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:
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.


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.


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.


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 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.