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.