Saturday 28 April 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 23rd April 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Can I take them back?

An email came in saying:
"I bought 2 wheel caps from a dealer last week and it happened that they are of the wrong size. Now I wanted to return them but they are refusing to take them back. What can I do?"
Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations requires commodities and services to be "of merchantable quality", defined as "fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased".  That covers things like manufacturing faults. Also, Section 13 (1) (c) says that new means new, not second hand or used, so if the goods are returned the store will undoubtedly lose money if they sell them again.

Did the supplier do anything wrong here? There was no obvious deception and no product faults or failures. Surely this was the customer's mistake?

There is currently no "right" to return things unless they are faulty. We all know some stores that allow this but that's just good customer service, not a consumer right.

2. Do they need to register?
"Are there any regulatory guidelines for becoming a weight loss consultant or gym instructor in Botswana? Is one required to be certified for this purpose?"
The Botswana Health Professions Act, 2001, regulates "Medical, Dental and Pharmacy Professions" but also covers a range of other para-medical professions:
  • "Allied Health Professions" includes Pharmacists, Radiographers, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Opticians, Optometrists, Biomedical Engineers, Clinical Psychologists, Health Inspectors, Laboratory Scientists, Speech Therapists, Audiologists, 
Dieticians, Orthopaedic Technicians, Pharmacy Technicians, Paramedics, Laboratory Technicians, Dental Therapists and Clinical Officers. 
  • "Associated Health Professions" includes Chiropodists, Homeopaths, Naturopaths, Osteopaths and Acupuncturists. (We'll overlook the fact that homeopathy and acupuncture are bogus for now.)
What's missing from the lists? "Nutritionist" doesn't appear so is a meaningless term. "Life Coach" also doesn't appear so you have no knowledge that such a person is qualified or equipped to do anything useful.

"Weight loss consultant" also doesn't appear. So it's not a regulated profession. "Caveat emptor" applies!

3. Get it in writing (yet again)

Exhibit A
"I'm working as a carpenter. Someone followed me at work and asked me to take unpaid leave for some days to do something for him. Now he is supposed to pay me he always give me some excuses that he is busy with some projects and he does not have time to pay me."
The carpenter is owed P23,000. I asked if there was anything in writing?
"No we had agreements through messages even voice calls."
Exhibit B
"About 2 years ago I engaged a building company to make a house plan for me and build it… He charged us P4,200. He insisted we pay the full amount as he needed some of the money to tackle his own things and put in some petrol to go to moshupa to see the plot. I wanted to give him half but he wasn't taking it. Like a moron I sent all the money. Included in was also him taking it to the council for approval. well, he emailed us the plan and it's kinda good BUT he has not taken it to the council. This is the second week of us chasing him and we are lucky if he picks up the phone or if he responds to our texts. Now I would like to know if you know what we can do to get some of our money back since he has not completed our agreement."
I asked if there was anything in writing?
"No. All I have is the Western Union receipts for him"
Exhibit C
"I gave some guy P165,000 to buy me a car in UK but he bought the wrong one that I did not want. This happened in 2016. He gave me P86,000 last year and promised to pay the rest in September. When the time came for him to give me the balance he showered me with insults and told me he doesn't have money. This guy is in UK and he seem doesn't care when I ask him to pay me. What is your advice? please help me!"
I asked if there was anything in writing?
"All I have is bank transfer receipts."
So what's the lesson? Get things in writing. Every single time. It doesn't matter how big or small it is, if you're buying or selling something, get it in writing.

4. Insurance excess payments
"I have a car insurance which was recommended by [vehicle finance company]. About 2 months ago the car was involved in an accident, we took quotations from [repair workshop] to the insurance company and they approved. [repair workshop] told us to bring the car for fixing, yesterday they called saying the car is ready and we have to pay P5,000 excess as the insurance did not cover that. We were shocked as we were not told this before, my husband who has been handling the case went to the insurance and they told him that the premium that I chose I have to pay the excess fee. I know you always blame us for not reading contracts but the one I signed doesn't have that clause. Please help me out what do I do in this situation??"
Almost all insurance policies, whether they're vehicle, household policies or anything else have an excess payment. That's an amount that the customer is required to pay before the insurance company pays the rest. Insurance companies use these excess amounts to stop customers making trivial claims. For instance, if your excess amount is P3,000 and you have an accident that costs P1,000 to repair, you pay it all. However, if the damage costs P10,000, you pay P3,000 and the insurance company will pay the remaining P7,000. If the damage is P100,000, they'll pay P97,000.

The first lesson is to shop around. Usually, the higher the monthly premium you pay for an insurance policy, the lower the excess will be. A low premium policy will often offer a much higher excess. It's a balancing act, a decision to consider before choosing a policy.

In this case, the document the Customer had was a renewal notice, not the actual policy. We contacted the insurance company and they confirmed that the customer had signed for policy document that contains the excess clause. The second lesson is simple. Read all agreements and do NOT sign them until you completely understand them.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must we pay?

Sometimes around June 2016 my husband and I purchased a set of chairs on 2 year hire purchase contract.

In 2017 August we noticed that the chairs started peeling and were cracking on the piping around the chairs. we then notified our sale person to assist. After a month or two we contacted him again and were informed that the chairs were now out of warranty. In March this year my husband took the chairs to the store and was told to go back home with the chairs as he should have not brought them to the store and that the someone would come to our house to inspect the chairs but they never came.

I then called the store and spoke to a lady who promised that the Managing Director would come to the house and advice decide on the way forward but the managing director never came either.

On the 20th March we did not pay our monthly payments and were surprised to receive a call on the 21st from the collection department that our payment did not go through and we are in arrears. My husband received another call from the collection department on the 26th inquiring if someone has been to the house to inspect the set of chairs. We are left with about 5 months for the repayments to be completed and contract terminated and we are afraid that after the 5 months we are never going to be assisted.

We therefore request you to step in and assist?

Unfortunately, you're in a very difficult position. If you buy something on hire purchase and you stop your instalments, for whatever reason, even if the store have behaved terribly, you're not entitled to any support. Also, if the warranty has indeed expired already (and they are often only for a year) the store is not obliged to remedy any problems that occur after the warranty expires.

I really think you need to catch up with the instalments as soon as possible and then see if the store will help you. Be prepared for a struggle!

Finally, if you like, I can approach them and see if there is any way they can assist you but I can't promise anything.

Can I get my money back?

Hello Sir. I need your help. I bought 2 wheel caps from a dealer last week and it happened that they are of the wrong size. Now I wanted to return them but they are refusing to take them back. What can I do?

We should begin with what the Consumer Protection Regulations say. Firstly, Section 13 (1) (a) of the Regulations says that goods and services must be "of merchantable quality" which it defines as meaning "fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased". In other words, things should do what they're meant to do. This also means that if something does NOT do what it's meant to do, or if it's any other way faulty, the consumer is entitled to a solution. The Regulations also protect you against being deceived by a company that sells you something. They can't tell lies.

However, there is one thing that the Regulations don't currently offer you: the right to return things if there's nothing wrong with them. I know that there are some stores that allow you to return things if you change your mind, but that's just good customer service, not a consumer right. It's not something you can demand.

But your case is obviously different. There's nothing faulty about the items you bought and you haven't suggested that they deceived you when you bought them. The dealer didn't actually do anything wrong. It wasn't their fault that you selected the wrong sizes, was it?

There's also another thing in the Regulations that matters. Section 13 (1) (c) says that goods can only be sold as new if they are, in fact, new and not used or second-hand. If the store takes these items back they could only then sell them as second-hand and nobody will pay full price for second-hands items. Would you?

Unfortunately I don't think there's much you can do in this situation other than to suggest that the store only gives you a partial discount if they take them back.

Saturday 21 April 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay the excess?

I have a situation here, I have a car insurance policy which was recommended by my bank as I am paying the car through a bank car loan. About 2 months ago the car was involved in an accident, we took quotations and submitted to the insurance company which they approved.

The repair place told us to bring the car for fixing but yesterday they called saying the car is ready and we have to pay P5,000 excess as the insurance did not cover that. We were shocked as we were not told this before.

My husband who has been handling the case went to the insurance company and they told him that the premium that I chose I have to pay the excess fee, I know you always blame us for not reading contracts but the one I signed doesn't have that clause all it has is that I'm in group 6 and doesn't further clarify the group 6. Please help me out what do I do in this situation?

Unfortunately this is how vehicle insurance works. I know that the vehicle insurance policies I've had (and I've had many of them) have always included an "excess" clause. This is an amount that the customer has to pay before the insurance company pays. In most cases with a vehicle insurance policy it will be a few thousand although the exact amount varies between insurance companies and between policies. The reason they exist is to prevent customers from making trivial claims. With some insurance companies they'll give you the chance to pay a higher premium in return for a lower excess.

I know you sent me the insurance documents you have but they didn't include the actual policy document, just the latest renewal note from your bank. I suggest you get a copy of the policy document from the insurance company and I'm sure it will mention the excess amount.

Meanwhile, I've contacted the insurance company to double check and to find out how one of their customers could have been allowed to sign a policy without having been thoroughly educated on how it worked. And here's a plea to the insurance industry. Please make your policies easier to understand and do more to educate us all on how insurance works. We know insurance is incredibly useful so why aren't you helping consumers to understand how it can protect us all?

How can they blacklist me?

I have concerns regarding my consumer profile. I tried to apply for a credit account at a store recently and I was told the system has declined my request. They suspected I might be blacklisted, therefore I assured them that all my accounts are in good order. The assistant advised me to get a copy of my profile from the Post Office and check if there is any service provider that has done that, although previously I had an issue with another store and my banks due to areas but that was settled last year and everything is up to date.

I went to the Post Office to do just that and surprisingly my profile shows that there is no information submitted by any company under my name, my record is clean. Therefore I would like an assistance upon this issue about the next step to take because I am afraid this is going to tarnish my name upon any future relations I would like to indulge in with any company or service provider.

Please assist me to clear my name, your assistance will be highly appreciated.

I'm sorry to hear about this. It's a story I've heard before. Remember that credit reference bureaux hold both positive and negative information on people. The irony is that if you have no record at all, a potential lender has no information on which to base a decision and rather than seeing you as a person with no bad history, they see you as a complete unknown and sometimes won't take the risk.

It might be worth taking a copy of your TransUnion record back to the store and showing them that you're a good bet? I'll also talk to them and see if they can't be a little bit more flexible!

Friday 13 April 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Do I have a case?

I need advice on whether I have a case or not? I bought a TV at last year March 17. By November it started developing faults with some lines across the screen and at times only half of it comes on when switched on. I called the store on the 3rd December to enquire on repairs and I was told I could not bring it in as technicians were going for holidays. I was told to come in January. I couldn't return it in January through March and only managed to see them on the 27th March. Now they say they can't help me since the warranty expired on the 17th March. I was asked to personally take the TV for repairs and bear all costs. My complaint is was it fair for them to refuse to take in my TV at a time when I was ready to bring it in and now refuse to help me? Shouldn't they at least meet me halfway on repair costs? Thanks in advance.

Did the store staff have too much to drink over the Christmas holiday?

No, I do NOT think they should meet you halfway. They should pay for everything.

I know you took too long in returning the TV, that was unfortunate, but that's not the important issue here. The thing that matters is that you told them about the fault in December, well within the warranty period. The fact that they then weren't sufficiently competent to have technicians available is what matters. I'm not saying that technicians can't go on holiday over Christmas but from as early as the 3rd December? That's just ridiculous. You had a right to expect that the store would have the resources available to attend to your problem within a reasonable period and with what Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations refers to as "reasonable care and skill".

We'll get in touch with the store and see if they can understand this.

Is this loan legitimate?

Is it possible for you to verify the existence of company known as Liberty Financial Services code 2193 registration no 1999/063355/23?

I suspect that you're dealing with scammers. Let me guess. You received an unsolicited email from them or you saw an advertisement from them on Facebook? Did they tell you that you were eligible for "a loan of R10,000 to R10 million" at only 3% interest each year? If they emailed you, did the email come from a Gmail address?

The reason I'm making these guesses is that we've heard of this scam many times before.

The first clever thing about this scam is they're using the name "Liberty" and you probably know that there are various legitimate, trustworthy companies with that name. They're hoping you'll confuse the fake Liberty with the real ones.

The other clever part of it is that they're using the registration details of a genuine South African lender called Loancare Chain but that's just a cover story. They have no connection with the legitimate company at all. The truth is that no lender offers loans to total strangers who haven't approached them first. Real lenders don't offer enormous loans at only 3% interest per year.

In fact this is just the beginning of an advance fee scam. Sooner or later they'll require some form of payment from you in order to get the fictitious loan they say they're offering you. That's what the scam is all about, that "advance fee" that you pay them. if you do fall for it and pay them they'll just string you along with more and more demands for more money. This won't stop until you either wise up or run out of money.

I suggest that you delete any emails or messages you've had from them and ignore any that arrive in future.

Sunday 8 April 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where is my P800?

I paid P800 for my ACCA P3 classes last year in March at a tutoring place in the Main Mall. The tutor later told me that there were no P3 classes yet and I was the only student. Therefore I ended up not going at all and my employer took me to BAC instead. The tutor agreed that he will refund me but when I call he'll tell me he forgot or he lost my number or he doesn't have money yet. Kindly help me since it looks like this cycle will not stop.

I think this has gone on long enough. The receipt you showed me made it clear that he'd received your money for a class that he didn't deliver and he knew he had to refund you your money. What this supposed accountant seems to forget is that Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that when a deal is cancelled, as yours so clearly has been, the service provider must refund any payments made "promptly". I don't think that "promptly" means "a year later". I don't even think it means "three months later". I think that "promptly" means "within a few days, perhaps a week at most".

I contacted the guy and asked him when he was planning to give you your money back but unfortunately he wasn't happy to hear from me. When I mentioned that he might feature in The Voice he SMSed me saying "Well do it in that way. I will personally apply for a court case against u.... U think i am a thief. Well."

I'll be looking forward to the case.

He later told me: "Do what u want am not a thief . I have an office y didnt not summon me or call me to consumer office . I dont run away. I want to talk to her is only peeson i can tell when i refund her . I dont know u".

Later still he told me that he'd lost your number and "I want to talk to her is only peeson i can tell when i refund her . I dont know u". However he then became a bit more reasonable, saying "By the way if u have number of that tell i give after 3 weeks. I went thru several losses by my farm".

Roughly translated into English he means that he'll pay you in three weeks but can we trust him? I think you should write him a letter saying that he has 14 days to refund you or you'll take legal action against him to recover your money. If he fails to do so then you should go straight to the Small Claims Court for an order against him. You might also want to check with the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants to see if he's really the Chartered Accountant he claims to be. I suspect he isn't!

Is World Ventures legit?

Mr Richard. I need your input, is World Ventures legit?

I get asked this question at least once a month and this is the answer I always give.

World Ventures is a pyramid scheme. The authorities in Norway announced a few years ago that they were certain that World Ventures is a pyramid scheme because 95% of all the money paid out to recruits was for the recruitment of other people, not from actually selling things. That's a pyramid scheme.

Like other schemes World Ventures are required by some countries to publish income statements that show what their distributors actually earn from their business. With World Ventures the latest figures from the USA show that three-quarters of all people who join make absolutely nothing from the business. Of the rest, almost all of the money was earned by the few people at the top of the pyramid. You want details? More than two thirds (actually 68.7%) of all the income went to the 3.7% at the top. And let's make it clear, the earnings made by the people at the tops came directly from those at the bottom of the pyramid. That's gross exploitation.

Taking every American recruit into account, the median earnings were a meagre $33, just P330 per year and those figures were income, not profit. They excluded all the costs associated with running the "business" like transport, phone and internet bills. With the exception of those few people at the top, everyone else loses money with World Ventures.

Do you want someone building a pyramid for an exploitative leader? There's a word for that role.