Monday 23 December 2019

BitClub Network - $722 million gone missing, prosecutions beginning

A couple of years ago I was on radio and mentioned Bitcoin. I warned people that I thought it was an "economic bubble" and that its rapidly increasing price was very likely to come crashing down soon.

Later that day the station called me saying that "Bitcoin" had asked to come on air to provide another side to the story. I mentioned that there is no company called "Bitcoin" so I didn't see how they could send a spokesperson. They gave me the number of the person who had called and it was actually someone from BitClub Network, an obvious pyramid / Ponzi scheme. They claimed to be major Bitcoin miners but there was NO actual evidence of that being true.

They said:
“With BitClub Network you earn daily profits from our shared mining pools. We also have a referral program so you can get paid for anyone you refer.”
In fact, their main motivation was to recruit more and more people, a major clue that all was not as it seemed.

The people behind this scam are now facing prosecution in the USA but the sad thing is how many people fell for the lies told by BitClub Network recruiters and who collectively lost £722 million.

Please, let's not fall for another BitClub Network, Eurextrade or MMM Global? Let's make that a New Years Resolution for 2020?

Saturday 21 December 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Shall we name this dressmaker?

In September, I passed by a tailors in Mogoditshane inquiring about the prices for making a dress for a wedding. I showed him the piece of cloth i had, then he told me that he had the material in his storeroom and would charge me P650 if he provides the material. On 21st October, I went back to him with a P300 deposit. I told him I wanted the dress on the 10th November. I asked him when I should come for fitting then he said there was no need when I come on the 10th I will find my dress ready.

On 11th November I passed and he told me on the phone that he wasn't around and the lady he was working with won’t be able to see the dress because they just rearranged their work area. One lady that I found there also who happened to be my home girl told me to check him daily because he isn't a trustworthy person.

[The consumer then tells a VERY long story about this tailor telling her a series of lies about where the dress was and offering a long list of excuses.]

When I told him i wasn't happy with his customer service he told me if I have "the customer is always right mentality" that is not how he operates. Then I asked if he can give me back my deposit because he isn’t able to provide the service I wanted he said he would not do that because he has bought the material with the money.

When I asked for his full names from the lady he was working with, she told me that there was no need to give me because they know him at Mogoditshane kgotla because a lot of people report him there many times. She said if I say I have come to report him they will know who I am talking about. I didn’t hear from him after that, When I called him later that I want my deposit back he told me that he is not going to do that and I can take the matter to court if I want to.

My request from your office is to help me get my P300 deposit back from him and maybe teach him a lesson on the poor service that he is giving.

Clearly this guy is a terrible dressmaker but a highly accomplished liar and cheat. If he’s such a popular figure at the kgotla, that’s all we need to know about him.

I contacted him and asked for his reaction to your allegations and he gave me the silent treatment as well. So, it’s very simple. I will be naming this dressmaker on Facebook the day after this article if published unless he sorts this situation out promptly. Let’s see if he wants to be famous there as well as at the kgotla?

Forex trading warning.

We’ve been asked several times recently about our feelings about forex trading. Is it a good idea?

Firstly, I’m not talking about the foreign exchange business conducted by banks and bureaux de change that we use when we go to another country if we want foreign currency before we travel. I’m talking about foreign exchange trading where people like you and me buy and sell currencies online, betting that we’ll be buying currencies that will increase in value compared to the currencies we used to buy them.

If you’re on Facebook you’ve almost certainly seen posts and entire pages and groups devoted to persuading us that this is a way ordinary people like you and me can make lots of money by trading forex. Be careful. Be very careful.

This is an incredibly high-risk activity. I have met a few people who make a little money from it but I haven’t yet met anyone who makes a living from it. Instead I’ve met a lot of people who have LOST a lot of money. Firstly, that’s because the risks are very high. Secondly, it’s because forex trading is a hugely competitive business. Every time you sell a foreign currency, someone else must buy it. Every time you want to buy, there must be a seller. And while these other people might be just like you and me, they could also be a bank, a pension fund or a specialist forex trading company. It could even be the company you’re using to do the trading.

And then there are the scams. The forex trading industry is dominated by scammers doing their very best to steal our money. In the past month I’ve heard from someone who lost P36,000 in a forex scheme. That was surpassed by the story I heard from another consumer who “invested” P500,000 in a forex trading company based in Gaborone but which subsequently disappeared.

I’m sure there will be people who contact me saying these are exceptions, that there are people making money from forex trading and that might be true. However, the truth is that forex trading is fine if you treat it as a hobby and you only use money you can afford to lose without tears. Otherwise it’s a very good way to lose a lot of money very quickly.

Monday 16 December 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my ottoman? Where’s my refund?

I ordered an ottoman amounting to P2,659 on 11th of September 2019 which was supposed to be delivered within 6 weeks, Unfortunately after making payment my order was never placed. I called three weeks after payment following up on the order and was informed it would come 8 weeks later, I didn't get it. I called and it turns out my order was never placed in the first place. They tried to make me get a display model whilst I await the one I had initially ordered and I refused. I told them I want my money back. Unfortunately you can't get it there and then so they make me fill in some forms and ask for my id and official banking details which I gave after giving them a hard time since I was never requested all these things when I was making the purchase. 7 days later no payment no feedback. I literally had to call and nothing has come through till now. The documents for the refund were sent on 14 November.

It’s a fundamental fact about human beings that we all make mistakes. We’re not robots, we’re not computers, we’re fallible. We forget things and we get things wrong. We’re human. Unfortunately, the store you’ve been dealing with seems to be VERY human. They seem to make a LOT of mistakes.

As a consumer you have a right to expect the store to fix their mistakes and then not to make any more of them. Section 14 (1) of the new Consumer Protection Act says that consumer have a right to expect “services in a manner and quality the consumers are reasonably entitled to expect”. We can’t expect miracles and we can’t expect stores never to make mistakes but what I think that means is that we CAN expect a supplier to fix mistakes promptly when they happen. Clearly this store has failed to do that.

I contacted the store and they responded quickly. They told me that you had refused to give them your ID documents but then went to say that “this does not stop us paying her”. We have to ask why they asked for them if they never really needed them?

They continued to say that they would get their Account Department to refund you as soon as possible. Please let me know when that happens?

Where’s my loan?

Help me here sir I’m frustrated. I applied for a loan from my bank around 18th and even today the loan has not been credited. The first week the excuse was that it cannot be approved without digital account opening. I spend two weeks without that account because apparently the system was down. Finally they gave me the debit card but now we are going to the end of another month. Our services in Botswana kills a lot of people dreams. Knowing that normally a loan doesn’t take more than 5 days I laybyed some material for 2,000. I am on the verge of losing that amount because the bank is busy frustrating me. Please help if possible.

The first thing everyone should understand about getting a loan from a bank is that it’s not a right, it’s a commercial decision that a bank takes once they’ve balanced the opportunity of making some money from their customer and the risk of losing money if the customer doesn’t make their repayments. Quite often we hear from customers who have failed to get a loan and complain that the bank was unfair by not lending to them. I often respond by asking them if they are required to lend their money to any friend or acquaintance who asked to borrow money?

However, in your case, they clearly HAVE approved your loan. They gave you a debit card attached to the loan account which suggests to me that they’re prepared to lend to you, but they’re taking their time finalising the process. It’s really not good enough. I’ll contact your bank and see if they can’t speed up a little.

Meanwhile, forgive me for telling you off, but it was very unwise to commit yourself to the lay-bye before you received the loan in your account. Even if you were sure that the loan would be approved, which is never certain, you must always assume that there will be delays before you get the money in your hands.

With luck, the bank will do its best to be more helpful when we contact them.

Saturday 7 December 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What are my rights?

I would like to make a formal enquiry regarding some goods I purchased on credit. My question is that if the goods get repossessed am I still liable to pay for them? I have asked the store where I purchased them for the contract that we signed when I purchased the goods but I have been told that I will not be furnished with a copy of the contract.

I'd also like to find out if it is legal for them to personally come to my place of employment to collect payment? I have recently moved employers and I hadn't had a chance to update my details however it has been 2 times they have come to my new place of employment. As you can imagine, this was very embarrassing. I made the deal to purchase those goods at the store, not my place of employment.

I would like to find a suitable way of relinquishing the goods if I have to but I'd just like to know what my rights are as a consumer.

Your first question is a simple one. Are you entitled to a replacement copy of the contract you signed? Yes, I think you are. If you were given a copy when you first signed it, then it’s only courteous for the store to offer you a copy. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. If they didn’t give you a copy at the time then yes, you are certainly entitled to a copy with no fuss or argument. If you like I’ll contact the store\s head office and encourage them to be more reasonable.

Next question. Are they entitled to come to your workplace and hassle you and your colleagues? No, I don’t think they are. Section 6 of the new 2018 Consumer Protection Act says that a supplier “shall not use force, coercion, undue influence, pressure, duress, harassment, unfair tactics or any other similar conduct against the consumer, in connection with … the negotiation, conclusion, execution or enforcement of an agreement to supply any goods or services”.

There are some strong words included in that section, things like “force” but I also think that terms like “harassment”, “pressure” and “coercion” apply to this situation. The store is certainly entitled to collect the money you owe them, there’s no doubt about that, but the new Act is very clear that they have to be reasonable when doing this. I’ll also contact them about this and explain that things have changed.

Finally, it’s important that you understand that relinquishing the goods is perhaps the worst thing you could do. The store will auction them for a small fraction of the money you still owe them, and once they add interest, penalties and legal fees, you’ll still owe at least as much as you do now, possibly a lot more.

I suggest that you contact the store and see if you can negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford.

Can they change the date?

I need your advise. I have a loan and the bank used to deduct the monthly instalment as and when my salary was paid. Even when it was way earlier than the date I agreed to on the debit order form. I did not mind until about 3 months ago when I changed jobs. Then they decided to deduct the instalment on the 27th of every month. My new job only paid after the 27th of every month. Due to this, I experienced hefty bank charges of about approximately P500 for 3 months until I went to the bank to enquire. Only then I was told they had decided to deduct on the 27th and I was requested to sign another debit order form.

Is it possible to demand a refund on the bank charges, because I did not consent to the date of the 27th and it greatly inconvenienced me.

This is probably going to be complicated. I know how frustrating it is when a bank decides, without consulting us to change an agreement like this. It’s really not good enough. However, I think the time to object to the bank doing this was when they first did it. Of course, they really should have asked you for permission to change the date but that was the time to contact them and tell them that it wasn’t what you agreed.

As you said, this only became an issue when you changed jobs and the date became a problem. Regrettably, I don’t think the bank can be blamed for this. They had been deducting on the 27th for some time and I imagine they thought this was ok with you. It wasn’t their fault that your circumstances changed.

Nevertheless, I still think it’s worth raising the issue with the bank and getting a commitment from them that the date will be one that works for you, rather than just for them.

Saturday 30 November 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get my money back?

May I please have your advice. I bought a refurbished iphone 7 from one lady in August. The phone overheated and blacked out and now it will not switch on.

I took it to her technician and he said it is dead but told the lady I was impatient and did not give him time to check the phone. I then took it to another technician I know and he said the cpu is dead and needed replacing.

I have asked the lady for a refund because I currently don’t have a phone and I am very frustrated because she is not taking my calls properly and giving me late responses when she feels like it. What should I do?

Unfortunately, I suspect this might be a difficult problem to solve. Firstly, there is always a risk when you buy something second-hand, particularly if you buy it from an individual rather than a company. It’s perfectly possible that the woman who sold you the phone did so in good faith, believing the phone to be working properly. You might find that hard to believe, and perhaps she’s lying, but we can’t prove that, can we?

It also depends on how long it was between you buying the phone and it failing. If it failed the next day that might hint that the phone wasn’t “of merchantable quality”. If it failed three months later, that’s a different story.

The lesson is a simple one, for both the person selling a second-hand item and for someone buying it. Get it in writing. It doesn’t need to be a lengthy legal agreement, it can just be a simple statement that both parties sign, describing the item being sold and the condition it’s in. At least that way, both parties know what they’re committing themselves to and what they should expect.

Can they force me to pay?

Hello, I need advice on an issue I have with Banc ABC. I took a loan in 2011 and in 2013 I did a top up. Today they called me saying I owe them around P1,900 as interest from that loan. They said its interest for the first 2 months, they call it grace period, and I should have been told about it that sometimes during the cause of my payment that money would be deducted. They admitted that it was their fault, they should have informed me about it and the money be deducted from my top up loan. None the less they failed to do so now 6 years down the line they want me to pay the money. I told them that I can't be made to pay because of their negligence. So I'm I wrong to refuse to pay that money or I'm obliged to pay? Thank you in advance.

Unhappily, you’re not the first person to approach us about this issue. Several others have told us the same story. When they first took out the loan, many years ago, like you they were offered a so-called “grace period” of a month that would enable the customer to arrange the stop order needed to pay the loan instalments. However, the repayments during that period weren’t excused or forgiven, they were just delayed. They still had to be paid sooner or later. What then happened was that the bank apparently neglected to include those delayed payments before people believed they’d finished. People like you walked away thinking that the debt had been settled and the bank was, I think, careless in forgetting. And then even more careless for forgetting for so long. This is an issue they should have told you about within days or weeks, not years.

Unfortunately, the bank’s forgetfulness doesn’t mean you can walk away from the debt. Every loan agreement I’ve ever seen made it clear that the customer is also responsible for ensuring that the debt is repaid, not just the bank. That’s a really important lesson for all bank customers to understand and accept. No matter how inept a bank might be, we customers are also responsible for checking if mistakes happen, whether they’re ours or the banks.

However, given that the bank was the party that made the mistake, I think it’s up to them to be a little flexible about how and when you pay off this debt. They need to offer you the time to pay in a manner that doesn’t cripple your finances.

Saturday 23 November 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get my deposit back?

Good day kindly assist here

On the 27 July I paid a lay bye for a 55 inch LED television valued at an amount of P3,200. I paid a deposit of P200 for the television. The months for lay bye was indicated to be six months. Later around the month of October I went back to them and indicated that I want to cancel my lay bye as I don't think I will be able to pay the outstanding balance.

I further requested that I rather use the money I had paid as a deposit to buy something else, an electric fan to be precise, but they explained that they are not going to refund, nor exchange for the lay bye I have made.

Kindly assist.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can be of much help.

When you buy something using a lay-bye, the store effectively puts aside the product for you until you’ve paid the full amount by way of instalments. The store is taking a slight risk because they could sell it to someone who has all the cash. They will also be concerned that you might fail to pay the full amount, delay the payment or cause them trouble some other way. In your case I assume they’ve now stored the TV for four months, incurring costs they hadn’t planned for.

What’s worse is that the receipt they gave you made it very clear that no refunds or exchanges would be possible when you first started the lay-bye. From what you say it seems that you’ve only lost P200 which, while it’s obviously irritating, isn’t a crisis.

The lesson? Always make sure you fully understand the obligations associated with what the law sometimes calls “deferred payment” schemes such as lay-byes and, even more importantly, hire purchase. And if you don’t understand the terms of such an agreement, don’t sign anything and don’t hand over any money!

Why can’t she return the TV?

I would like to enquire from you, My sister bought a television for my mother from a store at Gaborone station and when she arrived home she found that mother have already bought herself one. She went back to the store to exchange the television with a fridge but they refused. They said it is already second hand they can not take it. They won’t exchange with a fridge.

Today I called the manager and he asked me who I am to ask him why they won’t exchange for her. He said he won’t talk to me but rather Consumer Affairs.

Kindly help us on this matter.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can offer you very good news either. Clearly the store manager needs to learn some diplomatic skills but did the store do anything wrong when they sold your sister the TV? From what you say, they sold her a TV in good faith, they didn’t lie to her about its condition, its features and the functions it offered or the terms of the warranty. They didn’t deliver a TV that was faulty or that didn’t work properly for the duration of the warranty period. As far as I understand, they stuck to all the laws that protect consumers to the letter, didn’t they?

If they had done any of these things your sister would certainly have a right to return the TV for one of the three Rs, a repair, replacement or a refund. But they didn’t do this. The inconvenient truth is that consumers don’t have a right to change their minds. Of course, there are some stores that allow you to return certain items without any fuss but that isn’t a right, that’s just very good customer care. That’s also why their products are more expensive.

Like I said, in your case I don’t think there’s much you can force the store to do. They’re right when they say that the TV is now second-hand and there’s no legal way they can sell the TV as new and get a full price for it. Has your sister considered selling the TV herself? I suspect she get a good price for a TV in its original, good as new state? It’s probably worth a try.

Sunday 17 November 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can they abuse me like this?

Please kindly assist and advise me regarding this particular matter.

On the 6th November I went a filling station in in Mahalapye to fuel my car for P612 and I wrote the car registration number on a piece of paper for the teller to punch it on the system so that it appears on the receipt and teller entered the wrong car Reg number so I asked for a correct one, but the Filling station manager who seemed to be NOT customer friendly told me that there is nothing she can help me with because she can't reverse the transaction and give me a correct receipt.

I told her that I need to claim that money from my employer where handwritten invoices are not accepted and she should find a way of helping the situation or take me to her senior manager for assistance. She got angry with me just for that and told me that she is the Director, she does not report to anyone and ordered me to leave her premises and to never see me again, she further threatened that she is going to call the police if I don't leave the premises, saying that she is not afraid of me, she can do anything and ordered all her employees not to talk to me about anything. Remember she said all these in front of her employees and other customers. I left the store helplessly, stressed, very embarrassed, feeling emotionally abused, my integrity being assaulted, the worst customer service I experienced in my entire life. And my rights as a consumer being abused.

I think you have a right to feel that way. You were abused in public and had your “dignity as an honest member of society” abused by someone who had no right to treat you that way. Just so you know, that quote comes from a court case a few years ago when a consumer took a company to court for embarrassing her in public. The judge ruled that those of us who are “honest members of society” have a right to be treated with dignity. You were clearly NOT treated the way you deserved.

I’m sure that filling station managers are fully aware that many companies demand printed receipts so that their employees can claim back their business-related petrol costs, it must happen many times every day. It’s not an unreasonable request and it’s certainly not unreasonable to ask for a receipt to be done correctly.

If you send me the location and exact date and time of the incident, we’ll get in touch with their Head Office and see how quickly an apology, a sincere and heartfelt one, can be offered. And a correct receipt! You certainly deserve both of those things!

Where’s my package?

I need help on what steps i can take in this case. I engaged a courier company to collect some items for me and deliver them. I received the package but was at work. When I opened it the following day I realised there were some items missing (the courier is the one who picked and packaged). When I made them aware of this, it’s like the items just disappeared between pick up, packaging and delivery. No one knows anything. Can I recover my things? Or i have no case?

This might be tricky unless the courier company has evidence of what was collected and packed when they picked up the package. Is there any evidence from where the package was picked up of what was meant to be shipped?

I suggest that you speak to the Managing Director of the courier company and ask him or her to intervene, investigate and give you feedback on what happened. A responsible courier company should treat your complaint seriously and should be worrying about the risk to their reputation if they can’t be trusted to collect, transport and deliver things.

When you booked the shipment did they offer you insurance? If they did, did you accept it? It’s always worth ticking that box when you book a courier company because very often if you don’t take insurance the courier company won’t take any responsibility for losses or damage along the way. It might cost just a little extra but like all insurance, it sometimes seems expensive but it’s a lot less expensive than NOT having it.

Sunday 10 November 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my wedding dress?

I need your help. I paid P3,000 deposit for a wedding dress worth P5,000. Now I do not need the dress anymore. The owner refuse to refund me because I requested the dress to be altered.

I’m not getting married anymore so what shall I do?

I’m sorry to hear that your wedding has been cancelled but I’m not sure there is much you can do. My understanding is that you ordered a wedding dress from a dressmaker and requested that she make some alterations to it? The dressmaker accepted your order and proceeded to alter the dress. So far everything is normal.

But then, through no fault of the dressmaker, you changed your mind about wanting the dress. I don’t know why the wedding has been cancelled, that’s not my business but it’s also not the business of the dressmaker, is it? Ask yourself this. Has she done anything wrong? Was it her fault that the wedding was cancelled?

The circumstances in which I would expect the dressmaker to refund are only those when SHE had done something wrong. If she’d made the dress improperly or incorrectly then yes, you would deserve a refund. If she’d delivered it late then yes again, you’d deserve a refund. But she did everything correctly, didn’t she?

I’m sorry that your wedding has been cancelled and how upset you must be. I’m also sorry that you lost money on a wedding dress that you can’t use but I don’t think there’s much you can do about that.

Where’s my laptop?

I purchased a laptop about 4 months ago, with a year's warranty. On its second month it displayed a software problem, I took it back for repairs, they took it to another company on condition that their turn around time is 6 week. After 3 weeks they brought it back claiming they have replaced the screen but the problem still persisted. I left it there and they took it back again. After 4 weeks from then, they brought it back and this time it wasn't properly closed, I took it back to them myself to also get clarification as to why the laptop always has to be returned to them and fiddled with so many times when its fairly new and why they were not producing a report of service which I requested for. I also raised a concern of the machine having marks and scratches. They took it for 2 week from them claiming they are now going to replace the palm rest which was not closed properly and had marks. At this point I told them I can not accept the laptop after being opened and fiddled with that many times when its fairly new but they claim there is no way they can help me with that and are now trying to force me to take the laptop back. I told them and they are also not assisting in any way, they promised they will at least get me a report and we work on the matter form there.

At this point I believe the laptop has drastically lost value due to their failure to repair the laptop without creating more problems that led to the story as I have told it.

All I want is value for money and I am in desperate need of a laptop to do the things I purchased it for.

The good news is that the law recently changed and it now offers you much better protection. The 2018 Consumer Protection Act changes a lot of things and this situation is one of them. To begin with, it states that when an item is faulty within the warranty period, the consumer has a right to one of the three Rs, a repair, replacement or a refund but it allows the supplier to decide which of those they offer. That’s nothing new, we’ve had that protection for a long time. What’s new is what happens next. Section 16 of the Act says that when a repaired item is returned to the consumer and the same problem recurs, the supplier shall either replace the goods or offer a refund. Just two Rs, no longer three. No more repairs.

It also says that repairs themselves must be warrantied for three months. I think you should explain this to the store and let’s see if they want to face the penalties for breaking the new Act. A fine of up to P100,000 of prison for up to five years. Or both.

Saturday 2 November 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is this a scam?

Please assist me with this matter.

I have received a call from this number claiming that I have a parcel at Cape Town, the parcel is from UK, Can you help check if the umber is legit, they said I should pay R2550 to clear it at the customs office. The number is +6787477204.

Regular readers of The Voice will know already what I’m about say, they’ve seen it before. This is a scam. The person who contacted us told the same story that we’ve heard many, many times. She met a man online and gradually, but perhaps slightly too quickly for a skeptical person to believe, developed a friendship with him. That friendship then developed into something more, something romantic and she started to think of him as her “boyfriend”. And then this mysterious man, who claims to lives far away and who says he has a well-paid job that involves a lot of travel, offered to send his new lady friend a package containing a range of gifts. The package always seems to include a laptop, jewellery, money and an Apple iPhone (these scammers seem to think Apple products are more appealing). And then the lady received a message from someone claiming to be either a shipping agent or a customs official saying that the package has been held up somewhere and this lady is required to pay them money to release it.

Of course, most of you will know by now that this is what the scam is all about. That payment to release the package. But obviously the package doesn’t exist. Just like the “boyfriend” doesn’t exist. Just like the relationship doesn’t exist. The only genuine thing is the money that the scammers will demand, no doubt to be paid using Western Union.

Update: I’ve already spoken at length with the victim and she understands now that she was being scammed. Unfortunately this is a particularly nasty case because the scammer threatened that if she didn’t pay the money he will publish the nude photos she sent him while she thought they were in a relationship. I’m sure we can all imagine how scared she was by that possibility. I’ve advised her to block the scammer on Facebook and WhatsApp so there is no real reason for him to carry out his threat.

The lesson is a simple one. Don’t trust anyone you meet online until you have a very good reason to trust them. And even then be careful. Assume that anything you say, publish or send them will be used against you.

How long does it take to fix it?

I bought a Sony home theatre at a furniture store Francistown but I stay in Selibe Phikwe. So it worked fine only the first week and from then the system monitor did not power on. I called them at Francistown and they told me to take it to their store in Phikwe. They told me they will have to take it to Gaborone so their technician can look through it. Its been 3 weeks now and they can’t update me on anything about it. When I call them they always extend the days I should expect feedback. So I want to know if is it ok for them to take the things that I have paid for this long? Their guarantee was for a year and I bought it for P3.2k.

When you buy something that is covered by a warranty like this, if something goes wrong during the warranty period you are entitled to one of the three Rs, a repair, refund or a replacement. However, it’s up to the store to decide which one of those three Rs they choose to offer you. They ARE within their rights to try and repair the monitor. However, Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that when a supplier like this one offers services, such as a repair, they must do so “with reasonable care and skill”.

I don’t think this sounds like “reasonable care and skill”, do you?

I think you should remind the store about this requirement and suggest to them that it means you’re entitled to know how long it will take for them to repair your property. They need to give you a commitment and I think we’ll get in touch with them as well to remind them about this.

Wednesday 30 October 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is Crowd1 a pyramid scheme?

I would like to ask about Crowd1 investment group, how genuine is it? Is it a pyramid scheme?

Yes, it’s possible. The other possibility is that it’s a Ponzi scheme. Either way, it doesn’t matter, getting involved could result in serious fines and even jail time.

Several people have approached us recently asking the same question and it really seems that this South African scam is now looking for victims here in Botswana.

I joined one of their WhatsApp conversations and the introduction was always the same. “I would like to introduce you to a legitimate business that is paying so well and is still new globally. You get paid even if you dont recruit Register and earn real money.” There’s an interesting clue there. Why would a legitimate business make such a point about being legitimate? It’s a bit like a stranger introducing himself by saying “Hi, I’m not a criminal”.

The other clue comes in the next sentence in the conversation. “TURN R1800 TO R66000 MONTHLY SALARY”. I asked whether that was really correct, that by paying just “R1,800, you could earn R66,000 every month and they were clear that this was possible. However, they couldn’t give any real explanation about where the extra money might come from. Curiously, they also claim that people joining can make profit of “100% In 5 Days” and a bonus of “50% Per Referral”.

I think this is most probably a Ponzi scheme, in which some of the money paid by people to join is passed on to people who joined earlier. That’s the referral payment they’re talking about. In fact, what happens in most Ponzi schemes is that money isn’t actually paid to the people joining, it’s just held in a fake account online. The victims are often prevented from withdrawing their money because it doesn’t actually exist.

The good news for Botswana and the bad news for Crowd1 and anyone promoting it or even joining it is that this scheme is illegal. Section 9 of the Consumer Protection Act 2018 outlaws what it calls a “multiplication scheme which “offers, promises or guarantees … an effective interest rate that is above the market rate”. It also outlaws what it calls “chain letter schemes” in which “each successive newly recruited participant is required to make some form of payment which would be distributed to some of the previously existing participants”. The punishment for even joining such a scheme can be a fine of up to P100,000 or five years in prison. Are you prepared to take that risk?

Is the interest correct?

I bought some furniture a few months back on hire purchase. I was doing some end of year computations when I noticed that the interest charged on this contract of P1567.68 is precomputed. This means that it doesn't take into consideration the fact that the principal amount is been reduced with every instalment going forth and it will not change unlike in the AMORTISED system. Is this legal considering that they demand instalments which include capital. This doesn't favour consumers.

Do you think there is anything about hire purchase that favours customers? I don’t.

There are so many things I don’t like about hire purchase. The goods you think you’re buying don’t belong to you until you’ve made the final instalment, they remain the property of the store. The store can repossess the goods if you fall behind with your payments without a court order. The insurance included in the hire purchase agreement is often up to ten times as expensive as the insurance policy you can get elsewhere. If you buy something on hire purchase over two years, the total amount you pay is often double the cash price. Even if the goods are repossessed you can still owe the full amount or more once they add penalties and interest. The warranty on the goods you buy is usually only one year so if it goes wrong on the 366th day, you get no support and you still must pay for another year for something that no longer works.

Your question about interest is a good one but it’s not how hire purchase payments are made. As you say, the interest is calculated at the beginning of the contract and along with the various other elements such as delivery charges, installation and handling fees, contract costs and insurance and the total is then divided by the number of instalments and you pay them evenly throughout the entire period of the agreement.

Saturday 19 October 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can’t they delist me?

I would like you to intervene and speak to my bank management on my behalf to leniently remove me from ITC judgement listing. I took a loan in 2012 while employed as a soldier by Botswana Defence Force and resigned the following year. However plans did not go accordingly upon my next move and I was left jobless with debts hanging over me. I explained to the credit team about my situation but they insisted that despite that I should pay as per our loan agreement contract. I did struggle to pay while I was still looking for a job and trying out business until I began to pay P500 monthly through their lawyers.

Fast forward this year I managed to settle all the loan fees I owed so that I can start over my life with CEDA finance to venture into transport business but the main issue is CEDA can only finance me when I am removed because it sets a bad credit record to me, mind you I do not qualify for any bank loan since banks do not finance start up businesses and CEDA is the only financial lending institution that can assist me with finance.

I am aware that I was at fault as per loan agreement and do respect the bank policies but as a person, a single father to a 3 year old pre school going daughter my future and business is at a halt because of the ITC listing, it is also hindering me from adding value to Botswana's economy by providing service and employment to the unemployed as well as to raising my daughter as a responsible father.

I am kindly appealing to you to speak and plead to the CEO to leniently remove me from the ITC listing because the matter has been addressed to Head of Credit, Head of Legal, Head of Customer Care.

Unfortunately, this isn’t how listings with credit reference bureaux work. While your debt was still outstanding, the bank was right to list you with their bureau of choice. That’s because the debt was real and you still owed them the money. Unfortunately, that listing doesn’t automatically disappear when you settle the debt. My understanding is that the listing remains online for two years after settlement. That’s because it’s true that you were in debt and other potential lenders are entitled to know about your recent history. Think about it from the lender’s position. They want to know as much as possible about your financial history before they take a risk on you.

I suggest that you rethink your plans to develop your business. Take a pause, do some more research and think about what lessons you can learn from your last attempt. Then you can apply again when the listing is finally removed.

Where’s my refund?

Please I need your help. I bought a bedroom suit early this year from a store in Mahalapye. The agreement was my goods would be delivered in Maun but the goods never reached Maun and the managers kept on telling me that they will deliver the goods. Finally we came into agreement 3 months ago that they would refund me. My main complaint is that the keep on promising to give back the money and now is 3 months. What can I do? Thank you.

Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that when an agreement is “rescinded, cancelled, or otherwise terminated in accordance with the terms of an agreement” then the supplier must “promptly restore” any “deposit, down payment or other payment” that was made. The Regulations don’t say exactly how long “promptly” might be, but I think we can all agree that three months is not in any way prompt. Taking three months to repay your money is either incompetent or a deliberate attempt to keep your money. Either way, it’s not good enough and it’s time you escalated the matter. I suggest that you tell this company that you will be going to the Small Claims Court and asking for an order against them for the money you paid unless you get your money back within a week.

Send me their contact details and I’ll also get in touch with them and let them know how serious you are.

Saturday 12 October 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is Global Green Network legit?

That depends if you consider pyramid schemes legitimate!

Several people have asked me the same question recently. They’ve been approached by various people, some in Botswana, others in neighbouring countries, encouraging them to join. Their web site (which was first registered three months ago) describes the business as “an international Empowerment Organisation with the ultimate design of uplifting life’s with entrepreneur development and migration facilitation as rewards for our business partners.” But that’s just words.

I contacted one of the recruiters on WhatsApp and she explained to me what the business really is. I asked her to confirm that to make money with GGN “we don't sell any products, we make money just by recruiting other people?” She was very clear and replied, “Yes we only market the business”. Another member of the WhatsApp group also said, “Yes in GGN we don't sell anything”.

The recruiter I spoke to, who was based in Namibia, was incredibly enthusiastic and has been bugging me ever since to join. I think that enthusiasm says a lot, don’t you? She clearly urgently needs recruits to make the money she was promised.

The bad news for anyone attempting to recruit into the scheme in Botswana is that Section 9 of the new Consumer Protection Act defines a pyramid scheme as a business in which income is promised or made “primarily” from the recruitment of other members rather than the sale of products or services. GGN’s own people confess that this is the case. The new Act makes it very clear that promoting, or even just joining a pyramid scheme is punishable by a fine of up to P100,000 or five years in prison. Or both. Is that a risk you want to take?

Where’s my car?

I bought a car at Mogoditshane on 11th June 2019 and I immediately noticed that it had a leaking engine oil which I reported. The manager said they can only repair it which I complied with. They took the car to fix the leaking oil and afterwards it had a "check engine light sign" which I reported and they said I should bring it for fixing. It also had a problem with water circulation. They took the car for the second time. To my surprise the car still had check engine light. I took the car to them and they tested with the machine and they explained to me that it was a sensor problem and I can bring it back to them to be fixed. I also informed them that there's a leakage of oil again. On 20th August the car engine died. They took the car for repair and now its 6 weeks since they took it and they still haven't fixed the problem.

My question is how long can I wait and what is the best route that I can take to attend this problem legally with minimal cost.

Unfortunately, this certainly isn’t the first time I’ve heard stories like this. I know it’s too late to give you this advice, but whenever you buy a second-hand car, there are several things you must do before signing anything or handing over your money. Firstly, and this seems obvious but you’d be surprised how often people fail to do this, but you must take the vehicle for a test drive. Even an ordinary driver might be able to identify some clues that something might be wrong with the way the vehicle behaves and responds. Secondly, ask the person or garage selling the vehicle for some evidence that it’s in good condition. Ask for a roadworthiness certificate if it’s an imported vehicle or for the service history. You should be looking for a vehicle that was cared for by its previous owners.

Lastly, and this is the most important recommendation, always get the vehicle checked by an independent mechanic or at least someone with more knowledge than you about how cars work. If you don’t know anyone, you can always “borrow” one from a garage you’ve used in the past. It might cost you a little cash or some beer but it will be worth it to get some specialist advice.

In your case I suggest that you write the seller a letter or email saying that Section 16 of the Consumer Protection Act of 2018 says that a consumer can return an item in its original condition within six months if it is not “of a quality that that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect”. You should also inform them that Section 17 says that when a supplier repairs something they must offer a three-month warranty on that repair. Do they want to be one of the first companies to be prosecuted for breaching this new law?

Saturday 5 October 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can they take me to court?

I lost my job last year August and have not been able to get work since. I have a mortgage with NDB and have not been able to pay since Jan 2019. I then engaged the bank in July telling them my situation and asking them for options on what we can do so that I do not continue to owe them. The bank said they can do nothing but to litigate me at my cost and get a court order to take my house from me.

I wrote them a letter requesting them to not litigate me as I can afford the legal costs of litigation, nor want the added stress and emotional burden of being taken to court and my name being publicly published in the newspapers bringing shame and humiliation to my name and family name. Publicising my name in such a manner will also hurt my prospects of future employment. In the same letter I requested to them that I surrender the property to them immediately as the end result of the litigation will be the same. They refused and said it is not their process they have to litigate.

I wrote them another letter and asked for 6 months to sell the house privately. They agreed to give me the 6 months, the deadline is December 2019 but they said they will still go ahead with the litigation process and implement the court order in December 2019. I have had 2 offers to buy the house but both have fallen through. I really do not want to be litigated especially since I am willing to surrender the property without the added extra cost and emotional trauma.

Can you please help me to convince them to allow me to surrender the property please? They do seem to understand the mental damage they are doing to us. I know I owe them and I honestly would pay if I had money but I don’t. I hope you can help me Mr Richard. Please.

I’m really sorry to hear about this situation. I can’t imagine how stressful this might be.

Unfortunately, I think I can understand why the bank are being so strict. Not every customer is as cooperative and decent as you are. I hear plenty of stories about consumer being abused by banks, but I also hear many stories about customers who do their best to avoid their obligations. I suspect that the bank is being extremely cautious, based on their previous experience of some people in your position. They need that order against you in case you aren’t able to honour your obligations.

The key thing is to keep talking to the bank. Let them know about everything that happens so they can never tell a court that you’ve been uncooperative.

Saturday 28 September 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my bath tub?

Good Morning Richard! I need your help. There is a hardware store in Lobatse, we long paid for goods and transport for goods to be delivered at Goodhope in the beginning of August, Even up to now they haven’t delivered all the goods. They keep on delivering the wrong item. We had told them we want a white ceramic bath tub and we were told ceramic is only in pink and we opted for it only for them to deliver a white plastic tub and a changed story that they don’t sell ceramic. Can you please help so that we get the rightful items or a refund because we should have long started plumbing.

I think the time has come to walk away from this deal and get a refund, don’t you?

This store is clearly incapable of delivering what you ordered and you need to a find a better store, not only one that can deliver what you order but one that won’t make up stories to cover up their uselessness.

I suggest that you contact hem and tell them, either in writing or by message that you are cancelling the deal because they have failed to deliver what you ordered from them and what they agreed to supply. Tell them that they have breached Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations of 2001 by trying to offer you goods that did not “match any sample or description given to the consumer”. Tell them that they have also breached Section 13 (1) (d) by supplying goods that were not “of a particular standard, quality, or grade” and not “of a particular style or model”.

You should then remind them that Section 15 (1) (e) of the Regulations requires a supplier like them “to promptly restore” and payments that have been made when a deal is cancelled like this. I’m not sure what “promptly” means exactly but maybe give them seven days to pay you back. You should end by saying that if they don’t cooperate with your very reasonable cancellation of the deal and refund your money you’ll ask the Small Claims Court for an order against them for the money you paid them. Maybe that will be enough pressure?

Is World Class Billionaires a pyramid scheme?

Definitely, no doubt about it.

There are various clues about this scheme that suggest it’s a scam. For instance, they claim on their web site that it's their "3rd Year of Operation" and they have "Over 12 Years of Experience" but their domain was only registered on 13th June this year.

They also claim that they are based in Dubai, saying that their physical address is "Suite 17, The Iridium Building, Umm Suqeim Road, Al Barsha, Dubai". It took me just a few seconds to discover that this is an accommodation address used by dozens of companies.

Then there are the claims they make. They say that you can earn "10% to 14% Monthly". If that was true, which it clearly isn’t, and you made that sort of money and you reinvested it each month, that would give you an annual percentage rate of 382%. That’s absurd and clearly a lie.

It’s interesting that on their web site they offer some "testimony" from someone who they claim is in Botswana although I can’t find a trace of the person they name. This probably fictitious person says:

"I am still new in WCBG. I Partnered with P5 000 in February and I got P800 four times in March, April, May and June. Thank you for coming to Botswana. I will buy my first house next year!"
Look at that quote again and do the maths. This person apparently invested P5,000 and so far has received P3,200 back. So they’ve currently made a loss of P1,800? And that’s a success? That’s how they’re going to afford to buy a house? Is that meant to be persuasive?

This is very simple. World Class Billionaires is an illegal "multiplication scheme" that offers returns above the market rate. This is forbidden by Section 9 of the Consumer Protection Act of 2018 and the maximum penalty for promoting or even joining such a scheme is a fine of up to P100,000 AND prison for up to 5 years. Is that a risk worth taking?

Saturday 21 September 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Did he swindle me?

In September last year I went into an agreement with a Forex company in Commerce Park for the PAMM account offered by Hot Forex trading for a period of 6 months. Unfortunately in March 2019 they wrote me a letter purporting that the account has been hacked, which Hotforex trading desk denied. I have since lost over P36,000 of the P50,000 that I invested. I have followed him up on numerous occasions to pay me back but I have failed, even the P2,500 that was a security fee, he has refused to refund me.

Kindly assist because I suspect he has swindled a lot of us as there was a number of us who invested into the PAMM account and he has always refused to reveal the names of the other people. He has threatened that wherever I report, I will not be able to get my money back.

I think this is very suspicious. The Botswana-based forex company you met offer the services of the HotForex trading company which is based in St. Vincent & the Grenadines in the Caribbean. However, from the documents you sent me, it’s clear that you were dealing primarily with the local company. They were the ones who marketed the 60% profit they claimed you could make within six months.

There are various approaches we can use to apply pressure on the local company. Firstly, they made the claim that you could make 60% return on your investment. That claim is illegal, contrary to Section 9 of the 2018 Consumer Protection Act which outlaws what it calls “multiplication schemes” where a company “offers, promises or guarantees to a participant an effective annual interest rate that is above the market rate”.

Also, it sounds to me that they were offering investment services. The agreement you signed certainly refers to you as the “investor” many times. I think that means they might be in deep trouble with NBFIRA who regulate financial and investment advisors.

Finally, there’s the claim that the company in the Caribbean was “hacked”. I can find no news reports of that happening and it’s a big enough story to have been widely reported. I suspect he’s making up stories.

Let’s both contact NBFIRA and I’ll also contact the local guy who seems to be telling stories. Let’s see if he can be more helpful?

Is World Ventures a pyramid scheme?

I am writing to you in order to hear facts concerning World Ventures Company and what is being said that about it that it is a Pyramid scheme. Can you please help me understand why it is said to be a pyramid scheme so as to have a concrete idea concerning it.

World Ventures is most certainly a pyramid scheme and it’s not just me that says so. The authorities in Norway declared it a pyramid scheme in 2014 and despite World Ventures spending a lot of effort and money appealing that ruling, they failed over and over again. In 2015 the Malaysian authorities declared it an “illegal business”. Three years later, in 2018 the Rwandan authorities warned their consumers that it was a pyramid scheme. This year, the Taiwanese have laid charges against the organisers claiming that World Ventures is “a classic pyramid scheme”. I think there’s a pattern emerging, don’t you?

Like all other pyramid schemes, the truth is simple. The people at the top of the pyramid make money but only at the expense of the people they recruit them. Their latest income disclosure statement World Ventures published in the USA in 2016 showed firstly that 80% of the people who joined made nothing from World Ventures. NOTHING at all. Of the lucky ones who made any money, 77% of the money earned went to the top 5% of people. 74% of the people earning money shared just 10% of the income. And how much money did people actually make? If you include just those people who made money, the average earnings per year is a measly $355. If you include everyone in the scheme, it's a pitiful $30.

So please don't waste your time, money and effort joining pyramid schemes like this one. Remember that the new Consumer Protection Act makes promoting or even just joining a pyramid scheme illegal. Joining could result in a fine of up to P100,000 and five years in prison. Is it worth the risk?

Saturday 14 September 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my lay-bye?

This email serves to lodge a complaint against a store in Francistown. I had made a laybye of a jacket which cost P1,380 sometimes between end of May or beginning of June 2019 and due to some unforeseen circumstances failed to pay the full amount. I visited the branch today and requested to cancel the laybye and had no problem with the 10% penalty / cancellation fee. I requested for a cash refund to enable me to use the funds elsewhere and even after the penalty, I was informed that they cannot give me a cash refund that they can only put the refunded amount in a gift voucher which I can only use to buy at the same store. They are forcing me to buy at their store even after the penalty which I agreed to pay which is 10% of the P345 I had paid as deposit.

Is there a way consumer watchdog can assist on the issue?

Like almost every agreement, this depends on what was in writing. Written agreements are everything. They’re the only things that matter. Verbal agreements are worthless.

I suggest you go back to any written agreement you had with the store and see what it says about payment terms. What does it say will happen if you default? Does it say that you’re not entitled to a cash refund? Does it say you must accept a voucher to spend in their store? Is that what it says? That’s the agreement you are committed to.

However, if there was no written agreement, I suspect you might be in a slightly more powerful position. My suggestion would be to deliver a letter or email to the store saying that you are cancelling the deal. Make your letter is the first thing that’s in writing. Tell them that the deal is cancelled and that in accordance with Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations of 2001, you are formally cancelling the deal and that they must therefore restore to you any “deposit, down payment, or other payment” you have made to them. Remind them that the Regulations say that such a refund must be made “promptly”. It doesn’t define exactly what “promptly” means but I think we all know when something isn’t done promptly, don’t we?

Where are my forex profits?

There is a company in the CBD led by a certain lady who is a forex trader, I have been following her page in Facebook since 2017 before it disappeared this year. The company was doing great and it's services caught my eye. So beginning of this year around February she introduced account management and entrust account. I checked her at the CBD office with my husband and she gladly explained or described the two new services i.e their advantages and disadvantages. And we told her that we will think about them first. After 3 /4 months I went back to her CBD office to sign up for the entrust account. The account worked more like a loan to her in which we signed a contract on the 12th June 2019 and the contract was valid till the 12th August 2019 that's when she was supposed to return the money with the interest she agreed to pay. But she has since resorted to not paying me. She extended till the 30th August but still she couldn't pay and she promised to pay on the 6th September, but she has since blocked my number. Is there anyway u can help or advice me to solve this.

Here’s a simple truth. Forex trading by individuals like you and me is no different to gambling in a casino. Many of us have heard stories of people who’ve won fortunes in casinos and many of us might have heard of people who made money from trading foreign exchange. Some of these stories might even be true but they cover up the stories that are never told. The VAST majority of people who gamble in casinos lose their money, just like the VAST majority of people who trade forex who also lose the money they gamble.

You need to remember that while forex trading is often described as a “zero-sum” game, where overall the amount of money stays the same, where for every winner there’s a loser, this isn’t actually true with forex trading. Ordinary mortals like you and me, if we’re reckless enough to trade forex, need to do so through a forex trading platform who take a cut from everything we trade. THEY are the only ones who consistently make money from the business. Whoever wins and loses, they make money. That’s why they’re so desperate to recruit new people.

In your case, I wonder whether any forex trading even took place? I think you should contact both the Bank of Botswana who regulate “deposit-taking” schemes and NBFIRA who oversee anyone who offers investment advice. Between them I think they have the power to make this person explain herself. Send me her details and I’ll get in touch with her as well.

Saturday 7 September 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

He’s threatened me with the police!

Sir, I need your help here please. I sold someone a phone. I told the guy before he bought the phone that its not working it fell hard on the floor but still he wanted it. He even charged it himself. Now he is saying it looks like the charging system is burnt and he is demanding his money back and he is threatening me with the police. What can I do?

The first thing you should do is try to find any records you might have that describe the state of the phone you sold this guy. It doesn’t matter whether they’re SMSs, WhatsApp messages or emails, so long as they prove that when you sold him the phone, you had made it very clear that it wasn’t in working condition. Then, if he does involve the authorities, you can show them that he knew exactly what he was buying.

More importantly, in future, you should always sign a sale agreement whenever you sell something of value. It doesn’t need to be a complicated agreement and you certainly don’t need an attorney to draft it for you. It just needs to describe the item you’re selling in detail, including the model, specification and serial numbers. It also needs to include a description of the state of the item, it’s condition and how well it’s working. Also include the cost that was agreed and how the money was paid. Finally, it needs to include a statement saying that the person buying the item understands all of this, agrees to it and that ownership transfers when the payment is made. All it then needs is both your signatures and date and you’re done. If you want to go an extra step, ask a couple of other people to witness the agreement for you.

In your situation, given that there is no such sale agreement, I suggest you tell the guy that you have messages proving that he understood the state of the phone and that he’s welcome to think about that before contacting the Police.

Must my husband pay?

My husband had an accident last February with a car belonging to a company but the car was not as badly damaged like my husband's. The accident was caused by my husband and the police were called to the scene and he was charged. The other driver told my husband that he will see how to cover it at work as the car was not that damaged so they parted my husband knowing that he doesn’t have a pending case. To our surprise at the end of October last we received a court case from a lawyer saying my husband should pay them P26,436 for the damage to the company car. So my issue is it possible to attend the car without the plaintiff’s knowledge then to an extent of suing him only for the company driver to tell him it’s a minor issue.

Unfortunately, it was unwise to rely on the what the other driver said. He had no authority to speak on his company’s behalf and he certainly wasn’t entitled to say that the company would not take action against your husband.

I don’t know whether the company had insurance that covered the cost of repairing their vehicle but regardless of that, it doesn’t alter the fact that your husband, the person who caused the accident, is liable to bear the costs of the repair. If they had insurance, the insurer would pay for the repairs and then claim that money back from your husband. If they didn’t have insurance, they would simply instruct attorneys to chase him for the costs. Either way, your husband pays because he’s the one who caused the accident.

With hindsight, it obviously would have been best if your husband had taken out his own vehicle insurance policy. If he’d done that then his insurance policy would have covered the cost of repairing the other vehicle. If he’d had a fully comprehensive policy it would have paid the repair costs for his own vehicle as well.

I know what many people think that insurance is an expensive luxury but they only think that until they need it. Then it suddenly seems like a bargain.

Saturday 31 August 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

I want my refund!

Hello Mr Richard. I have a problem with my school. They don’t want to refund me. The thing is they promised me that school starts on the 12 August, up to now no classes that have resumed. They told me they can’t teach me because am turning up to class alone. Is that my problem? I asked them to refund me my money so I can go to other schools. They are playing games with me but time is going. Please help me. I want my money back. I paid P3700, P200 for registration which is non refundable I don’t have problem with that. I want my P3,500 back.

I think you’re being too generous. I don’t care whether the P200 was meant to be refundable or not, I think you should get it back. Every last thebe.

I think the school needs to understand that it wasn’t your fault they weren’t able to recruit enough people for their course. They need to take responsibility for that and start respecting your right to a full refund. A FULL refund.

I suggest that we both contact them and explain to them that Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that when an agreement such as yours with the school is “rescinded, cancelled, or otherwise terminated”, like the school did by failing to offer the course, they must “promptly restore” any payments that have been made. It seems strange that a school, a center of education and knowledge, doesn’t understand what the word “promptly” means. Let’s explain it to them.

I want my refund as well!

We paid a company P2,500 for a wedding tent package, the quotation was P20,000 for 100 people and we were asked to pay a deposit of 50%. Unfortunately the bank could not issue us cash, the cash at hand was P2,500 and we paid it telling them it is to secure the date of October 27, and will pay deposit on the 19th.

After paying when arriving home for my cousins wedding, we found the tent package there was much cheaper. For 100 people it was only P8,000. Then we took decision to cancel the contract. We went back to within an hour time to reverse it and asked to be refunded and they told us it's impossible their deposit is non refundable. We debated issue but refused and they told us we can go where ever we want that's their policy. Their quotation has 2 clauses, 50% deposit not refundable and another one in same quotation says any cancellation less than a week before delivery date attracts 20% cancellation fee.

I want mediation to be refunded my deposit.

I can offer you good news. I can also offer you some bad news.

Let’s begin with the bad news. A cancellation clause in a contract is a common thing, particularly the last one you mention, that if a deal is cancelled at the last minute, there will be a penalty to be paid. I don’t think 20% is unreasonable, given that the supplier might have turned away other customers, spent money buying or hiring products or booking staff. However, that’s not relevant in your situation, you’ve cancelled the booking far in advance.

Your problem is the non-refundable deposit. Again, there’s nothing wrong with a non-refundable deposit in principle but in this case it seems excessive. The problem is that it’s in writing. You sent me a copy of the quotation and it is very clear that they want a 50% deposit and you don’t get it back if you cancel the booking. The rule is simple. Once something is in writing, that’s it.

And now the good news. You didn’t actually pay a 50% deposit. For once the failure of a bank has done you a favour. You only paid them P2,500, a 25% deposit.

I think you should accept that you’ve lost the 25% deposit that you paid and think yourself lucky that it’s only that amount you’ve lost.

Saturday 24 August 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my refund?

Good day.

Sometime around August last year, a member of my church went around selling tickets for a concert that was to be hosted in Gaborone. My two friends and I bought tickets for P250 each. That concert did not happen last year and we were told that they were waiting for the artist to get her visa to travel to Botswana and that the concert would happen in March this year. This did not happen either and we have been trying to recover our money to no avail. The person we paid keeps telling us that the organisers let her down and she has been promising to refund us the money but not keeping those promises. What is our recourse in this situation? Thank you for your assistance.


I can understand why you call yourself “frustrated”. I would be too in your position.

In theory, the situation is quite simple. You paid this woman for the tickets and if she can’t provide them then you deserve a refund. Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Act says that when a transaction is “rescinded, cancelled, or otherwise terminated”, the supplier must “promptly restore” any deposit or payment made. Note that the law says ”promptly”. It doesn’t say exactly how quickly that should be because every case is different but I think we all know when something is NOT prompt. From March to today, that’s five months. That is certainly NOT prompt. I think we can all agree on that.

I contacted the lady you paid for the tickets and she’s been just as unhelpful to me. She’s blaming other people as well although my detective work suggest she might be more closely connected to the organisers than she lets on. She’s given me the contact details of these other people but they don’t seem interested in responding either. Curiously, I contacted the same people before regarding the same failed event. You clearly weren’t their only victim. It seems to be a habit of theirs.

I suggest that you contact her and tell her that you’ll be approaching the Small Claims Court for an order against her for the money you spent. I’ll contact them as well just so they know what’s coming. Maybe that threat will encourage them to do the right thing? Eventually.

I feel robbed!

I need clarity on something. There was an advertisement by a furniture stores for a bed which indicated that the instalment was P209 however when I got to the shop it was a different figure altogether (P349). I asked the lady in the shop about it but she said they made a mistake, I took the bed because I wanted it but I need to understand if the reason I was given was fair enough. I feel robbed. What can I do so that other consumers cannot fall into the same trap?

I’m a little confused.

Firstly, let’s talk about the incorrect figure the store advertised. Technically, the store broke Section 13 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations by selling something not as it was "advertised or represented". They advertised instalments of P209 and that’s what they should have been. However, we all sometimes make mistakes. I don’t think we can reasonably expect the store, assuming the mistake was genuine, to lose 40% of the money they wanted to make from your purchase.

The problem you now face is the you entered voluntarily into an agreement and you’re now committed to it. Personally, I think it was a mistake to sign it if the difference was so great. Unfortunately, you agreed to be a victim of their mistake.

As for preventing other consumers from falling into the same trap? I think they just need to read and understand every document they’re asked to sign, BEFORE they sign them. They also need to think a lot more carefully before signing ANY hire purchase agreement.

I also think that consumers need to educate themselves, or to be educated on these issues. Watch the media, you might see us doing exactly that very soon!

Saturday 17 August 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why are they charging me?

I would like to request your help with a recurring problem that I have with my bank. In a nutshell, money is mysteriously taken from my account and they are unable to provide me with a reasonable explanation why. Since November last year 2018 an amount of P650 was deducted monthly from my account will out my consent. When I protested to my bank, I was told that a furniture store was the one deducting my money.

The strange thing is that I have never bought anything from them ever and I wanted an explanation from my bank as to who authorized them to take money from my account without my knowledge. They failed to give me a satisfactory answer, and instead resorted to using big accounting jargon to make it appear complicated to the lay man that I am. Both would point a finger at each other and I was stuck running between them. Eventually, I had to close down the account and open a new account to solve this problem. However, I was shocked when yet again another deduction happened on the 26th of July and this time the money deducted was P900.

I don't earn much and struggle to make ends meet even without the deductions. You can imagine how hard it is to explain to people such as my landlord. I feel like the bank is taking me for granted because I have no one to stand up for me nor can i afford to seek professional help. Please help me by being that voice.

This is outrageous and completely indefensible.

I’ve already contacted the bank on your behalf asking them to investigate. Surely somewhere in their records they have the original documentation, the forms that someone completed to set up the monthly deductions? You have a right to discover whether something went wrong and how your account was used to pay either someone else’s debt or a non-existent one.

If it’s shown that this was a mistake you’ll also deserve a complete refund of the money you paid. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear from the bank.

Why won’t they pay him?

Please help my dad. He got a funeral plan in February and paid upfront up to end of August then he covered his niece then last week his niece passed away. He went to them on Friday asking for the claim to bury his niece. Firstly they said they are still assessing if they can give him the money and he should come back on Friday. Then on Friday they told him they closed the account and there is no how they can help him and now went back frustrated. Now they say they can't help him, he can't claim. He doesn't know how to read or write.

Firstly, my condolences on the loss of your father.

I contacted the insurance company and they looked at your father’s policy and the news isn’t good. The policy your father bought has a 6-month waiting period before the customer can make a claim. That’s quite a common thing with many insurance products and medical aid schemes. In your father’s case he’d only had the policy for 5½ months so hadn’t quite made it to the time when he could claim.

Then there’s more. Even though your father was the person who paid for the policy, the insurance company tell me that it was in his niece’s name. I suspect that’s because your father wasn’t able to read or write? Maybe he asked her to be the signatory? Whatever the reason, now that she’s passed on, the named policyholder is no longer around and that’s why the policy has now been cancelled.

Meanwhile, here’s a bigger question. How exactly did an insurance company sell this policy to someone disabled by their inability to read and therefore fully understand the policy they were getting? What efforts did the salespeople make to ensure that their client fully understand it? Did they explain the waiting period? Did they explain the consequences of putting the policy in the niece’s name rather than your father’s?

Section 17 (1) (g) of the Consumer Protection Regulations forbids a supplier from taking advantage of a consumer's because “of disability, illiteracy or inability to understand the language of an agreement”. Section 6 (2) of the new Consumer Protection Act of 2018 does the same thing, outlawing them from exploiting consumers due to their “physical or mental disability, literacy, inability to understand the language of an agreement or contract”. People such as your father who have the misfortune not to be able to read or write deserve to have that respected. Is that too much to ask?

Saturday 10 August 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my insurance?

I would like to know the proper channel to follow when complaining about the insurance company that does not want to pay the promised benefits while claiming.

In my case the was is a portion in the brochure that say the we shall claim the following with no extra cost being cow worth P5,000. P3,000 worth of grocery and P5,000 for tombstone. This same brochure is still being advertised as we speak. Upon claiming we received only money for burial and the three benefits we were told we will receive only one item. They said the policy holder was suppose to pay P3 extra to qualify and therefore we won’t receive any. We requested for the policy documents and we were told it was verbal since they were dealing with group and members of the said group are largely illiterate to understand any obligation from the insurance company. Kindly advise me of which step to take if advisable to do so since the insurance company always say they will come back to us but are taking forever now. My fear is the same brochure is being given to people as they sell their products.

This is unacceptable. I wonder if this insurance company know how many rules they’ve broken?

To begin with they’ve misrepresented their product by not explaining that the policyholder needed to pay extra for the benefits they were offered. Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations forbids a supplier from selling a product that “does not match any sample or description given to the consumer”. Section 13 (1) (e) says they must offer products and services “as advertised or represented”. Section 17 (1) (g) outlaws exploiting a consumer’s “illiteracy or inability to understand the language of an agreement”. I could go on.

I don’t know how long ago you took this policy but earlier this year, NBFIRA, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority published their new Policyholder Protection Rules that cover the sale and delivery of insurance products. These rules say that a person or company selling an insurance policy must disclose “any special terms and conditions, exclusions, waiting periods, loadings, penalties, excesses, restrictions or circumstances in which benefits will not be provided”. They also say that when any advice or information is offered verbally, that advice must be put in writing within 30 days.

I think you need to speak to NBFIRA as soon as possible and get their advice. They have the power and the willingness to use it.

Where’s my medical aid?

Hello Richard. Please help me with my medical aid. In January 2019 they closed my account even though my payments were up to date. I only noticed this when I was trying to do my payments end of January. Apparently the account was closed around September 2018 without my knowledge. I've been sending them emails asking them to tell me how long was my account closed up until Jan 2019 and haven't got anything yet. They only managed to reactive it in March 2019 and they have been deducting my monthly payments directly from my account since March. I haven't balanced the December and January fees yet (the one they refused to take back in January after they closed my account for no reason and without letting me know). Last week I received a message that my account has been suspended due to non payment of December and January fees. I send them an email (sent it to 5 people who are aware of my case) but haven't got any response from any of them. Today I received another message that my account has been terminated.

We all make mistakes. None of us are perfect because we’re human, not robots.

However, I’m a little less tolerant of organisations that make mistakes. Yes, they’ll happen occasionally but why do they happen repeatedly and why do they sometimes become so complicated? Why also, when mistakes happen, don’t they get fixed as soon as possible?

Your medical aid company had several opportunities to look into your situation and fix it. There’s really no excuse for taking so long to fix your problem.

The good news is that I contacted senior managers at your medical aid company and they promised to intervene and do their best to sort things out, unlike their more junior staff.

UPDATE: The senior managers got back to me, saying that they contacted the customer, apologized and have agreed a payment plan that allows him to catch up and get back to normal. Finally!