Friday, 23 June 2017

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They excluded my kid!

Hello. I hope you are fine. I have arrears for my child's school fees but show commitment in offsetting the debt. I paid P3500 last month and P1500 month. I went to the school to inform them that I have applied for a short loan and I am still waiting for the loan to be processed, but the school suspended the kid. Is it appropriate for them to do so?

Yes, unfortunately the school is entitled to do this. I know it seems harsh but they’re a business, not a charity

You don’t say how much your arrears were, but while I respect you for doing your best to pay them off, if there is still an outstanding amount owing, they’re entitled to withdraw the service they’re offering you.

It would be exactly the same if you were in arrears with your rent at your house. Even if you were paying off the arrears the landlord would be entitled to take legal action against you and evict you. It would be the same again if you were in arrears with your cellphone contract, your insurance policy or your home loan. If you’re in arrears, your creditor is entitled to take action against you to suspend the service they’re offering and recover the money you owe them.

I have a lot of sympathy for schools in this situation. I’ve met the head teachers of many private schools and all of them are the sort of people who really dislike excluding a child because the parents are in arrears. It’s not why they went into the teaching profession but they are nevertheless running businesses that have bills to pay and while they often show some tolerance there must be limits to that. Let’s also no ignore that small proportion of parents who are really bad payers.

I suggest you keep the school regularly updated on the progress you’re making in catching up and maybe they’ll be a bit more tolerant.

Where’s my laptop?

I’m asking you what I can do. I pawned a laptop and it got stolen from that pawn shop. Now they’re saying that I pawned it at my own risk so they are not taking responsibility for it. What can I do?

You can ask NBFIRA, the Non Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority for their support, that’s the first thing. NBFIRA regulate the pawn shop industry in Botswana and I’m sure they’ll be interested to hear that a pawn shop is operating so badly.

The first thing I’d say is that any business that either owns a lot of valuable equipment, or which stores property on other people’s behalf, that doesn’t have an insurance policy that covers them against this sort of situation is an incompetent company run by incompetent managers and owned by incompetent owners. It’s reckless and reckless people shouldn’t be running a business. If NBFIRA don’t already make possession of insurance a mandatory requirement for pawn shops then here’s a free suggestion. Change the regulations today.

Secondly, I think you need to check the receipt they gave you when you pawned your laptop. Did you sign anything saying that you “specifically consented” to the store not taking responsibility for a loss like this? If you didn’t then they’ve just broken Section 17 (1) (f) of the Consumer Protection Regulations which forbids them from “entering into a transaction in which the consumer waives or purports to waive a right, benefit or immunity provided by law, unless the waiver is clearly stated and the consumer has specifically consented to it”.

I would also go back to the store and see if they have “clearly stated” this rule, perhaps with a sign on the wall that nobody can miss. If not, I think you should escalate this to both NBFIRA and the Consumer Protection Unit.

You should also demand to be given a copy of the police report they filed when they discovered the theft. If they don’t have one then you’ve got a right to question whether the theft ever occurred and in that case you should go to the police yourself and report the theft.

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