Saturday 28 October 2017

Will World Ventures make me rich?

I’ve been asked many times by many people for my opinions about World Ventures and my answer is always the same. I believe it’s a pyramid scheme.

Let’s start at the beginning. Wikipedia provides a useful definition of a pyramid scheme. It’s
"an unsustainable business model that involves promising participants payment or services, primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, rather than supplying any real investment or sale of products or services to the public.”
So, for instance, Amway and Herbalife aren’t pyramid schemes because they have products. They’re Multi-Level Marketing schemes that just have a pyramid structure. With these two schemes you’re certainly actively encouraged to build multiple layers of people beneath you in the structure but there are actual products being shipped. The figures that Amway and Herbalife produce show that hardly anyone makes any profit from the schemes but they’re not pyramid schemes. Not quite.

But World Ventures is a pyramid scheme. So say the authorities in Norway who investigated them and discovered that most of the money people were making from World Ventures came from the recruitment of other people in the pyramid, not the sale of any product. Similar investigations around the world have also suggested the same conclusion. So it’s not just me.

But let’s, for a moment, assume that World Ventures is a legitimate business. Let’s assume it’s not a scam. Will you make money from joining?

Almost certainly not. And who can I thank for teaching me this? World Ventures themselves.

In the USA, World Ventures publish an "Income Disclosure Statement" every year and it makes interesting reading. Like all such schemes the majority of the money is earned by a very small proportion of the people, the ones at the top of the pyramid.

The 2015 statement declared very proudly that World Ventures has 238,684 Independent Sales Representatives (“IRs”) in the United States. However, they reported that only "22.24% of all IRs earned a commission or override, while 77.76% did not". In simpler terms, three quarters of all their American recruits made nothing from the scheme. Nothing at all. Zero.

Of the quarter of recruits who earned something, the news was very good but only if you were at the top of the pyramid. In fact, 84% of all the money generated was earned by the top 19%. Or, if you prefer it the other way round, 81% of the recruits who earn something have to share just 16% of the money.

It gets worse. Two thirds (actually 68.7%) of all the income earned in 2015 went to the 3.7% lucky enough to find themselves at the very top of the pyramid. In fact, the people at the very top of the pyramid are doing very well for themselves. The 1 in 20,000 people described as "National Marketing Director" level had an annual income of $238,645. The 1 in 14,000 at "International Marketing Director" level earned an average of $409,280.

Overall, if you include everyone who made some money from the scheme, the average income was $1,348 but that's not a good indication of what the average recruit will earn because the figures are distorted by those fat cats earning a fortune at the top of the pyramid. The median income level is a much better illustration of what you can expect to earn. That's a meagre $150 per year, about P1,500.

But don't forget two important things. Firstly, like I mentioned above, less than a quarter of all the people who join earn anything. These figures just refer to the quarter of victims who earned anything at all. If you include the three quarters who don’t earn anything, the average annual earnings are a meagre $300. The median earnings, the more realistic figure, drops to a pathetic $33. Just P330 per year.

Even more importantly, all these numbers refer to income, not profits. These figures are before you take account of all the money the victims had to spend on travel, accommodation, electricity, internet access and trying to recruit potential victims. If the evidence from legitimate schemes like Amway and Herbalife can be trusted then it’s probably fair to assume that the vast majority of people who join World Ventures either make nothing or actually lose money.

In fact, all they’re doing is earning lots money for the tiny number at the top of the pyramid.

It’s the same for all the other pyramid schemes, and their cousins, the Ponzi schemes that abound. Only the people at the top ever make money and that’s always at the expense of the poor suckers at the bottom, the ones doing all the work, not even earning a salary for their efforts. Whether it’s the silly AIM Global scheme selling their illegal magical health products, Total Life Changes with their apparently disease-curing tea, Tupperware with their kitchenware, BitClub Network with their claim that people can become Bitcoin miners, Questra or alternatively Atlantic Global Asset Management with their Get Rich Quick claims, the claims are always exactly the same. With minimal effort, you’ll make lots of money.

Sometimes they’re brazen about it. One of the recruiters for Questra, a well-known “Man of God”, posted on Facebook that with Questra, there were “No Joining fees, No monthly payments, You invest n see ur money making u money without lifting a finger.”

If only life was that simple. But it’s not. There are no quick ways to make money without effort unless you win the lottery. Even then it’s not the complete truth. A lottery can only afford to give the winner a million if the losers have lost more than a million in total. The losers pay the winner’s winnings.

Pyramid schemes like World Ventures are even worse than lotteries. Imagine a lottery where the person running the lottery fixed the results and was also the winner, every single week. That’s what a pyramid scheme is like, a conspiracy organised solely to take money from the people who lose every week and give it to the winners, who also are the people who created the scheme.

Do you want to be that loser?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay to return the bricks?

Kindly offer advice on the following matter.

About a month ago I made an order for some bricks from a supplier. He delivered when I was not around and the bricks are poor quality to me but he claims the quality is good. I saw the bricks and they are not up to standard. I wanted to return the bricks because of the poor quality and he says I will have to pay 33% handling fee to him.

What I my rights in the situation? I have not made any payments. I don’t have any signed agreement with him and have never seen his company policy.

Clearly this guy isn’t the smartest of people. He delivered bricks to your place without a payment in advance and then he wants to start fooling around with you? Doesn’t he realise that you are the one in control of this situation?

I suggest you write him a letter saying that the bricks he delivered failed to meet the requirements of Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations that require goods to be "of merchantable quality" which is defined as “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased”. You should also say that as a result of the sub-standard nature of the bricks, you are cancelling the deal completely and that he is welcome to collect his bricks from your property. Don’t even respond to his silly suggestion about the 33% fee for handling the bricks that still belong to him.

Should we join World Ventures?

Richard do u know anything about World Ventures? My wife wants us to join but the way she explained it to me I smell something wrong about it. She has to come with 4 people who will bring more people for her to earn points. Please advise.

World Ventures is a pyramid scheme. That’s my opinion but it’s an opinion shared by the authorities in Norway for instance, who declared it was a pyramid scheme after they discovered that 85% of the income its members made came from recruiting other people rather that selling products. That’s the definition of a pyramid scheme.

We’ve been warning people about World Ventures since 2009 when they took over an earlier pyramid scheme called Success University. World Ventures and their Dream Trips scheme promise fantastic holidays in exotic places but they’re rarely clear that none of these holidays are free. You have to pay to join the pyramid and then all you get are discounted holidays. You still have to buy the holidays, just at a slightly cheaper price. And here’s a thing. A discount isn’t a product, it’s a reduction in the price of a product. Like the Norwegian authorities discovered, World Ventures is really all about is paying to join a pyramid-structured scheme in which you do your best to recruit multiple layers of people beneath you, just like any other pyramid or Multi-Level Marketing scheme.

The interesting thing is that World Ventures publish an "Income Disclosure Statement" in the USA every year and it makes interesting reading. To begin with, more than three quarters of all their American recruits made nothing from the scheme. Nothing at all. Zero.

Of those that made any money, the vast majority of the money is earned by a very small proportion of the people, the ones at the top of the pyramid. Furthermore, more than two thirds of all the money is made by the 3.7% at the top of the pyramid. 84% is earned by the top 19%. To put it another way, 81% of the recruits who earn money have to share just 16% of the money.

And these amounts refer to income, not profits. They’re before the recruits took account of all the money they had to spend on travel, accommodation, electricity, internet access and all the other costs of trying to recruit other victims into the scheme. The evidence from other similar schemes is that most people earn less than they spend trying to make the money. They lose money.

I suggest you tell your wife there are many better ways of spending your money!

Friday 20 October 2017

It'll never go away! (Facebook I mean)

A relative once told me, when I was a child, “it is always better to think before you speak, than to speak before you think.”

It was true then and it’s true now but maybe it needs to be modified? It is better to think before you post, than to post before you think. Substitute the word “tweet” for “post” if Twitter is your preferred social media platform.

The problem with communication these days is that so much of it is done online. Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with online communication. In fact, I think it’s one of the greatest developments in modern history. The ease with which we can converse, keep in touch with friends and relatives in faraway places, do business internationally and inform ourselves of global and local developments is wonderful. But it comes at a price.

Let’s take the example of Facebook. Much as I love Facebook and the way it allows us to communicate, learn and share information, Facebook is scary. It’s like a bar on a Friday night. Like most people in a bar, people on Facebook are a little noisier than in normal life, a lot more affectionate and flirty, a lot more likely to make fools of themselves and feel deep remorse the following morning. Also, there seems to be something about Facebook that produces a reaction in some people like a minority have to alcohol when they’re in a bar. They turn nasty. Most of us who’ve spent time in bars on Friday nights will have known someone who in normal life is the nicest, gentlest, kindest of characters but when they have their third drink, they turn into psychopathic monsters desperate to pick a fight. The same thing happens on Facebook. Nice people can turn nasty as soon as that blue and white screen appears, asking you to share “What’s on your mind?”

Another problem with Facebook and the internet in general is that everything you post is permanent. It doesn’t matter how quickly you delete the comment you posted that you realised was offensive or stupid, you can be certain that someone, somewhere will have taken a screen shot of it and either saved it or reposted it. You should always assume that everything you ever post on Facebook or elsewhere on the internet will be discoverable for the rest of human history.

Unfortunately, not every person or organisation understands this. I know of several individuals who have either been forced, or decided of their own volition, to leave Facebook completely after they posted something they later regretted. One young woman contacted us for advice when the rather embarrassing, very revealing picture she posted in what she thought was a private place on the internet turned out to be very public. Everyone who knows her now knows a great deal about her tattoos and where they can be found. All of them.

Another, much less sympathetically, posted a comment in our Facebook group that included “the K word”. Given that the person posting it was a white South African, not someone using the word ironically or in some way “reclaiming” the word, you can imagine how inappropriate it was. The firestorm that erupted was astonishing. By the time I’d seen the post, there were three hundred subsequent comments from other members of the group expressing their outrage. When the woman who had caused all the offence later apologised, she got more than 500 responses, not all of them sympathetic and supportive. Even though I deleted the post because of the rage it had caused, the bad news for the person who posted this inflammatory message is that it’s never going to go away. I know many members of the group took screenshots of the offending post and I took screenshots of every comment that was made, in case the issue ever reappears.

More recently we’ve seen a restaurant, just a matter of days after the tragedy at the National Stadium when a young woman was crushed to death and scores of people were injured, post an invitation to their restaurant to “everyone who managed to survive GIMC”. However, and to their credit, the management of the restaurant very quickly published a profound apology for the bad taste and promised that “an issue of this nature will never occur again”. But some damage was done and it will take a while for their reputation to fully recover.

Another example of how social media can escalate an issue out of control is when the leadership of a private school sent out advice on the school’s uniform code. This included various instructions on the length of skirts, shirts being tucked in and regarding the tidiness of hair, the words “No afros are allowed”.

Once most of us calmed down I think we could imagine what the principal of the school MEANT to say, probably something about length and tidiness but that’s not what DID say. He said that afros were banned. And that’s when Facebook as well as the conventional media exploded. But there’s a difference between the two channels that’s important to understand. I bet you don’t have a copy of the newspaper articles covered the story, do you? But the story is still available online and on Facebook and it always will be. Nothing online is ever lost. Not ever. Even when you delete it, someone somewhere will have a copy. A copy that will last forever.

The lessons are simple, but they are nevertheless serious. Don’t post things on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat. Just don’t. Not until you’ve engaged your brain, checked that you haven’t consumed too much caffeine or alcohol, and that you’re not feeling over-excited, angry, depressed, excessively “romantic” or outraged. And then again, even after you’ve typed your message, take another moment before you press Post. Ask yourself what you might think of your post on Monday morning when you get to work. Ask yourself what your boss, your mother or your children would think about the comment you posted.

And then think again. Do you really want this post to remain associated with your name for the rest of your life?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Hotel Express International (yet again!)

I received a call on my landline phone from people who said they were from Hotel Express International,who told me that I have been offered a membership card for discount from some particular hotels.

I asked them repeatedly if I have to pay for it but I was told that is free. They had my 14 digits bank card number but they only wanted to confirm if they are true. Surprisingly, I asked where they got those numbers from and they told me that they got my details and recommendations from the previous hotel I used. I was later surprised to find that my money was missing.

I did not have any agreement of any sort with those people. What can I do to get my money back?

This is the seventeenth time we’ve written about Hotel Express International since 2010 and I doubt it will be the last time. Every single time the story has been the same.

Someone like you gets a call from one of their agents who explains their travel discount scheme, offering you discounts on hotels, car hires and flights. They normally explain that there’s a cost to join the scheme, usually just under R3,000. The experience in the past has been that they ask for your credit or debit card details telling you that this is to check either if you’re eligible to join or to see if you’re entitled to some special level of membership. Many of the victims who’ve contacted us have claimed that they didn’t give explicit permission for money to be deducted from their accounts but that’s exactly what happened. Without explicit permission they’ve been enrolled and their account is charged without, they claim, their consent.

Your story is different and even more worrying. The fact that they already had your card details worries me greatly. If what they said is true, someone in a hotel has given away, sold or perhaps even stolen your card details and that’s grossly improper, perhaps even illegal. I suggest that you call your bank immediately and explain that your card security has been compromised and your card was misused. Demand that they investigate.

Meanwhile there’s another issue. Why would anyone want to pay to join a scheme that offers discounts that you can get elsewhere for free? You don’t ever have to pay the full rate in a hotel. There are endless special offers and discounted rates available for you to choose from. Just a few weeks ago I stayed in a hotel in Johannesburg and do you think I paid the full rate? No, of course not. I saw a special offer online that gave me a luxury hotel room at about half of the normal rate. Did I need to pay to join a discount scheme to get this special rate? No.

We’ll get in touch with Hotel Express International in South Africa on your behalf and see what can be done. Don’t be optimistic though.

Given the number of times we’ve heard from Hotel Express International victims telling similar stories our advice is simple. If ever Hotel Express International call you, just hang up immediately. They can’t be trusted.

Must they reimburse me?

I’m writing about a problem I had with an air trip I recently undertook.

My plea is I want to be reimbursed for the over inflated air ticket I was forced to buy when I stopped over in Israel since I was not allowed to travel back home on allegations that I was told I needed to buy a connection flight from Johannesburg to Gaborone because I am not a citizen of South Africa! I ended up spending 3 extra days in Israel and I would like that money back from the airline. Can I get it back?

I suspect this might be more difficult than you might initially think. The first problem is that airlines are very anxious about flying people to countries in which they don’t have a right of residence, in your case South Africa. International flying regulations say that if a passenger is denied entry into a country for reasons that the airline could have anticipated then the airline is responsible for the cost of repatriating them. The airline would then be forced to pay for you to fly out of South Africa.

However, this doesn’t normally apply if you’re just in transit at the airport so I suspect you didn’t have a “connecting ticket”? That way the airline would have seen that you weren’t actually going to enter SA, just travel through it, not even leaving the airport. Even if it costs you a little more a connecting ticket is always a useful thing to have. Send us the details and we’ll investigate a bit further.

Saturday 14 October 2017

The current threats

What’s threatening the consumers of Botswana at the moment?

One calls itself Questra or alternatively Atlantic Global Asset Management, which they say is the company that represents Questra. One of their local representatives posted some photos of himself doing his best to recruit people into the scheme and a message which included the suggestion that you should “invest as little as P1300.00 to buy an annual package of €90 that will yield 4-7% interest every week, payable to ur account on Fridays for the whole year”.

There’s your first clue. “4-7% interest every week”? Those numbers might not seem terribly high to you. Aren’t they similar to the interest rates offered by banks? Well, that’s true, but with a bank you might get that sort of return after a year. This guy says you can earn it “every week”. Let’s assume for a moment that this is true. I’ve done the maths. If you give them the minimum of P1,300 that they suggest and you then get a €90 package (about P1,080) that will earn 4% per week, after a year your P1,080 will have grown to P7,222, a total return of 569% per year. If you were luckier and you get the 7% they suggest, your money will have grown to P36,423, an annual return of 3,273%.

That’s impossible and I hope everyone realises that. If you don’t, ask yourself this. If it was possible, don’t you think the Bank of Botswana will be investing? And all the commercial banks, pension funds and professional investors as well? I think it’s safe to assume that if they’re not doing so, then neither should we.

Another clue is something you often see with pyramid and Ponzi schemes. They very rarely give any clue about how you will earn the profits they promise. They don’t mention stocks and shares, derivatives, futures or any other mysterious financial terminology that sounds impressive.

A final clue came later in this guy’s claim. He said that there are “No Joining fees, No monthly payments, You invest n see ur money making u money without lifting a finger.”

So you can earn over 3,000% interest in a year without even lifting a finger? This is such an obvious scam, no other clues are needed.

But there are nevertheless several other clues. They’re the warnings that have been issued by the authorities in Belgium, Italy, Slovakia, Austria, Liechtenstein, Poland, Spain and the UK. The Belgian Financial Services and Markets Authority said that Questra “clearly resembles that of a pyramid scheme or, at the very least, a Ponzi fraud."

There’s a final curiosity about Questra, or rather about the guy who was busily recruiting people. In 2010 the same person was trying to recruit people in to TVI Express, another pyramid scheme that collapsed leaving people poor. Then in 2015 he was again busy, this time recruiting people into the pyramid scheme selling Xtreme Fuel Treatment, a fake fuel efficiency enhancer. Clearly he’s a serial pyramid scheme recruiter.

Even busier than this guy are the hordes of Filipinos and their local recruits desperately trying to recruit people into AIM Global.

One of these recruiters posted that “We are looking for the next distributor that would like to start making P200 to P3,200 daily working just to share information about Aim Global business opportunity every day using your Mobile Phone?”, “JOIN US NOW and be the next Millionaire in your Country”.

Just like the evangelist selling Questra, at no point do the people desperately trying to seduce people into joining AIM Global say what the product that this scheme sells might be. They give no idea how you can earn that P3,200 every day. It must be magic.

In fact there is a product lurking behind AIM Global and it really does seem like a magical product. Their “C247” product can, so they claim, help with 100 different serious medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, cirrhosis, bone fracture, deafness, endometriosis, epilepsy, heart diseases, hypertension, low sperm count, “toxins in the body”, stroke, migraine and even cancer and “immunodeficiency”.

Any product that could do all these things truly would be magical. And just like all other magic tricks, it’s a deception, and an illegal one too. Sections 396-399 of the Penal Code specifically forbid anyone from advertising such claims. So it’s a criminal product that has not, despite what many of the people selling the scheme claim, been “approved” by either the Ministry or Health of the Botswana Bureau of Standards. A criminal product sold by liars running a pyramid scheme.

But Questra and AIM Global aren’t the only threats. World Ventures, a pyramid scheme selling holiday discounts, is still going strong despite authorities around the world warning people that it’s nothing more than a pyramid scheme. Whether they call themselves World Ventures, or their new name, Dream Trips, it doesn’t matter. Their own figures from the USA for 2015 show clearly that more than three-quarters of their American recruits made no money at all from the scheme. Not a single cent. Of the small proportion that did make any money, more than two thirds of all the income is earned by the 3.7% at the top of the pyramid.

In fact, the median income level, the best illustration of what the typical American World Ventures recruits earned in 2015, was a meagre P1,500 per year. And that’s just income. It takes no account of the money the recruits must spend on travel, their phone and internet bills and the alcohol they probably need to drink to drown their sorrows when they finally realise that all their hard work has done is to feed the people at the top of the pyramid.

There’s also the TLC scheme, “Total Life Changes”, that sell their miracle "Iaso Tea" that they claim can help you lose 2.5kg in weight in a week and can also “reduce stress, reduce the risk of cancer, prevent cardiovascular diseases”. It also “mitigates HIV”. “prevents high blood pressure” and protects against “poisoning”. The recruiters will also tell you that it’s possible to make money from TLC just by recruiting other people, just like any other pyramid scheme.

The lesson, as always, is simple. People desperate to recruit you into schemes like TLC, Questra, World Ventures or AIM Global are desperate to make money from you, not with you.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay the school?

I need advice on an issue concerning my contract with a school that my daughter used to attend in Phikwe. I was transferred from Phikwe as my employer was closing our office there and I had a contract a school which had a clause on serving notice if a student is transferred from their school.

I notified the principal verbally in March 2017 as soon as I was notified of the office closure, that I will be transferring my daughter to Gaborone as soon as I got a date for the indefinite closure. I was advised to write a letter by the school head, and I delayed, ultimately my moving date came and I failed to make time to go to the school. The school head called me and informed that I have to pay a full term notice to them. I tried to talk to her and make her understand that my relocation was not an intentional move by me, it was a decision taken by my employer and I had no control over it. She was adamant about this. I however moved to Gaborone without making a payment to the school.

In May the school head called me and threatened that I write a commitment letter to make payments and I did but failed to commit as per the letter. I have since been summoned to court in Phikwe to answer for a debt of the full term fees to the school. I need advice or a legal person you can refer me to as I feel I am being treated unfairly.

Firstly, I should state that I’m not an attorney so obviously I can’t offer legal advice. However, simply as a layperson I suspect you have no excuse. Firstly, you signed a contract with the school which explained what would happen if you withdraw your child. The contract includes a clause which says that you “understood that a full term written notice is required when withdrawing a child at any level from the school and that failure to do this will place me liable for an entire terms notice”. You admit that you didn’t do this.

Secondly you later signed a commitment letter saying that you would pay this fee and again you failed to do this. The school was within its rights then to go to court to get an order against you to pay the debt you’ve twice admitted in writing you owe but have still failed to pay.

I suggest that you contact the school and come to some agreement about paying the debt you owe them. However, given that you’ve twice failed to abide by such an agreement, don’t expect them to be very flexible!

Can they strip-search or punish me?

Sir does a security guard have the right to search me on suspicion of theft in a shop or do they have the right to order me to undress. Does the shop owner have permission to punish me even if they have caught me with a stolen item? 

No, they certainly do NOT have the right to search you. And they certainly don’t have the right to make you undress or to “punish” you, no matter what the situation. Any store or guard who does that has abused you and has grossly overstepped their powers.

The only right that a store has, and this includes security guards, is the same right that any private person has, and that’s to arrest someone that they believe has, or might have committed, a serious crime. That includes theft. But that’s all they can do. They can’t search you or your belongings regardless of the circumstances. Only a police officer can do that. All a store or an individual can do is detain you until the police arrive.

In a case a few years ago, a brave woman who had been forced to submit to a search of her bags as she was leaving a store took the security company who had abused her to court and won her case. She was then awarded P60,000 in compensation from the security company. The judge explained that she deserved this, ”considering the humiliation embarrassment and impairment of her dignity as an honest member of society”.

It actually doesn’t matter whether you’re “an honest member of society” or a criminal, either way you have rights and those rights cannot be abused.

Friday 6 October 2017

People power

We have good laws in Botswana. They’re not perfect, some of them need updating and there are certainly some gaps but we do rather well.

We’re always quoting the Consumer Protection Regulations but also the regulations covering packaged goods, food hygiene, the marking of goods and standards. We’re also often consulting one of the most important pieces of law we have. The Penal Code.

In particular, I’m very fond of Section 195 of the Penal Code which, while discussing defamation, says that a defamatory publication is not unlawful if “the matter is true and it was for the public benefit that it should be published”. That’s helped us considerably when companies have threatened to take us to court for saying bad (but true) things about them. All we’ve needed to do was remind them, or their extremely expensive attorneys, that what we said was true and that clearly the public needed to know it. Every single time they’ve then left us alone.

However, a much more important section of the Penal Code is at its very end. Sections 396-399 talk about what are called “prohibited advertisements”. It says that “Any person shall be guilty of an offence who as principal, agent or servant, publishes or causes or assists to be published any prohibited advertisement.”

So what exactly is a “prohibited advertisement”? The Penal Code says that it’s “any advertisement of any medicine … as being effective for any of the following purposes”.

Those purposes include
  • “the cure of venereal diseases”, 
  • “the prevention, relief or cure of cancer, tuberculosis, leprosy, diabetes, epilepsy”, “the cure of arteriosclerosis, septicaemia, diphtheria, gallstones, kidney stones and bladder stones, heart disease, tetanus, pleurisy, pneumonia, scarlet-fever, smallpox, amenorrhoea, hernia, blindness”, and
  • “the cure of any habit associated with sexual indulgence, or of any ailment associated with those habits or for the promotion of sexual virility, desire or fertility or for the restoration or stimulation of the mental faculties”.
So why is this important? Are there really any people or companies advertising treatments for “the prevention, relief or cure of cancer”? Or for heart disease? Or sexually transmitted diseases, or as the law calls them using a rather old-fashioned term, “venereal diseases”?

Yes, unfortunately there are.

If you’re on Facebook (and I know many of you are), you will have seen messages recently from a variety of people offering a range of “opportunities”. One I saw recently, from an enterprising Filipino, said:
“HELLO BOTSWANA! We are looking for the next distributor that would like to start making P200 to P3,200 daily working just to share information about Aim Global business opportunity every day using your Mobile Phone? DOING IT PART TIME and AT HOME. Just comment "HOW" below and I will get back to you as soon as I can. First 10 person will be prioritized!!!! HURRY!! Let Do this 7 heads INVESTMENT. JOIN US NOW and be the next Millionaire in your Country”
Did you notice something curious about that advertisement? It doesn’t mention what the product is. What is it that can earn you up to P3,200 each day? That’s always a clue that you’ve met someone trying to recruit you into either a pyramid scheme or a Ponzi scheme. Any legitimate business will tell you immediately what products they sell. They’ll be proud of them. A company that seems to hide what their products might be clearly has something to hide.

If you dig deep enough you can discover the product the they’re selling. But first, who are they?

Their company is “Alliance in Motion Global”, a Filipino multi-level marketing scheme that sells nutritional supplements. I should point out that there’s nothing illegal or wrong about food supplements, they’re just entirely unnecessary for almost all of us. With very few exceptions none of us need to take them. A reasonably balanced diet involving plenty of fruit and vegetables will give us all the nutrients a normal person will ever need. Supplements are an expensive waste of money.

However, the supplement that AIM Global sell is a different matter. It’s not just a vitamin pill, it’s something dangerous. They call it C247 and they make some extraordinary claims. They claim that “C247” can help with 100 different serious medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, cirrhosis, bone fracture, deafness, endometriosis, epilepsy, heart diseases, hypertension, low sperm count, “toxins in the body”, stroke, migraine and even cancer and “immunodeficiency”.

We know what that last one means, don’t we? They mean that their product can help people with AIDS. Add to that their claim that the product can help with cancer, diabetes and sexually transmitted diseases and you have what is clearly a series of prohibited advertisements, don’t you think? Isn’t this exactly what Sections 396-399 of the Penal Code forbid?

You might be asking yourself whether this is actually a real concern. So what if some fools sign up for a pyramid scheme and lose some money or some other people buy their ridiculous product that they claim can treat every disease you can imagine? So what? It’s harmless, you might suggest.

I beg to differ. My fear is that someone who is unwell, perhaps battling cancer or fighting AIDS will be seduced by the claims of these peddlers of lies and will stop taking their real medication, perhaps throw away their ARVs and take AIM Global’s product instead. You might think this doesn’t happen but I can introduce you to doctors who’ve told me that it does. They can tell you about their patients, desperate for a miracle cure who have done exactly this and have paid the ultimate price. They died as a result of taking a product like C247 that they were promised could perform miracles.

Luckily, we have a weapon against them. The law. The question is who is prepared to use it?

Perhaps more effective is for people like you and me to take action to stop them peddling this dangerous product. Let’s comment every time we see their advertisements on Facebook, telling them that their advertisements are illegal and their scheme is too suspicious. Who needs the law when you have people power?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Double deductions?

I am emailing on behalf of my father who has an issue with a deduction made from his bank account for his car loan. He had a car loan through the bank and was in arrears by 2 months. He received a call from reminding him about the arrears and the week after the call, he cleared the outstanding balance.

1 or 2 weeks later he saw a deduction of P1900 from his account. When he made a query regarding this deduction, he was told it was done by the car loan division. He was charged P1900 for the telephonic reminder regarding his arrears from their legal department.

He contacted the bank branch manager and even the manager said it was not correct for them to make a deduction like this. He said he will try and sort out the matter but unfortunately till date we have not been able to get assistance. It's been more than a month.

What can be done in this situation? Your assistance would be highly appreciated.

Your father deserves to be given the facts. Yes, he was in arrears by 2 months and that was an obvious breach of his loan agreement. I’m sure we all agree that he shouldn’t have been in arrears. But that’s life. Bad things happen and when they do we should expect the people to whom we owe money to behave decently. Yes, there probably is a clause in the loan agreement saying that they could penalise him, charge him a penalty fee, record his debt with a credit reference agency and seize his children and sell them to recover their losses.

Ok, I admit I made up that last bit. I suggest you advise your father to contact the Managing Director of the bank and ask for a full statement of his account so he can check whether they can do arithmetic correctly. Please don’t contact anyone else about this, only the MD is sufficient. Please also advise your father that whatever the bank might say, he can ignore their official complaints procedure. It’s 2017, the age of Facebook and consumer power. He can complain to whoever he pleases. He’s in charge.

Where’s my leather?

I bought sofas at from a store last July after being told by the shop owner that they were made of leather. In May this year the sofas started cracking and I called and told the owner about the problem and he immediately sent his employees to go and fetch the sofas. He then changed his story that the sofas were coated with leatherette on the sides that is why they are cracking and I told him that if he could have told me the truth, I wouldn’t have bought the sofas. He then promised me that he will remove the leatherette and replace it with leather where the cracking was occurring. To my surprise he did only one sofa and I immediately called him that the other sofa was cracking and I sent him the pictures again. He did not respond and I went to see him in person. He again promised me that I should call again to check if the leather was available because he was expecting it soon. I checked him again about the issue and he told me that there is nothing he can assist me with because he can’t keep on fixing the sofas time and again and that their warranty has elapsed. I then told him that the problem started when the sofas were on warranty and he was unable to give a satisfying answer. 


The store owner has breached almost every one of the Consumer Protection Regulations as well as treating you with contempt. There’s no point in listing the regulations he’s broken, I think you should go back to him and give him a letter saying that he has comprehensively abused your rights as a consumer and demanding a solution within 14 days. List the various dates and feeble excuses he’s given you and tell him in the letter that if he fails to fix the sofas within the time you’ve given him you’ll take whatever form of legal action you think necessary against him and his store.

You must also make it very clear in your letter that he was informed of his failure to honour your rights within the warranty period and that his excuse about the warranty having now expired is nothing more than nonsense and a distraction. Let’s see how that works!