a legal and moral obligation to behave reasonably. As consumers we can’t expect miracles from stores but we are entitled to what the Consumer Protection Regulations describe as commodities and services that are of “merchantable quality” and that are offered “with reasonable car and skill”.

But it goes both ways. As consumers we have to behave reasonably as well. Luckily most of us do behave ourselves but that doesn’t mean we all do. I’ve lost count of the number of times when consumers have come to us with a complaint about the way they’ve been treated by a company only to later establish that they're either exaggerating or sometimes just plain lying. Sometimes they’re actively trying to con the company.

So no, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but the consumer is NOT always right. Certainly all consumers deserve to be treated with respect but only up to the point when they stop deserving it.

And no, the customer isn’t a king either. It’s not just kings that deserve respect, it’s everyone. The average Joe deserves the same level of treatment as anyone else.

And one final free tip. Consumer like you and I can, to some extent, determine the quality of the service we get with our behavior. Go into a store looking grumpy and difficult and that’s likely to be the sort of service you’ll get. Go in cheerful and smiling and you know what? That’s likely to be what you get in return. Which would you prefer?

Friday 21 October 2016

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can Billcoin earn me 80% per month?

I heard of a scheme called Billcoin where you can make 80% interest per month. Have you heard about it and do you think it can be true?

Source: Billcoin Botswana Facebook page
Here’s a simple answer to your question. Any financial scheme that claims you can earn significantly more than you would from your bank’s high-interest saving account is a scam. It’s that simple. 80% each month is definitely in that category.

But this is worth a bit more investigation and comment.

Their web site (which was only registered in February this year) says that Billcoin “is cryptocurrency is a medium of exchange like normal currencies such as USD and RANDS , but designed for the purpose of exchanging digital information through a process made possible by certain principles of cryptography.” It goes on to say that anyone who joins “must very first register towards network to be able to buy IN ADDITION TO sell Billcoins; there is usually the safety measures signal The item must become maintained safe Just as That is another security measure against hackers AND infiltrators.”

Does that seem like the quality of language that would be used by a reputable investment company to you?

On their Facebook page they announce “Botswana we are here to inform you all you will be paid 80% interest pm on platinum BILLCOINS join the investment” but they don’t actually give any clue about how such an amazing interest rate could be obtained, just giving hints about trading in their preposterous bogus “cryptocurrency”.

Like MMM Global, Pipcoin and Onecoin before it, Billcoin is exploiting the widespread public ignorance about the genuine digital currency Bitcoin. In fact, like all others, all they can offer are promises of riches. Like the others Billcoin can only be yet another Ponzi scheme. Any money people might receive will be scraps from the people who join after them. The only people who make money from Ponzi schemes are the crooks who create them.

Please don’t waste your time, money and effort in a scheme that can only cost you a lot of all of those things.

Is Rain International worth joining?

Hey Richard Harriman help me out i want to join this upcoming network marketing company called Rain International. Do you know anything about it? Am asking coz they invited me for a meeting in you in the morning till 2 talking of the products.

I think you all know by now that I am enormously skeptical about all multi-level or “network” marketing schemes. All the evidence from those that are required to publish their recruits’ income figures proves that the vast majority of people recruited into them either make no money or they lose money from the experience. So if the biggest of them don’t make you money, why would you think newer ones will be more successful?

Rain International base their business around two products that they call “Soul” and “Core”. These are seed-based nutritional supplements that they claim are enormously beneficial. They claim one “promotes brain function”, “assists in fat digestion” and offers “improved overall wellness”. They also use the magic word “detoxification”. Here’s another free warning for you. The word “detoxification” is always used to deceive people. There is absolutely no reason ever to take any product to detoxify your body. Your body can do that for itself. Your liver and your kidneys are perfectly equipped to remove all the toxins you might ever have in your body. Spending your hard-earned money on worthless supplements just damages your financial health and has no effect on your physical and emotional health.
Source: Rain International Compensation Plan
(1.2MB pdf download)

Then there’s the multi-level marketing angle. Rain International’s business model is typical of any MLM business. You are encouraged to recruit people beneath you who then recruit others beneath them and so on and so on. Then money flows up the pyramid structure and some of it stays with you. The more people recruited beneath you, the more you make. Except that you don’t.

Given their vague health promises and their pyramid-shaped business model, I urge you to give Rain International a miss. You won’t make money from it, you’ll just waste a lot of money, effort and time.

Saturday 15 October 2016

What we learned at school

It only seems a few days ago that we closed the 2016 Consumer Watchdog Conference. All of us are still slightly high on the adrenaline that was pumping throughout the event and certainly my sense of time has gone a little screwy.

So many people deserve thanks for helping us to get it working but rather than list them all here you can see everything about them as well as photos in our Facebook group. Instead I think it’s worth revisiting some of the messages that were sent at the conference.

The conference was opened by the Honorable Minister of Basic Education, Dr Unity Dow. When you think about it, who else could open a conference calling itself “Back to School”? Her remarks were remarkably appropriate. Education is obviously about what goes on in schools but it’s also about a lifetime’s journey of personal development. As adults it’s just as important that we learn new things that will help us life happy, prosperous, healthy lives. Education isn’t just for kids, it’s for everyone.

Dr Patrick Benon, the CEO of Orange, the primary sponsor of the conference, spoke to the conference about the importance of technology in education. In a world rapidly approaching “the internet of things”, where more and more devices are going to be connected to the internet and therefore to each other, it’s important that as consumers we know what’s going on. The future offers us wonderful new technological facilities but it can also be used to cheat and harm us. The only way to get just the good things is to be educated about how this new world works.

Another lesson cam from Bilkiss Moorad, CEO of Botswana Life Insurance Ltd. Anyone who knows Bilkiss will know that she’s not a typical leader. Far from it. There are many words that spring to mind. Eccentric. Disruptive. Energizing. Different.

All of these are good things. As a business leader you really should ask yourself this. Do you want to be normal? Or do you want to be different? Do you want to compete head-to-head with your competitors or do you want to stand apart from them? Both are acceptable options but most of us yearn for companies that are brave enough to be different.

TK Tekane, MD of Botswana Savings Bank is another eccentric leader. His sheer drive and willingness to adopt and embrace change is wonderful to watch. His commitment to putting service and relationships at the core of a business is also remarkably admirable.

Then a hero of mine spoke. Someone who is prepared “to stand up and be counted” when it matters, even when the matter might not please everyone. Uyapo Ndadi needs little introduction. He’s a lawyer with a drive to campaign, lobby, bother and persuade those in power and “to stand up for the little guy”. His talk, that I’d asked him to limit to 20 minutes, ended up as an hour-long free legal clinic.

And then came Adam Jones, publisher of Wealth magazine. Adam is one of the country’s natural motivational speakers although I suspect he’d hate being called that. So many so-called motivational speakers have never actually run a business themselves, they just pontificate about doing so. Adam is an example of Marshall Mcluhan’s observation that “the medium is the message”. Wealth magazine offers vast amounts of advice and guidance on being successful but is also itself an example of that success.

Then a force of nature was unleashed. Anyone who knows Percy Raditladi will know at least some of his history, having created YaronaFM, managed G4S here in Botswana and later in Nigeria and being a serial entrepreneur. His willingness to take risks and, most importantly, to learn from every mistake he makes is an example to us all. Calculated risk-taking and conscientious learning can help you achieve almost anything. Percy is a perfect example of that.

He’s also the first person I’ve ever heard beginning to describe how he came up with a new business idea with the words “As I was lying in a hospital bed, recovering from being stabbed…”

Percy was followed by another example of how so many people are wrong about Botswana. Those pessimists who say we have no business-spirit in Botswana need to meet my former colleague, friend and hero, Nkata Seleka of Sleek Foods. Nkata is a perfect example of the fact that you are never too late to learn new things. Abandoning a career in IT, she started a food production company that now produces a range of relishes and sauces, here in Botswana, that you can find on the shelves of Spar, Choppies and Sefcash. Her story isn’t just about being a local food producer, or a lifelong learner, it’s about excellence. Her products are fantastic. Go out and buy some today. Just leave some of the Hot Tomato relish for me, OK?

We finished the first day of the conference with a regular speaker. The unique Kabelo Binns from Hotwire was on stage again. You only have to spend a little time with Kabelo to relaise you’re with someone who isn’t just happy to be different, he embraces it, it’s part of his personal and corporate brand. Energy, passion, drive, commitment and excellence were there as he spoke, living his brand.

And this was just the first day. Another day of workshops followed.

What we tried to do at the conference was to prove that all the skills, expertise and resources we need to offer the very best customer service in the world are already here in Botswana. That’s why we don’t import speakers from across borders. We’re trying to make a point. We have the experts already. We have the passion already. We have the skills already.

So let’s just use them!

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is the Gemini app a scam?

Could you please find me more information about Gemini App which I found in the website claiming to be turning people into millionaires instantly.... is it genuine or it's just another scam?

Thank You.

From what I can establish, Gemini is a piece of software that its producers say will trade online for you. Their promotional video makes a range of remarkable claims, including that it is “no loss trading software”, that you can use it “without a single losing trade”, that “it trades 100% by itself” and that “zero experience is required” in order to use it.

First things first. Online trading is a very good way to lose lots of money very quickly indeed. Whether it’s stocks and shares or the foreign currency markets, your money can grow but it can also shrink. Remarkably quickly.

Another thing about the markets that these people will neglect to tell you is who you are competing against. Yes, it IS a competition, particularly in the forex market. Do you really think you can beat the world-class experts that are employed by banks and investment companies? These companies seek out mathematical geniuses from universities around the world to help them develop the algorithms that their supercomputers then use to trade on their behalf. I don’t mean to be insulting but what makes you think you or I can beat these experts at their game?

You also have to ask yourself why the people behind an online trading scheme would want to share it with total stranger like us? If this scheme really is a “no loss trading software”, why aren’t they keeping it to themselves? What possible benefit is there to these guys from including us in their scheme? It’s obvious really. What they want is your money. They make money from you “investing” your hard-earned savings in their scheme.

That’s the lesson you should ask every time someone suggests you join a scheme like this one. Why would they want to share their secret with you? How do they benefit? Until you get a good answer to that question you should keep your money safely where it is right now.

Are online directories worth the money?

I would like to ask you about Yellow Business Directory, this is a company that is based in South Africa and they are getting Botswana Companies to advertise with them, My question and concern is that I am sure that they do not have a resident company within Botswana and they are raising their invoices in BWP Currency, when I asked the lady in the mail as she phoned me to ask if we will be advertising with them about the matter she dropped the phone.

I then called back and asked her about the matter again and she told me that they invoice in Pula because it our currency.

The reason why I send you this is because I am not sure how legal this is, maybe something to look into.

We’ve had many complaints over the years about companies running online directory services and they’ve been a very dubious group. Others have had very shady business practices, offering to “update” entries in their database, only to send over an invoice like yours claiming that the original “update” was a binding contract.

However, I’m not sure anything here is illegal but I wonder whether it makes any sense. The invoice from them that you sent was for a staggering P6,995 for a year in their online directory. How can they possibly justify that amount of money? The company you mention do actually have an online directory but I can’t see that it offers any business any real benefit, certainly not for the amount they charge. You’d be better off spending that money on getting a web developer to design you a nice web site and then people can find you on Google.

In your case (this guy runs a hotel) you certainly don’t need this company’s services. Keep working your reviews on Tripadvisor!

Sunday 9 October 2016

Back to School!

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week we held our annual Consumer Watchdog conference at the GICC in Gaborone. We had a range of speakers and workshop leaders who all had something important to say. The theme was “Back to School” and education underpinned everything that happened at the conference.

Hon. Minister of Education, Dr Unity Dow
For instance, we had speakers who spoke about the power of learning from mistakes. There’s a great quote from Steve jobs, the co-founder and mildly insane visionary from Apple. Discussing the approach he planned following his reappointment as head of the company he said “Some mistakes will be made along the way. That's good 'cos at least some decisions are being made along the way. And we'll find the mistakes. We'll fix them.”

Percy Raditladi
That’s ambitious but it’s more than just about taking decisions. I genuinely believe that we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. One of the reasons is that, let’s face it, most of our successes are accidental whereas our failures are due to ignorance or inexperience. With luck and hard work both ignorance and inexperience can be remedied but accidental victories teach you nothing.

Other speakers spoke about the fact that it’s never too late in life to learn new skills. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your professional background might be, there are always opportunities to develop news skills or improve old ones. I’ve met various people over the years who’ve done this. After decades working in one industry they have completely abandoned it and gone their own way, usually influenced by a hobby or passion that drew them away.

Nkata Seleka, Sleek Foods
Another topic that came up was the importance of technology in education. This is perhaps the biggest possible change in the way people, not just children, can learn and develop. Those of us old enough to remember the days before the widespread use of computers and the development of cellphones remember how difficult it was to get access to learning materials. Printed materials were expensive, heavy, cumbersome and easy damaged. Libraries weren’t always nearby and even when you got to the library there was no guarantee that the book you wanted would be there and not taken out by someone else ahead of you.

Dr Patrick Benon, Orange
Things have changed. It hasn’t reached everyone yet but fairly soon, even here in Botswana, education will be going electronic. My iPad has the capacity to hold an entire library’s stock of books. And if I lose the iPad or it breaks? I connect the replacement to my laptop or to the internet and the library automatically reappears. They also appear on every other computer or phone registered to my account. Yes, you might argue that iPads are expensive and you’d be correct, but given that the books I’ve bought have often been only half or a third of the price of their printed equivalents, the price of the device is effectively a lot cheaper.

TK Tekane, Botswana Savings Bank
This new way of distributing educational materials is going to be transformative. No longer will containers full of books need to be shipped by road, sea or air around the world when they just need to be loaded onto a server somewhere for download.

This is also going to have an effect on the way in which children are taught in schools. We simply won’t need the old approach of a teacher lecturing her students on facts, dates and figures. Instead, teachers are going to need to become guides who teach their learners HOW to learn and how to critically consider the material out there.

Bobby Tlhabiwe, Engen
The sad truth is that we’re in desperate need of education. So many of our friends, relatives and neighbours are falling victim to a range of scams and schemes that deprive them of money and often their feelings and the primary reason they fall for them is naivete. They’re not all stupid people, but they’re catastrophically gullible. They fail to question the things that are said to them and believe it when their “boyfriend” from Facebook says he’s sending her a shipment full goodies. They genuinely believe the person who calls claiming to be from the shipping agent saying she has to pay to release the package. They’re so convinced that the package and the laptop, iPhone, jewelry and cash it contains exists that they cough up the money.

Adam Jones, Wealth magazine
That’s one of the reasons we held a workshop at the conference on critical thinking and how it can protect people from abuse. It wasn’t just about scams, it also covered Ponzi schemes like Eurextrade and MMM Global, pyramid schemes like WorldVentures and multi-level marketing schemes. The best protection against all of these threats is education.

But who’s best placed to offer this education? No, it’s not the Ministry of Education. While it’s their job to include critical thinking and consumer rights in the curriculum that doesn’t help those of us who left school decades ago. I think that’s where business should take the lead. Who better to teach us about managing money than the experts. I think banks, insurance companies and legitimate micro-lenders should be getting off their rear ends and teaching their customers and the public in general on how money works. And how it doesn’t work.

Uyapo Ndadi, Ndadi Law Firm
The good news is that every one of the speakers at the conference understands this. Everyone one of them is not only a business leader but also a teacher. They teach their staff how to do things, not in classrooms or by sending them on horribly expensive training in far-flung places, but by example. Here’s a free lesson for business leaders who aren’t like the friends who spoke at the conference. You can’t expect your staff to work any harder than you do.

Bilkiss Moorad, Botswana Life Insurance Ltd
Her shoes
What was the best thing about the conference? The atmosphere. We didn’t just teach people we entertained them. There was music, dance, art and (this certainly isn’t a common thing at conferences) fun.

Join our Facebook group and I’ll show you proof of this.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is Helping Hands International for real?

I’ve seen lots of adverts for Helping Hands International on Facebook. They say you get a free laptop or ipad, brand news cars and a house. Is this true?

What do you think? The advertisement from Helping Hands International does indeed make the claim that you can “benefit from” a “Free Laptop or ipad”, “Brand New Cars”, “Interest free Loan without collateral”, “Free International Trips” and a “House of your Own”.

What do they say you need to do to obtain all these things? Despite my best efforts, I can’t find any clue about how any of these things can be achieved.

Do they have any products to sell?

Multi-Level Marketing companies like Amway sell household products and Herbalife sell “health” products (although it’s cheaper and healthier just to buy yourself some fresh fruit) but with Helping Hands International there’s nothing. They sell nothing but illusions of wealth and prosperity.

In fact, their advertisement says there is “no selling of products, no monthly targets, no rejection, no failure and no experience is needed”.

Helping Hands International isn’t a Multi-Level Marketing scheme like Amway or Herbalife. It has no products and the business model is entirely based on recruiting people beneath you and them recruiting people beneath them with the promise of money magically flowing up the pyramid in your direction. That’s not multi-level marketing, that’s a pyramid scheme.

Another problem with them is that they’re liars. Their advertisement claims that they are “in partnership with Bill Gate Foundation, Hyundia Motors, Apple Corporation, HP”. Those are their spelling mistakes, not mine. They can’t even spell the names of the companies they claim support them. Which, of course, they don’t. There are no such partnerships.

So in summary, they’re a lying pyramid scheme that can’t type properly. Do you think you’ll make money from them? If you still do, please send the money you’d contribute to me instead. I won’t lie to you, I’ll spending on myself.

Where’s my roof?

I approached a local company for supply and roofing of my house, we agreed verbally for a deal worth P150,000 which I paid beforehand for the entire roofing including labour and they promised a time frame of two weeks at the most. Its been two and half months and my house is partly and improperly roofed. I'm always on their back demanding answers about the delay but they are beating around the bush. They have and are still delaying my project costing me extra expenses like rent because I would be staying in my house in two weeks wasn't it for their lies. Everything in on hold at my site since I cannot do anything till the roofing is all done and they dodging my calls now and send one or two guys to the site once in a week.

Thanks, please help.

You’ve got various options here. It depends how nice or nasty you want to be.

If you feel like being nice, I think you should write them a polite letter explaining your objections to their conduct and lack of performance, giving them fourteen days either to remedy the situation or to compensate you for their failure to deliver what you had agreed with them. Explain in the letter that you also need them to pay for any costs that the delay has caused you such as the rent you mention. Conclude your letter by saying that if they fail to do these things you will immediately, without any further notice, take legal action against them.

If you feel like being nastier then get yourself over to your nearest police station and insist on laying a charge against the company for “obtaining by false pretence”, contrary to Section 308 of The Penal Code or of “cheating”, contrary to Section 310. Either way you should insist that this is a criminal matter (not a civil one) and you need the Police to investigate. Get the cops to make the phone call while you wait.

Or we could just call him for you and explain what’s about to happen? I’m not sure whether that’s nice or nasty. Here’s a better idea. Let’s do all three!

Sunday 2 October 2016

Are we independent?

Like everyone else I can’t help thinking about independence. Today, more than any other day, I can’t get this out of my head.

I don’t just mean the history of our country, we all know about that, I mean about just how independent we really are, both as a nation and as consumers. Are we truly independent?

In many respects we are. One of the things that first struck me when I started looking at the various laws that protect us as consumers was how well protected we are. The Consumer Protection Act and Regulations offer us a wide range of weapons to defend ourselves. When supporting consumers, we probably mention one or more of the Regulations at least every day.

The Control of Goods Act and then the subsequent, and horribly named, Control of Goods Act (Marking of Goods) Regulations were remarkably useful. It’s those Regulations that say that when goods are offered for sale on credit or any form of “deferred payment” that any advertisement must disclose “the total amount to be paid”. When we started Consumer Watchdog all those years ago this rule was ignored by ALL the stores. All of them. All they mentioned was the value of the instalments you had to make and how many months the torture would last for.

We contacted all of the stores and explained this to them. To be fair, some of them were very apologetic and promised to fix it as soon as possible and they did actually do so. A few were a little more reluctant. One country manager even excused his company by saying that they “abide by South African law”.

Well that’s nice. Honestly, it’s very nice when South African companies abide by South African law. But only when they’re in South Africa. In Botswana we abide by the laws of Botswana. That company seemed to think we were a South African dependency, maybe the tenth province. They didn’t think we were independent. They soon corrected their perception when we started announcing which companies chose to recognize our independence. And those that didn’t.

It’s a similar situation with prices. We’ve had so many people contact us over the last few years complaining about the common one-to-one Rand-Pula pricing practice. So many South African chains sell products in Botswana for the same number of currency units as they do in SA. Something sold in SA for R50 is sold for P50 here. Given that the Rand:Pula exchange rate is currently about 1.3, a R50 item should sell in Botswana for about P38.

In fact, this was such an issue that in December last year, the Ministry of Trade and Industry had a justifiable tantrum and told South African companies to stop it. They said that it was an “unfair trade practice whereby the Pula/ Rand exchange rate differential is not passed onto the consumer. Therefore businesses that are practicing this are advised to stop forthwith and failure to do so may result in their trade licenses being reviewed, which may lead to their suspension or cancellation”. They advised the public “not to accept paying for merchandise that is priced in the Rand or any foreign currency other than the Pula.”

A few months later that message was reiterated by none other than the President himself. From the highest level, the message is clear. We are an independent, sovereign nation that has its own rules and standards. We are not dependent on the charity of other nations and we do not deserve to be abused.

From another perspective we’re not even slightly independent. Whether the people who oppose globalization like it or not, we live in an enormously connected world. When I add an appointment to the calendar app on my phone it automatically wirelessly syncs with the calendar on my laptop. This is all done on a computer server somewhere in the world and I genuinely don’t know where that server might be. But I know it’s not in Botswana. My everyday life is reliant on the so-called cloud computing model that is a great example of how life is now global. The same goes for the Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail email address you use, your email is stored somewhere far, far away, not in Botswana.

But this international dependency is the nature of existing in the 21st century and my personal view is that it’s a wonderful thing. It offers us tools that are genuinely useful.

We’re also obviously dependent on the rest of the world for almost all the food we eat, the beer we consume to excess and even some of the specialist professional skills we need.

But we’re not entirely dependent. At the Consumer Watchdog Conference at the GICC in Gaborone in just a few days time, we’ll have a range of speakers and specialists running in-depth workshops and every one of them is living and working in Botswana right now, today. Not one of them is flying in to Botswana to deliver their speech or their skills and that’s deliberate. One of the things we’re trying to achieve at the conference is to show that even though we live in an interconnected, globalized world, we already have all the necessary skills in Botswana to deliver the very best customer service.

I think the challenge we face is to combine the welcome dependency we have on the globalized world and our righteous desire to be treated as an independent nation. The good news is the people who’ve spoken at our conference over the last few years and the speakers this year are proof, if you need it, that in Botswana we have business leaders and thinkers who can easily face that challenge and overcome it.

So what about you? Are you prepared to defend our independence?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Are 4 Corners Alliance legit?

Have you heard of four corners. I understand one can make half million dollars in six months from just $18. Is this possible?

I first heard about 4 Corners Alliance last year. I was suspicious then and nothing has made me change my mind since.

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". Sounds good, but a little vague, don’t you think? But I suspect they don’t want you to think too much about that. Instead they want you to think about money.

Their web site says that “you can make $500,000+ in 6 months”. They explain that all you need to do is “1. Join Four Corners Alliance Group for only a one-time payment of $18. 2. Invite 4 friends. 3. Help them refer 4 people. 4. They duplicate process 6 times. 5. You Earn $559,824.”

Doesn’t that sound exactly like a pyramid scheme to you? But perhaps I’m being prejudiced. Maybe there are products at the heart of this scheme? They say that “The products that 4 corners sell is a set of Financial Education Literacy which is downloadable in your back office. This is an automated system, it will sell the products for you once you invite 4 people. All you have to do is sit back and relax.”

As well as being terrible English, that sounds a bit too good to be true to me. Above all there’s the claim that you can miraculously convert $18 to more than $500,000 in just six months. Where do you think that money might come from? How on earth is that possible?

Here’s a simple truth. No scheme can make that sort of money. It’s a lie. 4 Corners Alliance is nothing more than a pyramid scheme. I urge you not to waste your time, effort and money.

My fridge doesn’t work!

I bought a Samsung 660L fridge in 2010 and the warranty was for a period of 5 years, between 2010 and 2015. Throughout the period of the warranty the fridge consistently had a problem. The freezer has always worked just fine but the other side is defective, it does not cool. On several occasions the fridge has been taken for repairs, it would be ok for a few months and present the same problem again. It is now out of the warranty and has presented the same problem making it unfit to use.

Kindly assist.

I suspect you might be out of luck. As you seem to recognize, the warranty has now expired and technically you are therefore not entitled to free support from the supplier of the fridge. I know this isn’t very comforting but what you should have done is to formally reject the fridge during the warranty period as not being “of merchantable quality” as required by Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations. What, you might ask, does “merchantable quality” actually mean? The Regulations define it 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”. A fridge is meant to keep things cold and if it doesn’t then it’s not of merchantable quality.

By coincidence I’ve got almost exactly the same fridge and I even bought it from the same store as you. Just a matter of weeks after I bought it the fridge side of it went wrong, just like yours did. We mentioned “merchantable quality” to the store manager and the next day an entirely new replacement fridge was delivered.

Even though your fridge is no longer covered by the warranty I’ve contacted the store manager and asked if you can’t be assisted as a favour to you, given your long-running bad experience. I’ll contact you directly to tell you how they respond.