Friday, 19 October 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why won’t they pay?

I had an accident on my way to work and my vehicle overturned. The Police charged me with driving without due care. I kept on contacting the insurer throughout the process and yesterday I received a letter of claim rejection citing I broke the law and the cover clause of accident/loss avoidance. They say the vehicle has been rendered beyond repair.


This is a very good example of why you should read every agreement you are asked to sign, BEFORE you sign it. All insurance policies include a number of exclusions, situations when the policy doesn’t cover you. For instance, some household insurance policies won’t cover you for losses if you leave your doors open when you go out.

With vehicle insurance policies there are also often exclusions. For instance, most vehicle insurance policies won’t cover you if you’re charged with drink-driving, or if your vehicle was unroadworthy at the time of the accident. In both of these situations it’s reasonable for the insurance company to say that you might have brought the accident upon yourself.

In your case the insurance company are very clear about what they think. When they rejected your claim they said that you broke one of the clauses of your policy which says that you should “take all reasonable steps and precautions to prevent accidents or losses”. According to the police report you sent me, you overtook a vehicle that was already indicating that it was going to turn right, and you crossed a white line while doing so. Their position is that you brought the accident on yourself and that’s why they say you’re not entitled to a payout.

Your policy says you’re entitled to ask the insurance company’s CEO to review their decision and I suggest you do that. However, I wouldn’t be very optimistic.

Are these jobs real?

Please over the past two weeks have seen a series of ads for jobs for different organisations that look too good to be true. The links look suspect, pay & qualifications unbelievable.

They ask people to type YES or JOB and people are responding. I’m thinking it's a way to steal your details through Facebook. Is it possible it can be looked into to warn people of these ads?


Many thanks for alerting us.

We’ve been warning people about these fake job offer scams for many years. The bad news is that they’re not going away. The good news is that more and more people like you are skeptical, spot the clues and avoid becoming a victim.

The biggest clue is that the jobs they offer are too good to be true, just like you suggest. They advertise amazing jobs in far-flung, exotic places, offering enormous salaries and tremendous benefits such as housing, medical insurance, travel expenses and cars.

The way these scams work is simple. They offer you a job with all those exciting benefits and just before you’re about to get the airline tickets, the advance on your salary, whatever else they’re offered you, the story will change and they’ll tell you that you have to pay them a fee. Sometimes it’s a legal fee, more often it’s for your visa to travel to the country they’ve mentioned, either way it’s a fee in advance for something. That’s why they’re called “advance fee” scams. It’s all about that fee.

You are also correct that very often these online advertisements are used to gather personal details from people that can be used for a range of criminal purposes. The sort of information victims give to these fake recruitment companies can easily be misused. Our personal, ID and passport details, our qualifications can all be used to establish fake identities and then who knows what might happen.

Congratulations to you for being skeptical. Keep spreading the word!

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 8th October 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Motshelo schemes
"I borrowed P2,000 from a motshelo and I’ve been paying interest of 30% but at the end of August I did not pay and even this month I won't be able to pay as I don't have money at all. I explained this to the person who borrowed me that I’m not able to pay until end of October as I recently got a permanent job. Now the money is P5712. She is now threatening me that she will report me though I tried to explain my situation. How do I go about this? Is this right?"

2. Paper straws?

The ban on plastic bags is imminent I suspect we'll also soon have bans on other plastics goods such as straws, bottles, and other forms of packaging.

Is this the right thing to do? Yes, it certainly is. Yes, it' will be inconvenient but consider the environment damage. done by plastic products. Something must be done and these bans are a step in the right direction.

BUT, what about the quality of alternatives?

We received a complaint about the paper straws offered by one particular restaurant that clearly didn't see so good. In this case the manager of the restaurant responded, acknowledging the problem and saying that:
"I am confident that this issue will be resolved asap and a paper straw that is user friendly will be find very soon. Please bear with us in our process to become environmental friendly. Your input means a lot to us to improve our service."
One step at a time...

3. Longrich (again)

The people desperately trying to sell Longrich products and recruiting people into their scheme concede that Longrich is a pyramid scheme. In a WhatsApp conversation with one recently I asked
“Is it possible to make money from Longrich without selling products?” 
Their answer was simple:
“Yes.”
Section 9 of the 2018 Consumer Protection Act defines a pyramid scheme as a scheme:
“where participants in the scheme receive compensation derived primarily from their respective recruitment of other persons as participants”.
It also says that:
“A person shall not directly or indirectly promote, or knowingly join, enter or participate, or cause any other person to promote, join, enter or participate in … a pyramid scheme”.
Longrich is a pyramid scheme.

And it gets worse. One of the people recruiting for Longrich posted a picture of various products she claimed to have purchased.



Included in this selection were Longrich's miracle sanitary pads, that appear to offer "Magnetic Energy", "Anion" and "Far infra-red"?


The Longrich BioScience web site claims that:
“Magnetic Strip provides 3 natural energies (magnetism, anion and far infrared) that greatly enhance blood circulation, cell vitality, detoxification, bio-enzymes, resistance to bacteria and immunity against any infection. It prevents many women problems.”
It goes on to claim that:
"Far-infrared can stimulate local blood circulation and micro-circulation, prevent gynaecological diseases and relieve dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain) by raising the temperature. Far-infrared can prevent and help to treat mens's prostate condition and hemorrhoids; it can absorb foot sweat and eliminate foot odor".
This is all pseudoscientific nonsense. Worse still, it's dangerous.

Here's some good news. The Ministry of Health and Wellness issued a Press Release.

It said:
The Ministry of Health and Wellness wishes to notify the public that the following complementary medicines are not approved for use in Botswana, Xiangzhiling products, C24 tea, Table Charm sonke products and Longrich medicinal products. These products are currently advertised on social media and sold through network marketing throughout the country. Therefore any person selling these products or any other related products will be charged according to Section 23 (1) (2) of the Medicines and Related Substances Act which states that

“(1) No person shall import, export, manufacture, distribute, sell, promote, advertise, store or dispense any medicine or cosmetic, unless the medicine or cosmetic is registered by the Authority. (2) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding P100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to both.”
“The public is advised to always seek advice from the Ministry of Health and Wellness Drugs Regulatory Unit about any medicinal products advertised to them. Should you find anyone selling or advertising this product or any unapproved medicinal products please contract the Ministry…
A pat on the back to the Ministry and the Drug Regulatory Unit. Another pat on the back to the Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority who are gradually taking over responsibility from the Drug Regulatory Unit.

4. Crystal Cell

Just as we begin to see the end of the Longrich's products, another bogus products appears. Crystal Cell.


“This product heals cancer.” Really?

The people peddling this dangerous product claim that it's based on stem cells.


They strongly suggest that it can be "used" with stroke, traumatic brain injury, learning defects, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, wound healing, baldness, blindness, deafness, myocardial infarction, diabetes, cancers, arthritis. It can even be used with "missing teeth"? Are they serious?

But this is plant stem cells, not human. They can have no effect at all.

I think the Drug Regulatory Unit and the Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority will be getting some more calls, don't you?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why won’t they fix it?

I bought a black TV stand from a store in Palapye last month for P1830. On Friday 21 September I noticed that the stand is peeling. Looking closely I found that its not only peeling off but its cracking on the leg. On the following Tuesday I went to the store to lodge a complaint. The supervisor said there is no guarantee or warranty and there was nothing they could do to help me. She went further to say that its a first to hear of a situation of this kind since they started selling these TV stands. I then asked to see the store manager but he did not bother to come out of his office to help me, instead he told the supervisor to tell me that there is nothing that they can do about the situation.

Please help. I want an exchange or my money back.


A store manager that doesn’t want to talk to customers with problems? Let’s see how long his business lasts.

The current Consumer Protection Regulations are quite clear about your rights. Section 13 (1) (a) says that commodities or services must be “of merchantable quality” which means “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased, as it is reasonable to expect in light of the relevant circumstances”. So you can’t expect miracles but you can expect a TV stand to function as a TV stand for a reasonable time. However, there are certain situation in which this protection doesn’t apply. That’s if you agree to not having the protection of the law. A store can invite you to waive or abandon your rights and, if you agree to that, then the rights don’t exist. That’s why you’ll sometimes see a sign in a store saying that there’s either no warranty or a very limited warranty for certain goods they sell. Section 17 (1) (e) of the Regulations forbids a store from demanding consumers waive “the implied warranty of merchantability and fitness for use, unless a disclaimer is clearly and conspicuously disclosed”. So there must be a obvious sign saying this. However, the next section, 17 (1) (f) says that the store can only claim the consumer waived their rights if “the consumer has specifically consented to it.” I think that means something in writing.

I suggest that you go back to the store and explain this to them. If that fails, write them a letter complaining about their failure to honour your legal rights and copy it to us as well as the Consumer Protection Unit. That should make things happen!

Can she charge so much?

Richard I need your help to understand something. I borrowed P2,000 from a motshelo and I’ve been paying interest of 30% but at the end of August I did not pay and even this month I won't be able to pay as I don't have money at all. I explained this to the person who borrowed me that I’m not able to pay until end of October as I recently got a permanent job. Now the money is P5712 excluding August and September interest which is 30% each month. She is now threatening me that she will report me though I tried to explain my situation. How do I go about this? Is this right?


This is most certainly NOT right. I think the person running this scheme needs to be informed about a number of things. Firstly, she needs to know that despite motshelo schemes being considered an informal form of lending, they are still covered by NBFIRA, the Non Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority. You need to get in touch with NBFIRA immediately and see if this scheme has been registered with them and if they can intervene.

Secondly, she needs to understand a piece of law called the “in duplum” rule. This says that when a debt is settled, the amount of interest must not exceed the capital amount outstanding. You only borrowed P2,000 so the interest on top of that can never be more than P2,000. That’s just the law.

Lastly, she needs to understand that even if the law doesn’t forbid it, 30% interest per month is outrageous. There’s even a word for it: “usury”. Maybe you should ask the woman running this scheme if she claims to be a Christian. If she does, ask her to examine Ezekiel 18:13. Then she should examine her conscience.

Meanwhile, and I don’t mean this to appear sacrilegious, I suspect NBFIRA will have greater effect over her than the Bible and her conscience.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 24th September 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Can they charge me for the refund?
“I bought goods at a certain shop in Molapo Crossing. I swiped my card to pay but now I returned goods the shop owner demand that I pay certain percentage since I was swiping. He says it's bank charges for swiping.”
Banks charge retailers for swiping (I think 5%?). Nevertheless, it's still in their (and our) interest to swipe, it avoids the risks of cash.

I suspect that when a store swipes to refund someone when they return an item, they have to pay that swiping fee again.

Remember also that we only have a right to return things if there was a fault with the item you purchased, not if you chose the wrong item or just changed your mind.

2. They blacklisted me #1
“I bought a TV at on hire purchase. A few months later I closed the credit by paying with cash. A few months later I get a call from creditors that I owe the store. I went to enquire about my account settlement and it seems that they didn't close it. Now my name is registered with ITC. I have been trying to talk to them so that I am assisted. They are not assisting me as I would have liked. It's been 4 months now. Kindly help me. My life has been really affected. I am missing job opportunities at banks and I can't get financial aid because of my bad credit record that was caused by the negligence of the store staff.”
“Negligence”? That's way too mild. I prefer the words “unprofessional” and “incompetent”.

The customer did the right thing, they paid off a debt as soon as they were able to and now they're being punished for it?

Paying off debt is ALWAYS a good thing to do, after you've set aside your emergency fund of three months outgoing, better still six.

We've already contacted the store in question.

3. They blacklisted me #2
“My boyfriend was blacklisted unfairly by Home Choice without even his knowledge. He ordered goods, they did not reach him when he checked at the post office they confirmed on the system that the goods were returned to Home Choice because there was no communication. When they called for payment he told them that he didn't receive the goods. Instead of resending them they blacklisted him and he only found out about it yesterday when he was processing a loan.”
We've heard this and similar stories many time. HomeChoice purchases aren't delivered, end up being returned, but the customer is still billed and sometimes listed with credit reference bureaux.

What to do? Make sure that you always and promptly contact HomeChoice when products aren't delivered or they're returned.

We’ve contacted HomeChoice (again).

4. Are we being sued?

In comes an email entitled "Court Notice".

 
“Our law firm is re-issuing the attached lawsuit filed against you by our client which requires your urgent attention. COURT SUMMONS Imminent: If this is not rectified within the next 48 hours. Read the lawsuit thoroughly. Regards, Paralegal - MML Law Firm.”
There are various warning signs. The email came from “info@legaconsult.com”. That domain appears to be genuine and used by a legal consultancy in Bulgaria. Notice also that no names were mentioned, neither theirs or ours.

The critical issue is that attachment. Inside that compressed "zipped") attachment was a Windows executable (".exe") file. What would that do if executed? Will it steal data? Would it encrypt all the documents on you computer and demand a ransom like WannaCry did two years ago? Would it install a keylogger that would record everything you typed, including your internet banking username and password?

The lesson is very simple. Don’t open email attachments from unknown sources. Never.

5. An old friend is back

I thought they'd gone away, but the paddlers of the Syntek "Xtreme Fuel Treatment"are still peddling...
“Here is the products that reduces fuel consumption resulting in increased kilometres per litre. It prolongs engine life and reduces engine wear. Improves vehicle performance and horsepower… Or join now and make money”.
We covered Syntek and their preposterous product in 2015, including quite an extensive review of the documents they claimed showed their product worked. It did not. On the contrary, it showed that there was NO evidence of any effect.

Think about it. If it worked, the petroleum industry would have bought it by now, either to use it and make more money or to suppress it. If it worked, wouldn't Botswana Oil have invested in it? They haven’t, none of them have.

Did I mention that it's a pyramid scheme?

6. Qualifications and awards

It's important to be skeptical. About everything. In particular it's important to be skeptical about the awards, prizes, qualifications and titles people say they've been awarded. For years we've been reporting the various fake qualifications people have obtained and the fake establishments that sold them their fake degrees. We've also covered the fake awards people received.

Some will remember the “International Biographical Centre” that awarded people various titles, including the “International Order of Merit” and the “Twentieth Century Achievement Award” and who could place you on the list of “2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century”.


Recently, Limkokwing University have very proudly announced that their founder, Tan Sri Limkokwing:
"has been bestowed with the title Lord Limkokwing of Holton, UK in recognition of his decades long advocacy of fusing the best talents of education, industry and peace-building to change the world."

That seems curious to me. He's not a British citizen and has no strong connections to the UK. Has he really been made a Lord? So I asked. Specifically, I contacted the House of Lords in the UK and asked them if they knew about this.

They said:
"We can confirm that Lord Limkokwing of Holton is not a member of the House of Lords. Not all persons with the title ‘Lord’ or ‘Baroness’ are members of the House."
They continued:
"The vast majority of people with a title are not members of the House of Lords, for example those people who purchase a title"
Yes, you can purchase a title if you aren't awarded a real one. Obviously I'm not suggesting that Limkokwing has done anything wrong. Not at all. However, I am suggesting that their claim can be misinterpreted with many people likely to think that he is a genuine Lord, a genuine member fo the House of Lords in the UK.

In fact, he's probably as much of a Lord as I am.

Which I am.

If it's good enough for others, it's good enough for me. Following the example of others claiming the title of Lord, I claim it myself. I bought myself a Lordship. Along with my two ordinations, that now makes me Rev Rev Lord Richard Harriman. Don't forget to stand up when I enter the room.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can they charge me for the refund?

Good day. I bought goods at a certain shop in Molapo Crossing. I swiped my card to pay but now I returned goods the shop owner demand that I pay certain percentage since I was swiping. He says it's bank charges for swiping. Where do I report such?

I think this depends on why you returned the goods.

If there was a problem with the goods, if they were faulty or if the store misled you about them, then you’re entitled to return them and get some solution from the store. Right now you don’t have a right to demand a refund in this situation but you are entitled to one of the three Rs, a refund, repair or replacement but it s usually up to the store to decide which of these they offer you. Most importantly, regardless of what they offer, you shouldn’t be required to pay anything for this to happen. It’s the responsibility of the store and perhaps the manufacturer to pay the price.

However, the situation is different if there was nothing wrong with the goods and you’d just changed your mind about the goods. In that situation, the store isn’t actually obliged to do anything to assist you. They might because they’re nice people, they like your face or they just want to offer excellent service, but you can’t oblige them to. After all, in this situation, they’ve done nothing wrong, have they?

When a store swipes your card they pay the bank for the pleasure of doing so. It’s only a few percentage points of the price you’re paying but it’s nevertheless a price they pay and it’s one of the many ways that banks make money. It’s actually benefits the store because they don’t need to take, store and transport as much cash with all the risks that poses. I don’t know this for sure but I suspect that if you bring the goods back and they swipe again to refund you the money, they have to pay that percentage again? Whether they’re charged once or twice doesn’t matter, the store had to pay the bank for you to purchase the goods. Why should they have to incur that cost just because you changed your mind?

They blacklisted me!

Kindly help me. I bought a TV at on hire purchase and the method of payment was a stop order. A few months I closed the credit by paying with cash. A few months later I get a call from creditors that I owe the store. I went to enquire about my account settlement and it seems that they didn't close it. Now my name is registered with ITC. I have been trying to talk to them so that I am assisted. They are not assisting me as I would have liked. It's been 4 months now. Kindly help me. My life has been really affected. I am missing job opportunities at banks and I can't get financial aid because of my bad credit record that was caused by the negligence of the store staff.

Firstly, congratulations on doing the right thing, settling a debt as soon as you possibly can. It’s something everyone should do whenever they can afford to do so, particularly with hire purchase agreements but also with home and vehicle loans and credit cards. As soon as you have some spare money, after setting aside your emergency fund (of at least three months outgoings), pay off as much debt as you can. Do this before you even think of savings schemes. The interest you pay on debt far exceeds that interest you earn on savings. That’s another way that banks and other lenders make money.

Having done the right thing, I can only imagine your frustration at being punished for doing so. That’s not how things are meant to work.

I think you should be speaking to the store manager and demanding a solution before you start causing them severe trouble. I think you need to remind them that Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations requires stores like this one to offer services “with reasonable care and skill”. Clearly they have failed to do this in your case. I think your choice of the word “negligence” is correct but too polite. I would use words like “incompetent”, “unprofessional” and some others that The Voice won’t allow me to use.

We’ll also get in touch with the store’s Regional Manager and see if he can shake some sense into his staff!

Sunday, 23 September 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I take action?

I need advice. I bought a car and it looks like the dealer tampered with the mileage of the car. Also he was once told about the car engine problems but sold the car without servicing it. By luck I took the car to the same garage he once took it to only to be told that he knew about the problems prior to selling it. Can I take him to task for selling a car with mechanical faults without disclosing to the consumer?


You most certainly can. But first some background. When you buy a second-hand car you’ll often see that the agreement or the invoice or receipt will include the word “voetstoots” or sometimes “sold as is” or “sold as seen”. What that means is that the dealer makes no particular claims about the state of the vehicle. They’re not making any promises and it’s up to you and me, the buyers, to make sure that the vehicle is in a condition we’re prepared to pay for.

That’s why you should always inspect a second-hand vehicle thoroughly before buying it. If, like me, you’re not an expert mechanic then you really must find one who’ll accompany you. If you don’t know one, maybe approach the mechanic who serviced your last car and offer him or her a small inducement to assist you after work. Trust their judgment if you don’t trust your own.

However, the “voetstoots” clause isn’t absolute. For instance, a car dealer can’t use it to cover up the fact that they’re lying to you. If you ask a question about the state of the vehicle you’re thinking of buying the dealer is required to tell you the truth. That’s another reason why you should take an expert mechanic with you. They’ll know which question to ask. I would always ask the dealer if they’re prepared to state in writing the condition of the vehicle before they sell it. If they refuse, you’re entitled to ask yourself what they’re hiding.

In your case I think the first thing you should do is quite simple. Go to the Police and lay a charge against the dealer of “Obtaining by false pretence”, as forbidden by Section 308 of the Penal Code. If that doesn’t have the desired effect, try the Consumer Protection Unit in the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry. We’ll also get in touch with the dealer and explain to him the error of his ways.

Is it right to force me to pay?

I bought a television on hire purchase. I later notified them that I am no longer working and made a payment plan on how I am going to clear my arrears. I was then called by a debt collector who wanted to me to pay the full amount just once off. My total arrears are P3100 and they expect me to pay the whole amount all at once. At the moment I can only manage to pay P1000. I tried explaining to the debt collector and all she wants is to repossess the television. I want to know if it is right to force the customer to pay the full amount yet I’m making an effort to clear the arrears.


No, I don’t think it’s right. However, that depends if the payment plan was agreed by both you and the store and if, more importantly, you’d kept to the agreement. If the agreement you refer to actually existed and you did honour it, then the store needs to stick to it as well. However, if it didn’t exist then there’s nothing for them to stick to. If it existed and you failed to keep up the payments you agreed, then the store is entitled to set debt collectors on you to recover the money you owe them.

Most importantly, I think you should resist every effort they make to repossess the TV. Don’t think that by giving up the TV the debt will disappear, it won’t. Even if they take the TV away all they’ll do is auction it for a fraction its value and deduct that amount from the balance you owe them. You’ll still owe them a large amount of money and you won’t have a TV to watch.

Whatever the situation might be, I suggest that you contact the store and ask them to confirm what their intentions might be. And then get whatever is agreed in writing. Remember that verbal agreements aren’t worth a thing when you’re dealing with an organisation that can afford attorneys and debt collectors.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 17th September 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Can the bank move my money around?

"I have accounts with my bank for a long time and was credited with various debit and credit cards. All has been smooth for all the years until I failed for the first time to pay my loan monthly instalment and, within a week, they transferred all the balances into my loan account without prior communication. Please assist."

Can banks do this? Can they transfer from account A to account B without your consent?

Yes, because you told them they could. You might not remember doing so, in fact you might not ever have done this knowingly but hidden deep in your loan agreement was a clause saying they could do exactly this.

However, it would have been polite for them to have called or emailed you in advance, don't you think?

2. Should they repair the TV?

"I lay-byed the television just two months ago and I took it home for use. A week after the purchase my TV slightly hit a wall when it went dark. Two days later I went back to the store to inform them about the damaged product, they did not help me and so I decided to look for help were I could find it better, Consumer Watchdog. I bought this television very expensively and it's really sad and heart breaking to lose such much money on a product I never really used and enjoyed."

The warranty that comes with items like this only covers you against manufacturing or design faults, not accidental damage while the item is in your custody.

Ask yourself this. Who caused the damage? Did the store? No. Did the manufacturer? No. Did the customer? It looks like it.

IF this consumer had taken out a household insurance policy they might have been covered. Yes, insurance can seem expensive, but it's often not as expensive as not having insurance.

3. Will they really delete my email?

In comes an email that many other people have received.

“Dear watchdog, Our record indicates that you recently made a request to shutdown your e-mail and this request will be processed shortly. If this request was made accidentally and you have no knowledge of it, you are advised to cancel the request now. However, if you do not cancel this request your account will be shutdown shortly and all your email data will be lost permanently.”


Seems worrying. I can imagine how someone would be tempted to click on the link to prevent their email being "lost permanently". However...

If you hold you mouse pointer over the "Cancel De-activation" link, you see this, where the link will really take you:

Why would our email provider, who are based in Botswana, link to a domain in Poland (".pl")? Note also that the link includes the email address that was targeted. Clicking on this link will confirm to the scammers behind this that this is a valid email address, just making future attacks more likely.

I removed the email address from the link and went there. Be careful if you ever do this yourself. The web site (which has now been removed) provided a form that asked for my email address and password. Imagine what scammers could do if they had access to all your email? What could they discover about you? What passwords, bank account details and guilty secrets are stored in your online email account?

4. Longrich – is it a pyramid scheme?

Someone posted an invitation in the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group to join a WhatsApp conversation. I joined the WhatsApp conversation to see what was happening. It turned out to be for Longrich.

They claimed that
“we have supplements, skin care, toiletries ,weight loss products. Buy a once off stock of R1000/ R1500/R2000/ R2500. you get pvs which are point that you accumulate and move ranks within the business. Recruit 3 members and teach them to do the same. you will register them under u. you also get pvs when your downlines join under you.”
They also claim to offer incentives to their recruits including:
“3 free international trips per year. R11200 cellphone incentive. R6200 petrol incentive. Minimum car incentive is R60 000 and maximum R600 000. Housing incentive worth 1.5 million.”
I then asked a simple question:
“is it possible to make money from Longrich without selling products?”
Their answer was very simple:
“Yes”
Section 9 of the brand new, 2018 Consumer Protection Act says that:
“A person shall not directly or indirectly promote, or knowingly join, enter or participate, or cause any other person to promote, join, enter or participate in… A pyramid scheme”
A pyramid scheme is defined in the Act as a scheme
“where participants in the scheme receive compensation derived primarily from their respective recruitment of other persons as participants”
So, is Longrich a pyramid scheme? At least one of its recruiters says so.

But there's more…

And it gets worse.

One of the people recruiting for Longrich posted a picture of various products she claimed to have purchased.



Included in this selection were Longrich's miracle sanitary pads, that appear to offer "Magnetic Energy", "Anion" and "Far infra-red"?


When various members of the Facebook group questioned her about these claims, she responded by claiming that:
“magnetic energy simply means the adhesive sticks better than other sanitary liners and pads. there is nowhere they have stated they have used magnetic energy.”
So she suggests that Longrich make no claims about "magnetic energy" relating to their sanitary pads? Really?

Take a look at the Longrich BioScience web site relating specifically to these pads. It claims that"
“Magnetic Strip provides 3 natural energies (magnetism, anion and far infrared) that greatly enhance blood circulation, cell vitality, detoxification, bio-enzymes, resistance to bacteria and immunity against any infection. It prevents many women problems.”
It goes on to claim that:
"Far-infrared can stimulate local blood circulation and micro-circulation, prevent gynaecological diseases and relieve dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain) by raising the temperature. Far-infrared can prevent and help to treat mens's prostate condition and hemorrhoids; it can absorb foot sweat and eliminate foot odor".
This is all pseudoscientific nonsense. Worse still, it's dangerous.

But there's more...

A member of the Facebook group contacted us privately saying that a relative had paid P2,500 to join Longrich earlier in the year and:
“up to now if you ask the results she gets upset apparently she needed three people under her to start earning which she had found but still those need 3 more people under each of them.”
She and others have explained how upsetting, humiliating and disruptive schemes like Longrich can be. They actively encourage recruits to recruit from among their circle fo friends, family members and workmates and this only has one effect, to ruin those relationships.

Longrich is, if you believe their own recruiters and the Laws of Botswana, a pyramid scheme that sells dangerous, illegal products and that ruins relationships.

I think the time has come, as have the right laws, to show these schemes the way to go home.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

The 2018 Consumer Watchdog Conference - Thanks!

The 2018 CW Conference - Thanks!

Having caught up on the coffee I missed during the event and getting some sleep, I think I’m approaching normality again. I’m now in a state to thank various people.


THE SPEAKERS

Potlako Mawande from the Gambling Authority and Renee Yezo from Ture Interior Architects spoke about the truly amazing space that they created for the Gambling Authority. Sorry Thuli Johnson and Potlako Mawande, I’ve been telling people to make up reasons to visit the GA to see how a parastatal can look. Maybe you should charge people for tours?

Cornelius Ramatlhakwane and Cliff Lekoko from BotswanaPost talked about how they transformed a parastatal into a profit-making entity for the first time in its history. Cornelius is an inspirational leader and he’s the sort I’d want my children to work for.

My dear friend and hero, Nkata Seleka from Sleek Foods told us about the progress they have made since she spoke at the 2016 conference. A massive deal with KFC Botswana, new products and a future involving exports to SA, she proves that we can make businesses and brands in Botswana. She’s an inspiration to us all.

We’ll overlook the next guy who spoke about social media and who then gave an update on the new protections the 2018 Consumer Protection Act offers us. He was terrible, we probably won’t be using him again.

Kabelo Binns from Hotwire was, as always, predictably inspiring, talking about the art of business and the qualities needed in creating a successful personal brand.

Uyapo Ndadi, another national hero and his associate Phatsimo Mphetolang spoke about the art of using the law to protect ourselves.

Professor Kiran Bhagat, doctor, scientist and passionate exponent of holistic medicine and friend asked about the Art (and Science) of Medicine and why a deeper understanding of health issues is needed. We shouldn’t just be treating the symptoms, but the causes of ill-health.

THE WORKSHOPS

Endless thanks go to the remarkable people and organisations that ran the workshops on Day 2 of the Conference.

James Fern and Toyin Omotoye from BDO talked about the art of creating a healthy attitude towards money. Donald Molosi led participants through some truly remarkable activities, exploring the link between theatre and customer service. Renee and Tumelo Yezo showed how it’s possible to create remarkable, uplifting, stimulating spaces that bring out the best in an organisation and its people. Mariam Sethi of IT-IQ and her team also explored how technology is enabling people to become so much more creative in the ways they work. Simba Mariri took delegates through a challenging, eyes-widening, thought-provoking exploration of The Art of Thinking. Nkata Seleka of Sleek Foods, Lebogang Mmono from Just Ginger, James Briscoe from The Daily Grind and Othatha and Bokang Mokgwathi from TsinaTota Honey showed that creating a proudly local brand is not only possible, it’s happened so many times. Finally, Mophato Dance Theatre, well, more about them below.

THE SPONSORS

We could have held a conference without the sponsors but it wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting, entertaining and successful. Vast thanks must go to those at Stanbic, Orange, Hollard, Multichoice and Cell City. Thanks must also go to Milky Lane for what they do best. Ice cream for everyone!

THE CREW

The Consumer Watchdog team led by Thato Mbikiwa were, as always, remarkable. We couldn’t have done it without you. JP Glanville and the team from Showgroup were, yet again, amazing, giving us light, sound, video, music and a stage from which to perform.

Bonni Dintwa is extraordinary. You can’t get a better MC than Bonni, perhaps because he’s even more insane than we are? He gets us, how we like to be different, how we like to challenge, disrupt and sometimes even amuse. He’s a star.

Finally, the glue that holds our conferences together, has always been the Mophato Dance Theatre. These extraordinary people are a national treasure. Their energy, passion, drive, imagination, creativity and flair are unbeatable. They are truly amazing.


The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why did they take my money?

I have run accounts with my bank for a long time and was credited with various debit and credit cards. All has been smooth for all the years until I failed for the first time to pay my loan monthly instalment and, within a week, they transferred all the balances into my loan account without prior communication. Let it be known that I had been in communication with the bank once I realised the difficulties ahead. I was made to write a letter which was never responded to. Please assist.


I’m sorry to say that there’s probably nothing that can be done to help you with this.

The reason I’m pessimistic is that this is how banking works. If you have various accounts with a bank and one of them falls into arrears or becomes overdrawn without approval, the bank is within its rights to move money between your accounts to remedy that situation. So if you fall behind with your loan or your current account goes overdrawn by P500 and the bank sees that you have P10,000 in your savings account, they can move the P500 from the savings to the current account without consulting you first.

The reason they can do this is simple. It’s because you agreed they could. You might not remember it or perhaps you didn’t notice but when you signed the loan agreement there was a clause saying that they could do this. This is common practice with bank loans. Obviously if the bank had some sense of customer service they would have contacted you first and asked what was going wrong and maybe offered you some help but they weren’t actually obliged to do that. In your case you say you alerted the bank to the problems you were facing but clearly that message ever got through to the right people. Or perhaps it did and they decided they didn’t care.

We can contact the bank and see if they can contact you and explore ways to help you but remember that bank aren’t charities. They want your money. Kindness is not on their list of priorities.

Why won’t they repair my TV?

I am launching a complaint about a television I bought not so long ago and upon returning the television I did not find help although I am entitled to the guarantee and warranty services that we had agreed.

I lay-byed the television just two months ago and as we agreed to the three months lay-bye policy I paid my TV in time until I finished it on the 23rd August when I then took it home for use. A week after the purchase my TV slightly hit a wall when it went dark. Two days later I went back to the store to inform them about the damaged product, they did not help me and so I decided to look for help were I could find it better, Consumer Watchdog.

I bought this television very expensively, P1490 and it's really sad and heart breaking to lose such much money on a product I never really used and enjoyed.

I really and kindly hope my request complaint will be met. Thank you.


I’m very sorry but I don’t have any good news for you. The warranty that comes with something like a TV guarantees you a solution if there’s either a manufacturing problem with the device or a subsequent fault during the warranty period. The warranty does NOT help you if the TV is damaged accidentally or carelessly after it’s delivered and that seems to be what happened here?

Think of it this way. Did either the manufacturer or the store break the TV? Did either of them do anything that led to the damage the TV experienced? Was it, in any way, their fault that the damage happened? I think not.

I know it’s too late for you in this situation but the best advice I can give you is to get a household insurance policy. Yes, this costs a little money but it would have paid for the repair of replacement of your TV when this accident occurred. It would also have covered anything else that might have been damaged or lost. Insurance might seem expensive but only until the first time you submit a claim. That’s when you realise that not having insurance can be a very expensive oversight.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should they refund me?

I need advice on this issue, my four year old child goes to a preschool and he has been going there for the past three years. I have always paid school fees on time and in most cases prepaid the entire term.

I have prepaid this term's school fees, this is the term beginning August 2018 and ends October 2018. My wife has been recently transferred and we told the school that we will be moving the child to a different school.

The head teachers has categorically refused to refund us the prepaid portion of the school fees. He refused to give reasons why as well. Please advise on the best cause of action.


Unfortunately, I don’t think I can give you any good news. Normal practice with private schools is that you’re required to give notice of your intention to cancel your child’s place at the school. Normally, it’s meant to be full term’s notice and I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Your child took a place that could have been offered to someone else’s child and if they refund you the fees you paid in advance, the school is going to lose out. Is that really fair on them? You’ll probably find something in the contract you signed with the school that describes this in detail. Any sensible school would certainly include such a condition to protect their interests.

This is very similar to the notice periods you’ll find in many other contracts, whether it’s a tenancy agreement, a contract of employment or a mortgage or bank loan. You can’t just terminate the contract without some sort of notice period or penalty. That’s why it’s so important to read any agreement thoroughly before signing it so you know in advance about conditions like this.

All I can advise you to do is to see if the headteacher of the school is prepared to be flexible, but I must warn you, don’t be optimistic.

Where’s my refund?

I bought a bed on the 16th July from a furniture store for P3,000 cash and they promised to deliver the bed immediately. A week passed and the bed was not delivered, despite the daily promises that the store made that they will deliver the bed every day when I called to make follow up. On July 23rd I asked for a refund because I had not received this bed which I had fully paid for. They asked for my ID and proof of banking details to facilitate the refund, which I submitted and they promised to make payment in a week’s time because a refund is a long administrative process on their side. After week and a half I made follow up about the payment, and I was told there were missing supporting documents that I had to submit.

I was very angry because I don’t understand why they had to wait for my call to tell me there were missing documents but I submitted the ID on the 8th August, 2 days after they had requested them. They then promised payment will be made but to this day I have not received my payment and they are taking me from pillar to post and there has been no feedback whatsoever on their side, I have to call them every day at my expenses and they are just not helpful. What can I do?


I think that the first thing you should do is to stop being so patient. It’s now time to become very, very impatient. You bought your bed almost two months ago, you asked for a refund shortly after that and there is absolutely no reason why it should take this long to be processed.

I think you should write the store a letter reminding them that you cancelled the purchase and exercised your right under Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations to demand a refund, explaining that they’ve completely failed to honour their side of the contract you both agreed. Make it clear to them that you no longer want the product. Tell them that if they fail to give you a full refund within a certain period, perhaps seven days, if you’re feeling generous, two if you’re impatient that you’ll take legal action against them.

Meanwhile we’ll contact the store’s head office and see if the Managing Director can’t accelerate things a little. You’ve been patient enough.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is Karatbars real?

I saw you removed an advertisement for Karatbars from your Facebook group. Is this because it’s a scam? Please tell me more because people are telling me about it saying I can make money from gold.


Let’s start with some history. We first heard of Karatbars in 2014 when people approached us asking about the scheme. We contacted some of the local organisers and they told us that the scheme had been endorsed by BURS, the Department of Mines, the German Embassy and even by Consumer Watchdog.


In fact, none of these things were true.



They were all lies.

The people recruiting people into Karatbars promised riches from investing in gold even though back then the price of gold had been steadily dropping for a long time. Also, the amount of gold Karatbars was offering was tiny and the price they were charging for these tiny amounts was about 60% higher than the real gold price at the time.


In fact, Karatbars was nothing more than a pyramid scheme exploiting public ignorance of the international gold market and the promise of making lots of money from recruiting other people. The authorities in Canada also started to take action against them and fairly quickly Karatbars seemed to disappear. I knew a few people lost some money by joining the scheme but it wasn’t as bad as some other pyramid schemes we’ve seen.

But now they’re back. They advertisement you saw in the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group announced that Karatbars was back and hosting the “Karatbars World Tour” in Joburg this week. So, has anything changed? Are they still selling over-priced gold in tiny quantities?


No, they’ve moved on. Now like all the other sophisticated scammers, they’re marketing a cryptocurrency they call the Karatgold Coin.


They say that this is “a blockchain-based cryptocurrency” that is “specially designed to be used as a generally accepted electronic payment means for all who consider gold as a traditional, true, secure and value-stable medium”. In other words they want us to use it as money. But that’s going to be a challenge when the currency they talk about doesn’t actually exist. Yet again, Karatbars is based on lies and experience shows that liars can’t be trusted.

If they approach you, please don’t get seduced by their sales pitch about gold and cryptocurrencies. It’s just more lies from a scheme with a history of lying.

Is the courier company real?

Hello, I want to know if this courier company from Nigeria exists, Fastway Courier Services. Someone said she sent me some parcels through it and I have to pay 2000 pula as the delivery fee as she didn't pay for it because she paid with a cheque and they don't accept cheques. They say I have to deposit the money on their FNB account. Please help me.


No matter what these people say, regardless of how convincing or demanding they might be, please do NOT send them any money. This is undoubtedly a scam.

Even though there seems to be some legitimate companies around the world calling themselves “Fastway Courier Services” this is certainly not one of them. Real courier companies don’t demand amounts like this. If there are duties or taxes to pay then the local tax authority will know about it.

Unfortunately, we hear all the time from people who, like you, met someone on Facebook who eventually offers to send a parcel of goods, almost always promising that they include valuable items such as laptops, cellphones, jewellery and often cash as well. However, the truth is that the parcel doesn’t exist, the courier company that claims it needs to be paid by the recipient and even the friend on Facebook are all fake. None of them is real.

In our experience the victim of these “romantic scams” is almost always a woman being scammed by a man but your case is one of the rare ones where the scammer is using a female profile to “seduce” a male victim. The Facebook profile used by this scammer is clearly targeted at men, showing pictures of a beautiful, curvaceous woman. What’s more, almost all of the Facebook friends of this profile are other men. Clearly they’re attracting a large pool of potential victims.

It just shows how scammers adapt and do their best to exploit anyone’s weakness. Nobody is safe.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay?

I would like some help or advice from you. My story goes like this: I once helped a foreign friend to buy furniture from a furniture store on credit. After that a sales consultant personally called me to help them again because they are their customers and they trust them they will pay and I did that. Unfortunately the gentleman fell sick and died in South Africa and I was not able to get hold of the wife and other family members. I went back to them and told them what has happened and I wanted to talk to the sales consultant on what to do because she was the one who talked to me and they said I can’t talk to her as she has been transferred somewhere. I kept on going to them and ask what to do and they kept on saying I must look for the deceased wife who has been signing all the paperwork at the shop of payments and all the staff.

Now I have been taken to debt collectors because the furniture is in my name. What should I do because I wanted the sales consultant to be involved but they are not telling me where she is. Does this mean I will have to pay even though they know the whole story and I don't have those things?

What should I do Sir?

This is going to be very difficult. You don’t need to be a qualified attorney to know that once an agreement is put in writing that’s all that matters. There’s even a name for it, the “parol rule”, which says that “when a transaction has been reduced into writing, the writing is regarded as the exclusive memorial of the transaction and no evidence may be given to contradict, alter, add or vary its terms”.

The problem you face is that the only written agreement is the one that says that YOU are the customer and that YOU are the owner of the furniture. YOU are the one that owes the company the money.

Of course, if there was a written agreement between you and the deceased South African friend, then you might have a way to get the money from his estate. Did you have such an agreement?

Whether you had such an agreement or not, you need to do your best to find the South African family and see if they can’t help you out. I’d be happy to try but if not you might need either to invest in tracing him or just accept that you’re the one who a dead man’s bills.

Is he real?

Hello Mr Richard. I need your help. I've been communicating with someone on Facebook claiming to be the Nigerian musician Davido. He asked me a few questions saying it was a competition. He just forwarded this. Is it genuine? “You've just won yourself a brand new apple Laptop iPhones8+ MacBook and a plasma TV as promised. Please to claim your prize you will whatsapp the FASTWAY COURIER NIG ENTERPRISES DELIVERY SERVICES on this digits: +2347080044292 also on whatsapp +2347080044292, and give him your parcel number [NIG6283ZAM] He's a disciplined and principled man just tell him you won a package from me and drop your parcel number.,NOTE they will charge you $100usd for transportation of your gifts to your various destination, Congratulations once again”

Do you think this is real?

No, I don’t think that this is real, I am 100% certain that this is a scam.

Firstly, why would a celebrity contact people like you and me about a competition? And why would they be doing this using Facebook? Remember that it is one of the easiest things to create a Facebook profile, even to create a profile pretending to be that of a celebrity. It takes just a few seconds to copy pictures and updates from a genuine celebrity and a few more to create some posts to make the profile look convincing.

I took a look at the Facebook profile account that sent you this message and it’s clearly fake. Why, for instance, would a famous Nigerian singer be so interested in Botswana? In fact, almost all the groups he’s joined or pages he’s liked are connected with Botswana and none seem related to Nigeria. This is a profile deliberately created to scam us in Botswana.

Then there are the usual clues. The number given is a cellphone number and I think it’s safe to assume that the courier company is fake as well. This is just about the $100 that the fake celebrity is demanding. It’s nothing but a scam.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 13th August 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Scam stories

A story was published entitled “Florida Woman Loses $1 Million In Online Dating Scam”. It told of someone who fell for a "romance scam" is likely to lose her home and end up $350,000 in debt. This is obviously a major example of these romantic scams but we're not immune in Botswana. We probably hear of them once or twice every week. Luckily we're normally intimate to prevent people giving away their money but not always. These scams usually originate on dating web sites or Facebook and end up with a fictitious packages of gifts being "held up" at a customs point in a foreign country. For victims in Botswana the claim is usually that the package is in Cape Town. Spread the word, people you meet on Facebook, no matter how charming they might seem, don't come bearing gifts. They come bearing theft.

2. They broke my phone
“I was in a supermarket and I picked a few items and I went to the till point to pay then I put my phone on top of the counter because I wanted to get money from my pocket. Then after she scanned 2kg washing powder she put it the counter and it pushed my phone and it fell and the screen got broken. I told the cashier she broke my phone and she said sorry and went on to say you were not suppose to put your phone on top of the counter. I said where is it written? She said its not written anywhere. That’s when I took the matter to the manager. So yesterday the manager called me and told me the fault is fine and they can’t fix my phone just like that. What can I do?"
So whose fault is it? The store? The customer? Actually probably a mixture. If you put a valuable phone somewhere where it's likely to be damaged you need to be prepared to take some personal responsibility.

3. Must I pay again?
"I have been dealing with a certain garage and I feel they are ripping me off. My car was spilling fuel and I took it to them they said it was a pipe that was loose. They repaired the pipe and charged me P950. A week later it did the same and I took it back to them and they said the pipes were blocked and they wanted to charge P300 which I contested and they let me go. Now it has done the same after a week of so. They now say the pipes need to be replaced. I bought the pipes yesterday and they now want to charge me P650 for replacing the pipes I bought for P60. My issue now is they are charging me for the job they have charged me for again. They could have noticed that the pipes were old the first time I took the car to them. Please advise?
Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that services must be rendered “with reasonable care and skill”. Was this truly on this occasion?

Section 15 (1) (b) says that the supplier fails "to meet minimum standards of performance" if they quote “scientific or technical data in support of a claim unless the data can be readily substantiated”. Was this truly on this occasion?

However, perhaps the mechanic was just doing his best? Diagnosis of problems in complicated systems such as cars, computers, cellphones can be very difficult.

Maybe there's room for a compromise here over price? Or go elsewhere.

4. Must they help me?
“I am tendering for suppling a [name of device removed]. The challenge is the company that supplies this equipment is not willing to help me with the quote because they are also tendering. Is this company allowed to deny me the services?”
Can you really demand that a supplier supply you with something if they don't want to? Do we have a right to demand to buy things? In a similar manner a supplier, a store, a restaurant can, in certain situations, decline to service us.
  • Examples of reasons that a supplier CAN refuse to serve us: Poor past or current misbehaviour, drunkenness, breach of a dress code, debt, previous financial behaviour, previous bounced cheques
  • Examples of reasons that a supplier can NOT refuse to serve us: gender (with very few exceptions such as bathrooms and changing rooms), race, religion, political belief
5. How to complain – Consumer Watchdog Official Complaints Procedure

The old Official 3-Step Consumer Watchdog Complaints Procedure was as follows:

1. Complain to the person who offended you.
2. Complain to the most senior person in the building. Their title will be something like "Store Manager", "Branch Manager" or "Restaurant Manager".
3. Complain to the most senior person in the entire organisation. Their title will be something like Managing Director or Chief Executive Officer, President or Pope.

This has now been replaced by the new Official 1-Step Consumer Watchdog Complaints Procedure which goes like this:

1. Complain however, wherever and whenever you please. That does include Facebook.

In 2018 consumers are in charge. There is nothing suppliers can do about it.

6. Pyramids schemes vs MLMs

Following a discussion in our Facebook group on the differences between pyramid schemes and Multi-Level Marketing schemes (following which a small number of people who insisted on trying to market both were banned people from the group), it's important to explain the essential difference.

Section 9 of the 2018 Consumer Protection Act says that “A person shall not directly or indirectly promote, or knowingly join, enter or participate, or cause any other person to promote, join, enter or participate in…
(a) A pyramid scheme
(b) A multiplication scheme
(c) A chain letter scheme”

These are each defined as follows:
  • Pyramid scheme – “where participants in the scheme receive compensation derived primarily from their respective recruitment of other persons as participants”
  • Multiplication scheme: – “offers, promises or guarantees … an effective interest rate that is above the market rate”
  • Chain letter scheme – “each successive newly recruited participant is required to make some form of payment which would be distributed to some of the previously existing participants”
So it's quite simple, according to Botswana law. If the scheme suggests or promises or even deliver a mechanism where the money offered or earned is "primarily" from the recruitment of other people, then it's a pyramid scheme. What could be simpler?

Saturday, 18 August 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay again?

I have been dealing with a certain garage and I feel they are ripping me off. My car was spilling fuel and I took it to them they said it was a pipe that was loose. They repaired the pipe and charged me P950, P650 being for towing and P200 for tightening the pipe. A week later it did the same and I took it back to them and they said the pipes were blocked and they wanted to charge P300 which I contested and they let me go. Now it has done the same after a week of so. They now say the pipes need to be replaced. I bought the pipes yesterday and they now want to charge me P650 for replacing the pipes I bought for P60. My issue now is they are charging me for the job they have charged me for again. They could have noticed that the pipes were old the first time I took the car to them. Please advise?

This might be a difficult one.

Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations requires that a supplier of a service must deliver those services “with reasonable care and skill”. The next section also states that the supplier has broken the rules if he or she “quotes scientific or technical data in support of a claim unless the data can be readily substantiated”. I get the impression that your mechanic might have failed to satisfy both of these requirements. He wasn’t able to fix the problem and is now making claims that he might not be able to justify.

However, the trouble is that he can claim, and this might even be true, that he was doing his best when he repaired the pipe and that he genuinely believed, based on his skills and experience, that it would fix the problem. I’m no expert on cars but I know that complicated technical matters can be very difficult to diagnose and fix. That goes for vehicles but also for computers, household appliances and even medical issues. The initial diagnosis isn’t always the final one.

I suggest that you should compromise. Why not suggest that, given that his initial suggestion didn’t work, he needs to be a bit more flexible rather than just run up a huge bill for you? If he fails to cooperate, then maybe we can escalate things a little.

They broke my phone!

I was in a supermarket and I picked a few items and I went to the till point to pay then I put my phone on top of the counter because I wanted to get money from my pocket. Then after she scanned 2kg washing powder she put it the counter and it pushed my phone and it fell and the screen got broken. I told the cashier she broke my phone and she said sorry and went on to say you were not suppose to put your phone on top of the counter. I said where is it written? She said its not written anywhere! I took seconds looking at the phone and the same cashier who broke my phone told me to move because I’m delaying people behind me who wants to pay. I told her how can you say that to me? You destroyed my phone what should I do she said she doesn’t know. Thats when I took the matter to the manager. So yesterday the manager called me and told me the fault is fine and they can’t fix my phone just like that. What can I do?

I suspect there’s not much you can do. I spoke to the management of the supermarket chain and their position was simple. They spoke to their staff and told me that because you were the one who placed your phone on the counter, a space reserved for shopping, that you were to blame for the damage to the phone. Their argument is that a consumer would have known the risk of putting a phone amongst shopping that was being scanned.

Unfortunately, while this might not seem very sympathetic by the store, I suspect it’s reasonable. The counter is a place for shopping to be moved around, not somewhere you place something as important and valuable as a cellphone. Sorry!

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 6th August 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Is Bitcoin a pyramid scheme 

No, but it attracts them.

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, discussed many times before.

The problem is that it's surrounded by a vast number of scams, pyramid schemes, Ponzi schemes and fake cryptocurrencies such as Pipcoin, Billcoin, OneCoin, DasCoin.

If you want to experiment with these new technologies then do so. They're probably the future of money but they are currently very high risk. As with any speculations, you should only spend what you can afford to lose.

2. Is BPC stealing from us?

People are complaining about electricity costs, suggesting that the are much more expensive then ever before. Some ever suggest that Botswana Power Corporation are "stealing" our money somehow. Can this be true? Or are we using much more electricity than normal?

Firstly, BPC prices went up significantly in April.

Secondly, it's winter. It takes more energy to heat things and then to maintain a fixed temperature and more still to maintain those temperatures when the surroundings are colder. It's a matter of physics.

Thirdly, BPC have a banded pricing system. The first 200 kWh are priced at one level (currently P0.6993), then, once that quantity has been consumed, the price goes up to a high level (currently P0.9711). Not only does the cost increase when you consume more electricity, the price per unit does as well.

Fourth, and this is just conjecture, I suspect that our perceptions of electricity consumption have changed since prepaid meters were introduced.

Add all these together and I think it's easy to understand what it seems that prices have gone up so much. But no evidence that there's a sinister conspiracy to "steal our money".

3. Should stores have toilets?
“I want to understand - aren't customers supposed to be assisted with toilets in shops? I was once denied use toilet in one of the reputable shops. Today I got to one of the big shops, I was told it was for staff only. After begging for use of toilet through the manager I was let use it. I got to yet another store at I asked for toilet, I was told I should be searched before I could be allowed to use the bathroom and after telling them I would rather leave than submit to such demeaning treatment I was allowed use of toilet. My issue is are customers not supposed to have access to such important facilities especially at malls or shopping complexes, even if they can be pay toilets?”
Stores probably not, mainly for security reasons. Shopping centers? Yes? And yes, they should be free because we are already paying for them in the prices we pay the stores who then pay their rent to the shopping center.

4. Inter African Investment and Loan Company



Does it really need explaining?

5. Unknown callers
“Someone called me today from South Africa that they have been engaged to do a back ground check on my company. I requested them to send me an email including their details and also those of their principal who has sent them so I can also do a background check on them. They have not responded up to now. Please advise what should I do, tried to call the number but it goes unanswered but charges.”
How do you know the person calling is real? Adopt the approach this consumer used. Demand their ID first. Otherwise who knows who's really calling.

6. Can I return things?

A consumer bought a sewing machine for P13,500 in 2016.
“I returned back to them a week after buying, upon returning it,the manager refused to take it back saying once you have bought something from them you can't return it which is not written on the receipt.”
She went to the Consumer Protection Unit, who encouraged both parties to engage in dialogue. The store agreed to take it back and sell it on her behalf. Eventually managed to sell for P9,600 but
“they never consulted with me about the price they are planning to sell it for.”
Furthermore, the store now says they're taking a 20% charge, leaving her with a balance or around P7,000.

Firstly, did she even have the right to change her mind? No, unless the item she bought was not “of merchantable quality” of if the store deceived the consumer somehow. There's no right to change your mind.

Meanwhile, there is good news. During the dialogue the store agreed, in writing that they would only sell the item if she agreed to the selling price and that they wouldn't deduct anything from that amount.

Simple.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is Bitcoin a pyramid scheme?

Hello Richard is bitcoin a pyramid scheme?

I need to begin by explaining what Bitcoin is. Bitcoin is a currency, but not like any currency we've seen before. It's a “cryptocurrency”, a digital currency. There are no coins or notes with Bitcoin, nothing you can put in your wallet or purse. Bitcoins exist purely in cyberspace and that’s one of the things that confuses people. What’s also confusing is the terminology used when people talk about Bitcoin. They talk about things like the "blockchain", the "distributed ledger" and "Bitcoin mining", all of which are hard to understand and likely to perplex people. There's also the simple confusion that your money is "out there" somewhere and not in your pocket.

Data source: Coindesk
Like all currencies Bitcoin’s value can go up but it can also go down. For instance, if you’d bought Bitcoins in late December last year you would have lost almost two-thirds of your “investment” by the time I wrote this. There’s no reason to think that it’s price will increase again.

Then there are security concerns. The technology underpinning Bitcoin is highly secure but anyone who says that a particular security system is fool proof doesn’t know their history. All security technologies will eventually be broken and if a flaw is ever discovered in Bitcoin's security mechanisms it would be instantly valueless.

The fact that it's completely unregulated is another concern. If a conventional currency like the Pula, dollar or Euro showed signs of failing, central banks can do things to support it but with Bitcoin, there's nobody to help you. The Bank of Botswana has already warned people about the dangers of speculating in Bitcoin. Another issue is that when you spend Bitcoins there are no payment protection mechanisms available to you. There are no rights to refunds. no chargeback mechanisms and Bitcoins are completely untraceable and that’s why they’re so popular with criminals and terrorists.

Bitcoin is fascinating and something like it is probably the future of money but you shouldn’t see it as an investment. If you have some money you can afford to lose then go ahead, otherwise you should be much more careful.

And then there’s the final thing. While Bitcoin is itself legitimate (but very high risk) it’s surrounded by a huge number of scams, pyramid schemes and Ponzi schemes, all of which are exploiting the mixture of excitement and ignorance we all have about the subject. Just be very careful!

Where’s the tombstone?

We as a family paid P9,500 to a company in Mogoditshane for them to make us a tombstone for our grandfather to be unveiled in late July. We agreed with them and they made a promise it will all be set up by the agreed date. When we called up they promised it will be set up by Tuesday 24th July, it happened it was not so. We went to their offices and we cannot get any assistance. The owner of the company has switched off his cellphones and the officer in charge cannot assist as she says everything is done by the owner of the company.

We need help as we have incurred costs for the unveiling and we did not get our tombstone and we are so anxious and restless. What can we do?

What is it with some companies? We hear so often about companies that let people down during some of life’s most important occasions, particularly weddings and funerals. Don’t they understand that these are occasions that can’t be repeated? Don’t they know how important they are? Don’t they realise the depth of the emotions involved?

Send me the contact details for this awful company and we’ll get in touch with them and try to explain to them how horrible their behaviour has been. We’ll also explain that I removed their name from your email to give them the chance to rectify their appalling behaviour. They need to know that this might not remain the case.