Saturday, 11 July 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay them?

I bought a laptop at some shop at Game City the past Sunday. When I get home I installed programs inside and I noticed it doesn’t have a CD drive, of which I wanted the one with CD drive. Then on Monday I called the shop to explain so that I could return the laptop, they asked me to come to the shop.

I only installed the word and excel on the laptop, I sent my sister to return the laptop since I stay far, but they didn’t refund her but she left the laptop with them. They said they want me to come. They said they will refund me and charge me P500 because I installed office word on it.

So what I am asking is can I get a refund from the shop because they say they don’t have a laptop in store that have a CD drive? And is it even allowed for them to charge me that much?

These days you’ll see that many laptops don’t have CD or DVD drives, particularly the smaller, more portable ones. In 2020 software is often installed by downloading installers from software company web sites, not the old-fashioned way by using an installation DVD.

I think this all depends on how the store described the laptop when you bought it. Did they say it had a CD drive? Did any advertisement or product packaging say it had a CD drive? Did you tell them that’s what you wanted?

However, I don’t understand this story about wanting to charge you P500 for installing your software. Firstly, that should have been something you did before you returned it and secondly, it shouldn’t take them much effort to uninstall the software. If you send me details of the store I’ll get in touch with them and see if they can be a bit more adaptable.

How can I spot a scam?

There are several pyramid and Ponzi schemes active right now and they’re doing their best to recruit people by promising them vast profits.

Crowd1 is still very active, despite either being declared illegal or consumers being warned to avoid it in various countries around the world.

Right now, people are also desperately trying to recruit people into a “WhatsApp gifting” scam that promises to multiply the money people pay to join. Both are nothing more than scams that rely on gullible victims joining and then recruiting multiple levels of other victims beneath them. Several readers contacted me asking me to repeat the clues I gave a few weeks ago about how to spot these scams.

Whenever someone invites you to join their money-making scheme, ask yourself WHY they’re inviting you. If they’ve found a way of making money, why are they sharing it with you instead of keeping it to themselves? The answer is very simple. Anyone inviting you to join their scheme is trying to make money FROM you, not WITH you.

Another clue is products. Real businesses have products and services. Scams don’t. Or if they do, or they only pretend to have them, but they don’t really matter. They are primarily interested in recruiting other people and then getting them to recruit even more. You’ll often hear the promoters of these schemes defend themselves by insisting their scheme isn’t a pyramid scheme because there are products. Others will say it’s legitimate because anyone can earn more than the people above them in the pyramid. That’s all just excuses. What matters most is the word “primarily”. Section 9 of the Consumer Protection Act says that if “participants in the scheme receive compensation derived primarily from their respective recruitment of other persons as participants” then it’s a pyramid scheme. It’s not difficult.

There are also some key words you should look for. One is Bitcoin. As I’ve said in the past, Bitcoin is a legitimate but very high-risk cryptocurrency that is a fascinating vision of how money might work in the future. However, it must never be seen as an investment and it’s surrounded by a huge number of scams, pyramid schemes and Ponzi schemes. A good example was BitClub Network, whose founders are being prosecuted in the USA for running a scam that stole $722 million from victims around the world. That actually had no connection to Bitcoin at all, it was just an enormous Ponzi scheme and there were plenty of victims in Botswana.

The simplest lesson is to be skeptical. Don’t believe anyone who claims you can make large amounts of money with little effort or just by recruiting other people. Anyone who claims this is either lying, deluded, naïve or desperate. Don’t believe it!

Saturday, 4 July 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay him?

Can you advice me here. I hope you know a motshelo called GDN, where by you join with P450, then bring 2 people. I joined that motshelo, and my upliner recruited someone, and that person joined under me. He sends me the joining fee on my orange money account, and immediately after that man joined it was stopped here in Botswana, so out of the blue he called me saying that I owe him and he wants his money which he invested in GDN. I told him that thing was stopped last year and all of us didn't benefit from it and as we are speaking I don't have money, I am not working, now he is threatening me every day. I don't know what to do. I even asked him to talk to the one who recruited him but he us refusing saying he gave me the money and not the person who recruited me so he wants his money from me.

He also said he wants his money with interest which I don't know how much because with this GDN as you join the system will automatically tell you who u should give the money to then that person will give to the next one until you reach the last person up.

So sir in this issue what advice can you give me, thank you in advance.

Unfortunately, this is a difficult situation. For those who don’t remember, GDN was a classic pyramid scheme that operated for a few months in 2019.

The people promoting it were very clear that there were no products being bought or sold, it was just about making money from recruiting other people.

As readers of The Voice will know by now, Section 9 of the Consumer Protection Act says that a business is a pyramid scheme if money is made ‘primarily’ from the recruitment of other people rather than buying and selling things. GDN was a perfect example of that.

Your difficulty is that even though you didn’t personally recruit this guy into GDN, you took his money. The only record of him paying to join GDN is money going to YOUR account, not to the person who was the one who recruited him. I can see why he wants the money back from you. However, I think you were as much of a victim as he was. You both joined a scheme you felt would make you some money, obvious mistakenly.

The other news for you is that not only were you both victims, you were also perpetrators. You both joined an obvious pyramid scheme, something that is illegal in Botswana. The same section of the Consumer Protection Act which defines a pyramid scheme also make it illegal just to join such a scheme, not just to promote it. I think you should remind him of this. Maybe he’ll learn that like everyone that joins a scam like GDN, everyone loses.

Where’s my album?

In 2019 I got a quotation for photography for my wedding which I agreed to and paid P5,000 full payment in July 2019 2 months in advance. My wedding was in September 2019 and they came and took pictures as agreed. I have only received the soft copies and the video. The photo album which was part of the package I still have not received to this day! I have been very patient and talking to them as much as I can about it but I always get told Monday or next week, but nothing happens. My calls get ignored and texts are not being replied. I have paid and I deserve to receive the goods that I paid for. It has been 9 months since my wedding. I really don’t understand why I should still be waiting for something I paid for almost a year ago!

Please let me know what I can do to get what I paid for or if there's anyway you can help. I'm desperate. Thank you.

Yet again someone has been let down by a company in the wedding industry. What is it with the people we pay to help us make a memorable, perhaps once-on-a-lifetime event? Why do we receive so many complaints about photographers, caterers, cake-bakers, designers and almost every type of wedding supplier. It’s a constant surprise to me that so many of them don’t give a damn.

However, there’s good news in your case. I contacted this photographer and he told me that there was “a miscommunication” and that your album will be delivered within days.

Let’s hope he can be trusted?

UPDATE: No news yet on the missing wedding photo album.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get a better bed?

Hi. In 2017 November I bought a bed and a fridge in Bradlows Game City branch in Gaborone which was delivered to my home by Mahalapye branch.

In 2018 I reported the bed because it had a depression in the middle and was sagging in less than 6 months. I was given an exchange and given a new bed of the same brand which did the same thing again and I lodged a complaint which took some months without being assisted. In 2019 October was given a new bed which is a lower quality from the previous one and its worse. In less than 2 years I had used 3 beds which I did not find any value for my money.

I have raised an issue with the managers to no avail. I am being tossed from pillar to post and their call center is harassing me and tormenting me on daily basis. They are telling me the bed is off guarantee therefore they cannot help me.

This is going to be complicated. I suspect the store will continue to argue that they provided you with a bed throughout the period you were paying for it and for much longer than the period of the warranty they offered. That’s one of the most frustrating things about buying things on hire purchase, the payment period is usually two years but the warranty is almost always only one year. If the product goes wrong after the first year you’re left paying for something that doesn’t work properly and there’s nothing you can do about it.

I know it doesn’t seem this way but you were lucky that the store gave you a new bed, even a poorer quality one, nearly two years after the purchase. I don’t think they were actually required to do that if the warranty was only for a year.

Nevertheless, I’ve contacted Bradlows to see if there’s anything they can do but please, don’t be too optimistic.

How can I spot a scam?

Given how many people are falling victim to a variety of scams, several readers have asked how they can spot a scam before they fall victim to it. So here are some ideas.

Whenever someone invites you to join their money-making scheme, you should first ask yourself WHY they’re inviting you. If they have a way of making money, why are they sharing it instead of keeping it to themselves? The answer is very simple. Anyone inviting you to join their scheme is trying to make money FROM you, not WITH you.

Another clue is products. Real businesses have products and services. Scams don’t. Or sometimes they do, or they pretend to have them, but these products don’t really matter. They are primarily interested in recruiting other people and then getting them to recruit even more. You’ll often hear the promoters of these schemes defend themselves by insisting their scheme isn’t a pyramid scheme because there are products. Others will say it’s legitimate because anyone can earn more than the people above them in the pyramid. That’s all just excuses. What matters most is the word “primarily”. Section 9 of the new Consumer Protection Act says that if “participants in the scheme receive compensation derived primarily from their respective recruitment of other persons as participants” then it’s a pyramid scheme. I think that’s quite simple.

There are also some key words you should look for. One is Bitcoin. As I’ve said endless times in the past, Bitcoin is a legitimate but very high-risk cryptocurrency that is a fascinating vision of how money might work in the future. However, it must never be seen as an investment and it’s surrounded by a huge number of scams, pyramid schemes and Ponzi schemes. Just like the BitClub Network, whose founders are being prosecuted in the USA for running a scam that stole $722 million from victims around the world. That actually had no connection to Bitcoin at all, it was just an enormous Ponzi scheme.

The simplest lesson is to be skeptical. Don’t believe anyone, not a single soul, who claims you can make large amounts of money with little effort or just by recruiting other people. Anyone who claims this is either lying, deluded, naïve or desperate. Don’t believe it!

Sunday, 21 June 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay them?

Hello sir I need your assistance. In 2010 I applied for a loan amounting to 36,000. Then in 2012 before finishing the loan I got a sponsorship to further my studies, I went for 5 years to study. During that time the loan wasn't been serviced or not paid monthly. So when I came back I went to them to check with my credit so that I repay them but I found it at P80,000. I tried to negotiate so I pay where from where I left of which was around P45,000 balance they said is not possible. Please help me on what to do.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure there’s much I can do to assist. This is what happens when you default on a loan. The lender will continue to add interest and penalty charges to the amount you owe them. When they engage debt collectors their costs will also be added to the bill. Then if they instruct attorneys to take legal action against you those costs will also be added to the amount you owe. If you go back and read your loan agreement carefully you’ll see that you agreed to all of this when you first applied for the loan.

I’m not trying to be unhelpful but look at it from the lenders point of view. Imagine if you’d lent someone a lot of money and after paying it back for a short time they disappeared for five years without honouring the debt. Wouldn’t you be angry? Wouldn’t you engage a debt collector and then attorneys? Wouldn’t you want to charge them extra for the bother and costs you’d incurred?

The lesson for all of us is whenever you owe someone money and then you have financial difficulties or your circumstances change, the lender must be the first person you call. Give them some warning that there will be problems and it’s much more likely that they’ll be flexible. Big lenders might offer you a repayment ‘holiday’ to give you time to get your affairs in order. They might also renegotiate the repayment schedule so that is easier for you. Remember that lenders want their money back as easily as possible. They really DON’T want to spend their time and money chasing you. They want an easy life.

I suggest that you contact the lender and ask to meet with them to negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford and that gives them their money as quickly as possible.

What can I do about this Bitcoin scam?

I just read your viewpoint online about Bitcoin and how it is not the most advisable to invest in. I’m actually asking on behalf of a group of 60 victims whom were mainly introduced into buying bitcoins by a certain lady who I would say is the guru in Botswana.

Late last year she informed us that the website where we were mining had “crashed” because of an influx of people. Then she blamed the court case of Bitcoin founders! After a lot of frustrated comments towards her in our Whatsapp group she then muted us. She presented herself as the know all, on top of all things Bitcoin but when asked for answers about the whereabouts of our monies suddenly she’s just as in the dark as everyone else. Her actions and responses are also very defensive, careless and insensitive.

Kindly advise me if we have a valid case in taking this matter forward or should we just count our losses and move on. Your help will be highly appreciated.

Yes, I have been very critical of people suggesting that Bitcoin can be seen as an investment. There’s nothing wrong with Bitcoin itself, it’s a legitimate cryptocurrency. If you want to use it to buy and sell things then that’s acceptable but remember that its value is extremely unpredictable. Remember also that it’s entirely unregulated and there are absolutely no protections if something goes wrong. The Bank of Botswana is not going to help you if there’s a disaster.

However, your situation is more complicated. You never had any connection with Bitcoin, you were dealing with a scam called BitClub Network. They were nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. Like all such scams it eventually collapsed and the one piece of truth you were told by the woman who recruited you is that there really is a court case currently underway. The people behind BitClub Network are currently being prosecuted in the United States for running a Ponzi scheme that led to people like you losing a massive $722 million.

We’ve been warning people about BitClub Network since late 2016 and I’m sorry that the warnings didn’t go far enough. I think the person who recruited you and the other recruiters need to be brought to justice for promoting an illegal scam. Let’s send the information to the authorities and see if they’re prepared to take action!

Saturday, 13 June 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Do I owe them?

I have a query or a complaint to make, I bought a couch on hire purchase some time last year. I then defaulted. They then repossessed the couch and I was told since they took the couch they are going to sell it so I do not owe them. I just tried to apply for a loan only to realise that my name has been handed to ITC owing P10,471, I called the head of collections who told me that I have to pay this amount to clear my name and I asked him why would I pay such amount when they have already taken the couch and by the time they took the couch I tried to renegotiate but they did not want to listen. I asked as to why would I still owing, then he said that is how it is or else my name will remain blacklisted under ITC which I feel is not fair and it is double charge, why would I pay P10,471 on something I do not possess. They have taken the couch why should they list me. He also suggested that I pay P4,000 for them to at least clear my name and reactivate the account and I wondered which account was he referring to, as far as I am concerned I do not have an account with them. Kindly assist as I feel I am being treated unfairly and this is some kind of rip-off.

Unfortunately, this is exactly how hire purchase works.

You said “since they took the couch they are going to sell it so I do not owe them” but that’s not correct. When a store repossesses an item, they will then sell it and deduct the money they get from the balance you owe them. However, it’s important to remember that the repossessed item is now second-hand, perhaps not in the best condition and they’ll sell it to the first person who offers them some money. The amount they get will almost certainly only be a fraction of what you still owe. When you add on penalties, interest and debt collection and legal costs you can easily end up owing MORE than you did before the repossession.

I know it’s frustrating, particularly as you now owe money for something you no longer possess. I suggest you try again to negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford.

The lesson is that we should always do our best to avoid buying things on any form of credit if we can afford it. After all these years I still don’t understand why many of us won’t consider saving up and then buying second-hand household goods. We have no problem buying second-hand cars so why not other things as well? You can save a huge amount of money and you avoid the situation you’re now in. Let’s all change our mindset about spending money?

Is it legit?

Please check for me the authenticity of this page “Bank repossessed cars auction”. I found it on Facebook its in SA selling good cars but their prices are too good to be true.

Sometimes you can trust your senses. Not always, but sometimes. You should ALWAYS trust your senses when you think something is too good to be true, like you suspect with this Facebook page. That’s because you’re right.

I took a look at the page and yes, it does have some remarkable cars for sale at remarkable prices. For instance, they claim to be selling a silver 2017 Mercedes Benz C Class C220 that’s only done 51,000km for R75,000. That’s astoundingly cheap and if that was true, I’d be driving it right now. I did a little detective work and discovered the truth. The very same car, with the same registration number is actually a 2014 model, has done 84,000km and is on sale at a genuine car dealership in Johannesburg for R304,900. That’s a fair price for that car. I imagine it’s the same for every car they claim to be selling.

I suspect that this is nothing but an advance fee scam. They’ll demand some tax, duty of fee before you get the car and that’s what it’s all about, that money you pay them to get the car they don’t actually have. I’m really pleased that you realised it was too good to be true and have avoided being a victim. Please help us spread the word to everyone you know!

Saturday, 6 June 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get my money back?

Can you please help me I bought a couch at a furniture store worth P7,000 on laybye. I paid it within two months. Now when I was supposed to collect it they are telling me that they have sold it and I need to identify another couch close to that amount. I couldn’t find anything likeable but only the one that was costing P11,000. Now they are telling me to top up it with P1,500 and am I’m telling them that I don’t have that P1,500 but only P1,000. They are now telling me that I can’t get it without the P1,500 but they are they are demanding it whereas they are the ones that inconvenienced me.

I think the time has come to remind this store who’s in charge here. In fact, I think a LOT of stores need to understand this. In the past companies often thought they were in charge of the relationship with their customers. That was also the case with banks, insurance companies, almost every industry. They thought that because they knew more about their products than we did, because they had big offices, huge salaries, fancy titles and nice cars that they controlled the relationship with us.

But times have changed. Consumers are now in charge. In particular two things have changed to our benefit. Firstly, the new Consumer Protection Act has given consumer a lot more protection and many greater rights. Perhaps even more importantly, social media came along and that has completely changed the landscape. Gone are official complaints procedures, gone are the day of suppliers telling us how we can raise our grievances. We can now complain whenever, wherever and however we please. We can now assert our rights much more effectively.

Maybe this furniture store didn’t get the message? I think you should contact the store and tell them that their behaviour is unacceptable. You gave them large amounts of your hard-earned money and they were required to deliver the product you bought. The lack of competence they demonstrated by selling your item not only breached the contract you had with them, it also broke various sections of the Consumer Protection Act. They need to give you a refund within seven days. Either that or they can look forward to being famous on Facebook. I wonder which would they prefer?

Have I been conned?

Hello sir, I have been recently retrenched and with the little package that I got I decided to buy myself a tractor and a plough to start farming. I made an enquiry to Alibaba and I got a response from Kebnel Groups LLC in the USA and went ahead to process the purchase, but ever since I made payment there were a lot of issues which led me to change cancel the deal and request for a refund.

The refund was promised but now there is communication breakdown between us and hence I suspect I’m being corned. I therefore consult you to know if you can help in resolving this issue.

I’m sorry but the bad news is that I also suspect that you’re being conned. I looked at the web site of the company claiming to sell these tractors and also the shipping company they claim to have used to ship you the tractor. Both seem very suspicious to me. The language they use is unlike what you would expect for reputable, legitimate companies. Also, I was able to find warnings from other people about the shipping company, claiming they’ve been used in earlier scams. There is a registered company in Texas called Kebnel but it appears to have no connection to these scammers. If you look closely at the emails you sent me you’ll see that they came from a Gmail account, not what you’d expect from a legitimate company.

Unfortunately, there’s little chance that you can get your money back. Scammers are not nice people and they certainly don’t offer refunds to their victims. However, as you transferred the money to their bank account it might be worth asking the bank to investigate exactly where the money went.

While I can’t offer you much hope I think there are several lessons for other people to learn. The first thing is always to ask ourselves if it’s realistic to buy an item like a tractor from the other side of the planet? We should also be sceptical of any company that claims to offer services like this that doesn’t offer a physical address. We should also think carefully about the quality of language used by such companies. The web site for a reputable company that claims to be in the USA should have reasonably good English, don’t you think? Also, the WhatsApp messages you sent me seem rather un-American.

Please spread the word always to be extremely careful before sending money to people you’ve never met.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why won’t they talk to me?

I really need your help. Around September 2019 I was offered a flat for sale, so I asked a law firm to do the whole conveyance and bond registration process and to this day they haven’t done anything to show progress and I apparently cannot get another firm until I get my file from the first firm. They are not giving me any reasonable explanation as to why a process that should have taken a month to complete now has over 7 months. Before the lockdown I asked them to return my files so that I could get another law firm, they had promised to give me the files before the lockdown but never came through.

Kindly assist me in any way possible. Any help will be welcome and thank you.

I have great respect for the legal profession. They perform an incredibly important role in any society. I’ve also been privileged to get to know some of them and a very select group have become very good friends. However, like any profession, you also get some crooks, shady characters and those that are just unreliable. Like these guys.

I know that any house purchase can take a long time. I’ve certainly been there myself. Something you suspect will take just a couple of weeks ends up taking months. However, you have a right to expect that any service provider, whether it’s an attorney, a bank, an insurance company or even a delivery company to keep you updated. In fact, the law now demands this. Section 14 (1) of the new Consumer Protection Act says that when “a supplier undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of a consumer, the consumer has a right to … the timely performance and completion of those services”. It doesn’t say what ‘timely’ means because that might vary enormously, depending on what services you’re buying, but I think we all know when something ISN’T ‘timely’, don’t we? Seven months without an update is certainly NOT timely.

However, the law goes further. It also says that a consumer has a right to “timely notice of any unavoidable delay in the performance of the services”. In other words, if something is going to be delayed, they must tell you. Going silent on a customer is no longer acceptable.

I suggest that teach your attorney about the law. Yes, I know it’s meant to work the other way around, but clearly this attorney needs some tuition. You should also consider reporting them to the Law Society. That might add to their education.


We’ve all learned a lot of lessons from coronavirus and Covid-19 in the last few months. At least I hope we have. One particularly important lesson we all need to learn is the difference between science and pseudoscience, between real medicine and fake.

Unfortunately, there are several schemes currently doing their best to exploit the lack of understanding. For instance, distributors for Greenleaf told me that I “need” a very small range of their products if I have diabetes, cataracts, cardio-vascular disease, hypertension, various types of cancer, several sexually transmitted infections, leprosy and an enormous range of other disorders.

A distributor for AG Nutrition, who market a product called AG Cera, told me that it can “cleanse the body and improve immune system”. Others reported that it can heal cancer, diabetes, fibroids and asthma.

All of these claims are illegal. Making health claims about a product is forbidden by Sections 396-399 of Penal Code and by Section 83 of the Public Health Act.

It’s also incredibly dangerous. Most of us will be sceptical about non-specialists selling products they claim can treat or cure disorders that modern medicine has difficulty treating. However, some people WILL fall for their lies. People desperate to find a treatment for a disease they’re suffering or that someone they love is fighting might easily be persuaded by the dangerous and illegal claims made by charlatans.

Of course, these products are often just a cover story for a pyramid scheme. They’re often more about recruiting other people rather than selling their bogus products.

A presentation for AG Nutrition included the statement, “You don't have to sell in order to earn big money.”

The good news is that pyramid schemes are now illegal in Botswana and promoting them or even just joining can lead to a fine of up to P100,000, five years in prison or both. Is that a risk you’re prepared to take? Is it a risk that you want the people you care about to take? Please help spread the word!

Saturday, 23 May 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must they repair it?

I need your help, I bought a gearbox from a certain company in Mogoditzhane end of January, took it and looked for mechanic to fit it for me and we found its leaking. I went back to the them and they said they will repair it since they are imported as second hand. They said it was fine, but after fitting again it was still leaking. They said they will repair it again and still it was leaking and I went back to them and they kept on saying they will call me back until there was lockdown.

I will appreciate your help.

I have good news for you. And some bad news. Let’s start with the bad news. People like this mechanic are the bad news. They are very good at telling stories and making up excuses for why they fail to offer you a decent service. People like him rely on the rest of us giving up after we become too frustrated.

The good news is that the law is on your side. The new Consumer Protection Act gives consumers a number of very powerful new protections One of them is your new best friend.

One thing that the Act says is that the goods we buy must be of good quality. It says that “A consumer has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects, unless the opposite is clearly disclosed.” In your case, if the mechanic had told you that the gearbox he supplied was imperfect or likely not to work then he’d be in the clear. But he didn’t, did he?

However, not everything works perfectly, not even brand new items and Section 16 of the Act says when something goes wrong within six months of it being delivered, the consumer may return them for repair, replacement or a refund but it's up to the supplier to decide which of those to offer. That’s actually nothing new, the old Act gave us that protection. The new protection, the bit that will please you (and NOT please your mechanic) is that the law now says that if "within three months the same problem recurs" the supplier must offer either a replacement or refund. There's no second chance to offer a repair in that three months.

I suggest that you tell your mechanic this and see if he’s prepared to obey the law or maybe he’d prefer the Competition and Consumer Authority to force him to do so?


Just because we’re all under lockdown, that doesn’t mean that scammers are as well. In fact, they’re still VERY busy, doing their best to steal our money. None of the techniques are new, we’ve probably all seen these things before but even if you and I have seen these scams before, that doesn’t mean our friends, family members and neighbours have. By the way, it’s not just “unsophisticated” people like you and me that fall for scams, some of the people we hear from are highly educated, smart professionals.

Several people have asked us if the emails they’ve received saying that their mailbox is full, or their mail account has been disabled, or their “account needs to be upgraded” are true. It’s simple. They’re not. These emails always include a link the recipient is asked to click on to fix the problem. That link will open a page that will look a bit like your webmail sign-on screen but in fact is a fake. If you look closely at the URL, the web site you’re visiting will have no connection to your mail provider. What the scammers want is for you to enter your email address and password. Within moments of entering your details they’ll have changed your password and will be stealing your identity and sending more scam emails from your address. Please don’t fall for it!

Unfortunately, coronavirus hasn’t killed off pyramid schemes. Two in particular are busy right now, desperately trying to recruit new victims. Crowd1 has already been outlawed in Namibia and the authorities in the Philippines, Norway and Paraguay have taken action as well, warning their people to avoid it.

Another, calling itself “Money In Crew” is identical, focussed only on recruiting other victims.

The good news is that pyramid schemes are now illegal in Botswana and promoting them or even just joining can lead to a fine of up to P100,000, five years in prison or both. Is that a risk you’re prepared to take? Is it a risk that you want the people you care about to take? Please help spread the word!

Saturday, 16 May 2020

The Voice - Consumers Voice

Where’s my money?

Please I need your help. I and my fiance have been saving some money in his little sister's account, who is an ex-UB student. The account she was using was a student account. It happened the card expired on the way, and they blocked her cellphone banking which she was not aware that they intentionally blocked it. She thought it might some technical errors. On the other side us we were able to pay the money in the account without any difficulties. Last year November she visited the bank to renew the card that's when they told her that they have blocked the cell phone banking because she is no longer a student. They asked her to change from student card to either a current or saving, when she tried to cash the money over the counter they told her that she can not cash the money since they are still investigating the source of the money. Until today they are still investigating the source of the money. She tried to explain to them that they investigate us since we were depositing using pay to cell. Please help me to get our money back.

Before we start trying to solve this problem I have a few basic questions. Firstly, why were you saving money in someone else’s bank account? You realise that, as far as the bank is concerned, that money now belongs to your fiancé’s sister, not you, don’t you? Her bank account, her money. Were you perhaps saving it there to avoid bank charges? Were you exploiting the cheaper student account rather than using a more expensive account you might have? If so, the bank is likely to be unsympathetic to both you and the sister. Student accounts are meant solely for students, not for their relatives or friends. They’re not even meant for students once they’ve graduated.

You also probably bypassed the bank’s KYC rules, which is why the bank now wants to investigate the source of the money you deposited. Banks don’t force customers to go through the incredibly irritating ‘Know Your Customer’ processes because they want to, they do it because they are required to do by various regulators. I suggest that you write the bank a letter explaining where the money came from, showing them payslips if you have them or other proof of income if you don’t. Maybe you should think about opening your own savings account as well?

Where’s my filing?

I received a text from CIPA that I must pay my annual return by the 10th of this month and if I don’t pay they will deregister the company. I paid money to the guy who does consultant services. He is the guy who helped me with bank account opening. I paid the money on the 7th and the guy promised to send me the receipt but ever since I paid he doesn't take my calls nor reply my messages. Sometimes if he takes my calls he pretends as if its network problems. My biggest worry is that CIPA might deregister my company.

So now am stranded. I don’t know what to do.

I think the first thing you should do is call CIPA. They’re reasonable people who will understand that you’ve being messed around by a shady character. They’ll probably welcome knowing that a guy like this one isn’t the sort of person they want filing for companies on behalf of honest people like you.

At the same time you should contact the guy and tell him that he no longer has your permission to do anything on your behalf. Tell him that he has failed to deliver the services you hired him to do and you demand a full refund for everything you paid him. In your position I’d give him seven days to refund you.

Finally, you realise that these days it’s easy to file these returns yourself? CIPA offer lots of guidance on their web site about how to do it yourself and it’s even cheaper to do it online that to do it by visiting CIPA’s office. It’s also easy these days to open a bank account, particularly a personal account. There are even banks that allow you to open a bank account entirely from your cellphone, you don’t even need to visit a branch to do it.

Opening a business account is slightly harder but if you have all the right paperwork it shouldn’t take you long. I suspect you’ll find it a lot easier to do this yourself rather than hiring someone as unreliable as this guy who just takes your money and then disappears. I’ll contact him as well and try to persuade him to do the decent thing.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They want my ID!

I am kindly contacting you seeking help concerning emails that I have been receiving from someone, who claims that they are oversees and are willing to help me claim inheritance of a family relative in the USA. They want me to send a scanned copy of my identity card.

I think you probably know already that this is a scam, don’t you? I hope you do.

We’ve perhaps all heard stories of long-lost relatives dying and leaving their fortunes to their distant family members, family members who have never actually heard of them. But they’re just stories, the sort of thing we see in movies and read in romantic novels. They don’t happen in real life.

This is the beginning of an advance fee scam, there’s no doubt about it, I’ve seen many just like before. While the first contact says that you will benefit from your fake relative’s fake inheritance sooner or later they’ll demand money from you in order to get this fake money. Sometimes they’ll tell you that it’s attorney’s fees, other times a tax or duty to pay, sometimes an account opening fee. I predict it would have been P3-5,000, it’s always about that amount. Once you pay that, they keep inventing more and more payments you need to make until you get your inheritance. An inheritance, you should remember, that doesn’t exist.

They’ll continue to demand money from you until either you realise you’re being scammed or until you have no money left. Unfortunately, I’ve heard from too many people who given these scammers almost everything they’ve got. I really hope you won’t be another case like this.

The best thing you can do is delete all the emails you’ve received from these scammers and any further emails they send you. If you feel like being adventurous you can send them an incredibly rude email telling them what you think of them. Remember that scammers don’t deserve courtesy!

Where’s my furniture?

Last year I saw an advert for furniture on Facebook and I paid P600 for laybye of a double bed, head board and 2 sides, then on the 23 February I communicated with her that I will be coming to their offices to pay the balance and collect the furniture.

I hired transport to collect the furniture, when I got there I asked the guard even workers did not knew the name of the company I tried calling the lady but her phone was not going through. I tried the other number on the receipt but the guy said he works for the company but at Tswapong so he is not familiar with the one at Gaborone. I went back without the furniture that day. Thats when the lady communicated saying her phone battery died. I told her to bring my deposit or deliver the furniture at Lobatse because that is where I was taking the furniture to for free as their way of compensating me.

She agreed and she said their trucks will be leaving to South Africa they will pass bye to drop my furniture. I sent the balance P1356 and she even gave me the number for the driver to confirm if they are coming. Unfortunately that never happened. She started telling stories and I told her they should sort it out at their company.

During the week she called to say she managed to get a truck to deliver my furniture. I went to Lobatse to await it but again she disappointed me. The following day I went again to where she had directed me, she was not there. The guys at the warehouse said she doesn't have a supervisor to report her to is her own boss. Up to date she has not called so I’m kindly asking for your help.

The lady is telling that the only way I'll get the furniture is to pay P200 more on top of all the expenses I incurred for other wise I’m still going to wait. I asked her to send back my money she is refusing.

I contacted the company and their first response was “Yes she bought furniture from us. When we open after lockdown her things will be delivered” but then they changed their mind and became argumentative, suggesting that it was your fault that the furniture wasn’t delivered. So yes, I agree that it’s time for a refund. I suggest that you tell them that Sections 7(6) and 27(1) of the Consumer Protection Act both say very clearly that you are entitled to cancel the deal and get your money back. If they don’t agree to that and repay you then we need to escalate the issue further. We won’t give up!

Saturday, 2 May 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must they fix my damaged suite?

I have an issue with Lewis Rail Park. On January 21 I bought in cash a 3/4 and single beds for my kids. We paid and were promised to get the beds the same day and were later told it will be the next day.

One bed came with no wheel attachment and we dismissed it as minor. If was only today, due to the lockdown that we move the beds for the 1st time to put them on top of the other we notice that the beds are very poor quality and the mattress is not the changeable one. The top and bottom are not the same unlike we indicated when buying. The guys who delivered set up for us and we never paid attention. I checked the receipts and there is damaged written on the receipts and it was never mentioned. We are to blame for not paying attention but this is printed out. We wouldn’t pay 2.7 for a bed that is damaged when we could buy a good quality one at that price.

On the receipts. they have no contacts or name of the manager. I feel so cheated and keep blaming us but then who valued the beds to be worth 2700 each? How do I get my case to be heard?

All I want is beds worth 2.7 each.

There are several important lessons to be learned from this experience. Perhaps the first, and most important thing is never to sign anything you haven’t read. I suspect that when they delivered the beds, the delivery guys asked you to sign a delivery note. If you’d looked closely you would have seen the note saying that the goods were damaged and that would have given you an opportunity to reject them. However, all is not lost. I think you still have the right to tell the store that you didn’t choose to buy damaged goods, you had a right to expect goods in perfect condition. You should tell the store this in very simple terms. Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a consumer has “the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects”. You should tell them that.

You should also make it clear to the store that they failed to make it very clear that the goods were damaged. Section 24 of the Act says “A supplier shall ensure that every term and condition in a contract is brought to the attention of the consumer, especially terms or conditions that … limit the liability of the supplier”. They were required to bring the fact that they were damaged to your attention, not hide it from you.

I contacted Lewis Head Office some weeks ago but I still haven’t heard back from them. I think we both need to be a little bit more assertive with them. We’re not giving up!

Must they fix my suite?

I have a matter I’d love to share with you. I bought a 3-piece lounge suite from a furniture store in Molepolole in 2017.The total purchase price was P20,654.15 on hire purchase. Now the suite is cracking and the coat eroding, even the one i don’t sit on. I stay alone. And even the piece I don’t use at all is peeling. It looks like cheap material. My efforts to call them are in vain.

How may I approach this matter? I feel robbed to be honest.

Here’s another lesson we all need to learn. Firstly, as I’ve mentioned many times before, hire purchase is a very expensive and high-risk way to buy things. You spent over P20,000 on a lounge suite. I guess that the cash price was probably half of that. Add in the profit margin that the store is entitled to make and you probably have an item that cost them just a couple of thousand to make. The lesson is that not only is it an expensive way to buy things, it’s also a very expensive way to buy very cheap things. Cheap things that don’t last very long.

That’s another lesson. How long these things last. It’s no surprise that goods you buy on hire purchase over two years only have a warranty lasting one year. That’s because the store doesn’t expect them to last more than a year because they know how cheaply they were made.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s anything you can do. The goods are now far out of their warranty and the store no longer has any obligation to fix them. I’m sorry, it’s a painful lesson.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Won’t they pay?

Please help me. I have insured my car and had an accident in Block 10 on the 13th of March. Now I just received an email that they cant help me because I was above speed limit. I was driving at 70. The police they said reckless driving. It was on a curve so someone was in my line with bright lights and I tried to move aside by the road then hit the drain. Is this really fair???

Firstly, I’m glad you had an insurance policy because it’s the smart thing to do. Even a basic vehicle insurance policy will cover you against potentially huge costs. I don’t mean the cost of any damage caused to YOUR vehicle by accident or collision, I mean the costs of damaging someone else’s vehicle. A few years ago we heard of a driver who caused a collision but who had no insurance. His car was destroyed but he also destroyed another driver’s brand new P750,000 Mercedes. Luckily for the other driver, he had an insurance policy so within a few weeks his insurance policy had paid for a replacement Mercedes. He was happy again. Unfortunately, the uninsured driver then received a demand from the victim’s insurance company demanding that he pay them back the three quarters of a million they’d paid out. Was this right, he asked? Yes, we told him, that what happens when you cause an accident and don’t have an insurance policy. You pay the bill.

In your case I think this all depends on what the text of the insurance policy says. Most insurance policies automatically reject claims if, for instance, the driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident. It looks like your policy says that claims are rejected if you weren’t obeying the traffic laws at the time of the incident. If you were charged by the Police they might consider that sufficient proof of this.

I’ll contact the insurance company for you and ask them to double check the small print and make sure they’ve taken the right decision.

Please help my sister!

My sister needs help. Sometime in 2009 she applied for a loan from her bank and cleared it in 2013/14. A month ago she applied for a facility to consolidate through another bank and was informed that she had been listed with CRB. Upon inquiring from the first bank, they told her that their records do not show that she cleared that loan. The say back in 2013/14 the loan balance was around 28k, and now it's at 43k

Unfortunately for her, it's been almost 7 years and she can't find her records so she is really at the mercy of the bank. They keep giving her stories that they suspect that the money was deposited into another account.

They are actually saying that they will give her a discount to pay the 43k. But why should she have to pay a loan twice when it is clearly their wrongdoing?

She says the bank never contacted her and she had never changed numbers since she started using it in 2008. They can't explain why there was never any communication from them.

Kindly advise what she can do.

The difficulty here is that it’s the responsibility of both parties to a loan, the borrower and the lender, to make sure that the loan is repaid fully and is settled finally. Very often we assume that the lender, in this case the bank, will get everything right and will keep full and accurate records. The bad news is that banks aren’t always as reliable as we need them to be. Like us, they’re flawed and lose things. It’s why it’s very important to keep bank statements, whether they’re printed or emailed somewhere safe.

I contacted the bank and asked them to take another look and see if they can trace any payments your sister made.

UPDATE: The bank assured me that they would investigate the matter urgently. I then heard from the customer that the bank managed to help her sister and they’ve cleared her name with CRB and emailed her a clearance letter.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can’t they refund me?

Good day Richard. Please help I sent my brother to a pharmacy in Mochudi to buy blackseed oil and he bought the wrong one. He bought the one for the hair but I wanted the consumable one now they are refusing to return it. I called the assistant who is taking the call and she is so rude. She refused to tell me her name and hanged the phone. I tried calling several times but she is cutting my call. Their boss also refused to take my call they are saying he is busy.

The lady later called saying the boss said they can’t give me cash back rather I take something in the shop. I told them that was the last money I had and I have to buy blackseed oil because I am using it for my sinus infection. I don’t have another money to buy blackseed oil again. I thought I didn’t open it they could refund me since there is nothing I can swap with.

Unfortunately, this is a painful lesson about consumer rights. Consumers don’t have a right to change their minds if they buy the wrong thing. We don’t have a right to take something back if we don’t like it. Most importantly for you, we don’t have a right to return something if we bought it by mistake. The only times we can demand that a store fixes a situation is when they mis-sold something or if it doesn’t work properly. Section 15 (1) of the 2018 Consumer Protection Act says that “A consumer has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects”.

However, in your case the store hasn’t actually done anything wrong. I know it seems difficult, but from what you say, it wasn’t the pharmacy’s fault that your brother chose the wrong product. Of course, a store owned or operated by kinder people would probably be more helpful. As you said, you didn’t open the packet so there’s no good reason why the pharmacy can’t just put it back on the shelf. Unfortunately, not all store owners and managers are as pleasant as we’d like them to be.

Here’s one other minor issue. There is actually no reliable scientific evidence that black seed oil has any real medicinal benefits. Once the lockdown is over it might be worth talking to a doctor if you have persistent sinus problems.

If you send me the contact details for the pharmacy I’d be happy to get in touch and see if they can’t be a bit more charitable.

How can I make him pay?

I need your help regarding someone who has been toying with my emotions while they owe me since last year February. I gave him money to buy me a car from Durban. At first he brought me a rundown Vitz and I didn't accept it upon viewing it. He then took his time until around December (this was supposed to take 3 weeks at most) when he brought me another rundown car that I only used for 2 days and returned it back to him upon which I told him to refund me because I didn't want to deal with him anymore. He had asked for 26k for him to buy me the car. But I had to report him to police at that point because he just took his time to refund me, excuse after excuse. Then when the police called him and he paid 19k and promised to pay the balance within a week but he is now left with P2,500 to pay he keeps saying he will pay. He had promised to pay last Friday but he just does not respond to my calls or messages. He is ignoring me basically but he has the nerve to tell me its nothing but still he is not paying it. Can you please assist me because I don't want him near me any more. I thought of blasting him on the Consumer watchdog page but I know you don't usually encourage that so I kindly seek your intervention here.

I think the key thing here is that you already involved the police. I would go back to them and see if they can’t make another phone call or two and apply some pressure to this guy. However, there are limits to what they can do. They might easily argue that this is a civil matter between two people and that no crime has been committed. You can argue that he obtained “by false pretence” but, to be fair, the Police probably have other things on their agenda right now that they’ll consider more important.

I’ll be happy to get in touch with the guy and see if the knowledge that readers of The Voice are interested in the way he does business motivates him to do a little better.

Monday, 13 April 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why can’t they help me?

There is a petrol/fuel station in Serowe that issues receipts/ till slips with a Lobatse address. When I asked for a hand written receipt to present to my employer the stamp they put on it still showed a Lobatse address.

When I queried they told me no one has ever complained about the address. They also said my employer could always call like others do to confirm that I fuelled in Serowe, not Lobatse as per their receipt. I feel this is an inconvenience as calling them would cost time and money. They felt I was being unnecessarily difficult. What's your view on this matter?

I can see that there might be good reasons why the receipts give an address in a different town. It’s likely that the company that owns the filling station in Serowe is based in Lobatse. However, clearly they don’t understand, or don’t care about the impact this has on that minority of customers, like you, who need receipts for claiming expenses from their employers.

Normally I would suggest that we try to persuade the owners of the filling station to consider their corporate customers and find a solution to this that doesn’t inconvenience them so much. However, from what you say, that’s not something they seem to care about.

The better solution is to find another filling station in Serowe, one that is a little friendlier. They deserve your money more than these guys.

Who must pay?

I am in need of your advice.

On the 18th of March I received a phone call from a debt collector that they have been engaged by my college for collection of my outstanding debt.

Please note that I made a transfer of the outstanding P6,000 to the college on the 3rd of March and as per the email the gentleman who called me from the debt collector he says the college handed me over on the 4th of March. This is the same thing that the gentleman at the college told me and I questioned him and he did they tell me that they are handing me to debt collectors and he said to no however they will rectify that and to that they handed me my clearance letter and I collected my certificate.

I sent an email to ask now who is going to cover the debt collector's fees and to date there is no response. Now I am getting constant phone calls from the debt collector to pay the P1,300 else it is accumulating interest monthly. Please advice on way forward on this matter.

It’s normal practice for companies to pass on the costs of collecting debts to the people who owe them money and that can sometimes be a lot of money. Firstly, that’s just a fair thing. It’s not the fault of the company that you owe them money or have failed to keep to your side of an agreement. They’re entitled to get their money from you. It’s also what you agreed when you signed your contract with them. If you look closely, you’ll find that the contact has a clause saying that if you fall behind with your payments they’re entitled to take whatever legal action they see fit to recover the money they’re owed. That will include engaging debt collectors, of if that fails, instructing attorneys to come after you.

However, in your case, things might be different. You paid your debt before they engaged the debt collectors that are chasing you. Furthermore, they admitted they’d made a mistake and promised to rectify the situation. It’ now up to them to honour their promise and sort this situation out for you.

I suggest that you first contact the college and tell them that you hold them responsible for fixing this situation. Tell them that you will telling the debt collectors the same thing. Then you should contact the debt collectors and tell them that you have disputed the debt collection charges with the college and that you are holding them responsible for the problem. Insist that they record in their files.

I’ll also get in touch with the college and see if I can encourage them to help fix this situation.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my laptop?

On the 29th of January I bought a laptop from some guys for P1,500. They told me that it needs a few software updates and promised that it will be okay after I update them. I took it with me and tried to update the software but it failed even after a lot of attempts. I returned back to them and we agreed that they'll take it, update it and return it. As I speak it's been more than a month now, they are playing hide and seek with me, refusing to give me a different laptop or to refund me if at all they don't have a laptop that is functioning well. The beginning of this week they told that they have a different laptop but I have to top up with P500 to get it. I found the money and they're refusing to meet with me reasons being they are busy and they don't know when they'll give me the laptop. On the issue of refund they don't want to tap on it, they avoid it by all means. So please I need your help. I really need that laptop to type and submit my assignments since that's the only option that we have right now. I'm afraid to go out to internet cafés, mingling with people yet we have been told to stay home.

I think these people are behaving very badly. You, on the other hand are behaving responsibly but the time has come to become impatient and angry. You’ve already paid them more than the original agreed price for a laptop that works. They’ve already delivered one to you that didn’t. I suspect that this business about software updates is a distraction to cover up the fact they don’t know what they’re doing.

I think you should tell them that they have a couple of days to deliver the better laptop. Tell them that if they don’t then they should offer you a complete, immediate refund or you’ll take legal action to get your money back. Send me their details and I’ll get in touch with them as well and maybe the added pressure will make them see sense and behave properly?

Can’t they reverse it?

I have a problem. Yesterday there was a transaction of INR 27,069 from my bank account using my debit card while I was in possession of the card at the time and I was in Kanye not India. I reported the matter immediately with the Banks helpline but they said they could not reverse the international transaction because the money was already debited from my account, they said I should submit an affidavit from Police then they can investigate how they funds were debited and by who. I need your assistance coz it's not even 24hrs since it happened and I wanted to know if there is no way that the transaction cannot be cancelled and funds returned to the account. I have never used this card to buy anything online as they have been questioning since yesterday.

I got my statement yesterday and it doesn't reflect the transaction. However it reflects that I have funds pending because the closing balance and the actual balance are different and the difference is the amount missing from my account, meaning the funds have not cleared to wherever they are going

The first time I called the customer helpline they said it could take up to 48 days. but when I went there yesterday the lady who was assisting me said she will call me on Monday and advise about going to report the case to the Police.

I honestly thought since it's an international transfer they could stop the transaction going thru and clear the funds back into my account but they said they couldn’t.

I’m glad that you quickly reported the matter to the bank because until that point they’ll hold you liable for any losses you experience. Now at least there’s a chance they can intervene and prevent the payment going through to whoever stole your money. However, you also need to think very carefully about whether it’s possible that you gave away your card details. Have you been asked to enter them online at all in the last few days?

Meanwhile, I’m shocked that the bank say that it can take 48 days to check this out. I have no idea why a competent bank needs that much time to investigate a transaction.

The good news is that the payment seems not to have been completed yet. The fact that you alerted the bank early is in your favour but I’ll get in touch with the bank to see if they can go a little faster.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will they fix my bed?

Please I need your help. I bought a bed at a store in Gaborone but realised that the bed is not at all comfortable to an extent that I have backache and waistache. The following day I called the store and the salesperson tells me that its difficult to change the bed for me. Mind you the bed has been with me for a week now but still I can’t understand why I don’t get help. I used my daughters name because I am not employed but able to pay. What do we do now?

When you say that you used your daughter’s name. I assume that means you bought the bed on hire purchase? The first problem is that you’ve placed a considerable burden on her. If you ever have problems paying, it’s your daughter that will pay the price, not you. I understand why sometimes this is done, some people have a bad credit history or other times they don’t have a bank account so they need someone else to sign the agreement but it’s important to understand what this means. It means that the person who signs on your behalf takes all the risks for you.

However, I suggest that your daughter contacts the store and she should remind them that the bed isn’t suitable and that Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says very clearly that a “consumer has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects”. It’s quite simple, despite the difficulty some stores have in understanding it, but a bed should function as a bed. You should be able to sleep in it in reasonable comfort for a reasonable length of time. It certainly shouldn’t give you backache.

The most important thing to know is very simple. Whatever happens, no matter how frustrated you and your daughter might become, no matter how long it takes for them to fix the bed, you mustn’t stop paying the instalments. That will just make matters much, much worse.

Where’s my pension money?

Long story but briefly, I processed my pension, I got the 1/3 and the 2/3 to be taken monthly which is only P1,000. I resigned from work in 2007 for further studies in the UK but the college was bogus. So I had no job until I returned in September 2018. I'm jobless and the chances of getting any work are very low. I was a teacher.

I had written to BPOPF and to NBFIRA requesting the full amount of the 2/3 but it was refused. I live with my kids who each earn less than P7,000 and pay rent of P3,000 and a grand daughter who attendeds school. I have no house of my own. The money would take me out of poverty and give me a decent life. Is there any where I can go for intervention?

Unfortunately, this is how pension schemes work. If you visit the BPOPF web site (link here) it says that when a member retires, the pension fund member can get one third of his or her benefit which is tax free but the remining two thirds must be used to “purchase an annuity from an approved insurance of his/her choice”. That annuity will pay you an amount every month for the rest of your life, in your case P1,000.

It’s important to understand that pension schemes aren’t saving schemes like you might get from a bank, where you can withdraw any or all of the money you saved when you want it. Pension schemes are there for give you an income when you retire. The only exception is that you are allowed to take one-third in cash on retirement. You can use that for any purpose you like but the smart move is to use it to pay off any debt you might have, maybe finish a building project or perhaps even use it as start-up capital for a new business. Something useful that will help your finances for the rest of your life.

Sadly, the remaining two-thirds is protected and no matter how much you ask, the law forbids your pension provider from changing that.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can’t he fix my CV?

I engaged someone who claims to do professional CVs and cover letters to do me a CV. He did the CV and I paid him P100 and P50 for the covering letter. A week later when I read through the CV I realised that it has a lot of errors which need to be corrected. He sent the CV on 28 Feb in pdf format which means I cannot make any changes. I requested to be corrected on the 3rd of March.

First I requested him to send it to me in Word format so I can edit then he said I should just copy it myself into Word but I was not able to do it from my side. I asked him to do the corrections and he said he cannot do that for free I have to pay. He is claiming that I could have raised that within 24hrs but those conditions were not stated at the beginning.

Worse enough he has now blocked me on WhatsApp. He is now being rude to me and even hanged up the phone on me yesterday.

The first lesson here is about CVs. Please don’t waste your money asking someone else to write your CV for you. Firstly, the sort of person who writes CVs is going to reproduce exactly the same as the one they did for their last client. That’s how they can afford to do it for just P100. The second reason is that people who are recruiting often see hundreds of CVs for every vacancy. The CVs they’re most likely to read are the ones that stand out, the ones that are different. You want your CV to be abnormal, to be different. Mass-produced CVs are boring and HR professionals get bored very easily. You can do better yourself.

Secondly, you chose the wrong person to do your CV for you. I saw the CV he did for you and it’s pathetic. I also had a LONG conversation with him and he was nasty. He simply doesn’t care about his obligations to you as a customer. He certainly doesn’t care about Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act which says that "where a supplier undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of the consumer, the consumer has a right to ... the performance of the services in a manner and quality the consumers are reasonably entitled to expect".

In fact, he blamed it all on you, saying you took too long to notify him of the errors, and saying that it was too difficult to edit pdf documents. He also told me “I not familiar with all laws, consumer law.”

The best solution? Forget the P150, it’s gone and you paid for a valuable lesson about who you can trust. Also, check your email. I converted your pdf CV into Word format for you. It took about 5 minutes. Good luck with getting a job.

Where’s my forex money?

I had an agreement with a certain company for forex account management and up to today they seem to have neglected our contracts. I’m trying to follow up I'm realizing they are doing this to many many people and running away with people’s money. The moved from commerce park I'm not sure where they are right now.

Sadly the guy has been so arrogant. I want him to at least to return my principal amount.

Here’s a painful lesson for anyone tempted to trade foreign exchange. In fact, there are several lessons. Firstly, like Bitcoin, trading currencies is a loser’s game. When you buy and sell currencies, you’re competing against massive institutional investors who employ industry experts with supercomputers. What chance do you and I have against that? We might make small amounts if we invest a lot of time in developing some skills but, like gambling, the odds are stacked against us.

The second lesson is that the forex industry has much more than their fair share of crooks, liars and thieves. Obviously there ARE some honest, decent companies but they’re sometimes hard to find.

Unfortunately, the company you named privately is one I’ve heard of many times before. I think we both need to speak to NBFIRA, the Bank of Botswana and the new Competition and Consumer Authority to see who wants to help us close these crooks down.

Monday, 16 March 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can they charge me?

I had a 12 month contract with a gym for which I authorized them to withdraw P550 through bank direct debit. My contract just ended on 28th February. Beginning of February, I went to fill in termination forms that I will not be continuing.

A week after that someone called me, saying they would like to offer me a monthly subscription at half price for March and April. I told them that I have no time to attend the gym and that I have been paying without attendance just because I was on contract. The person on the phone said that this is not a contract but just a discount offer. Then I said ok. My understanding was that if I want to continue they will charge me at half price for the next two months.

I didn’t know that they will proceed to debit P225 from my bank in March even if I did not go back to them to sign for it. Now they are saying I agreed to the discount on the phone and they would not refund me.

Kindly explain where I am wrong.

I’m not an attorney but I know one thing about the law. Once an agreement is in writing then that’s all there is to the agreement. If you filled in forms cancelling your membership then I think you can argue that the deal is definitely over. However, that doesn’t alter the fact that they’re taking your money and they might have a recording of you agreeing to this new discounted deal.

I also know that Section 22 of the new Consumer Protection Act says that a consumer “may rescind a transaction resulting from any direct sale or mail order sale without reason or penalty … within 10 working days after the date on which … the transaction or contract between the supplier and consumer was concluded”. The question is whether the phone call they made to sell you the discounted deal was a “direct sale”. I think it was.

I suggest that you call the gym and explain the law to them and tell them very clearly that you’re no longer interested and that they do not have your authority to take your money.

Who should pay?

I paid for granite without installation on Wednesday 4th March to be collected on Friday 6th. On Friday morning they called saying they had a break down and I should collect it on Saturday. I told them that the people I hired to install it are on site ready to install the kitchen unit. I had agreed with them that the granite will be delivered on Friday so I had paid the others for the installation. I asked the manager if they are going to install the granite for us for free and he said no.

My concern is that the manager breached the contract and now we have to find someone to install the granite with extra cost whereas the manager is the one who inconvenienced us and he did not even show any remorse.

I can imagine how frustrating this must be. However, I don’t think I can offer you any good news.

I know that the granite supplier let you down but their delivery wasn’t, as far as I can see, contractually connected to the people who you paid to do the installation. They were two different agreements with different suppliers. Yes, in your mind they were connected but not to either of the companies. Looking back it might have been wise to ask the granite supplier to put in writing that they accept that delivery had to be on the Friday and accepting that they would be responsible for the cost of any delay. However, I can also imagine that the granite supplier would probably have refused to sign an agreement saying that. They’ll know that there often are mishaps like the delivery truck breaking down. In their position I certainly wouldn’t have made such a promise.

Maybe it’s worth approaching the supplier and asking if they can do the installation for you at a discounted rate, given that they caused your delay and extra costs? It’s worth asking!

Sunday, 8 March 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my refund?

I have this problem that I would like your office to help tackle. I bought a truck spare part for P2,250 on the 14th February and during the purchase I advised the Assistant that if the part was not the correct one I will return it and we were in agreement. On the 15th I realized that the part was not the correct one when we tried to install it in the truck and I called the assistant and told him that I have confirmed that it is not the correct one so I will return it with the sample part.

On the 18th I returned the spare part with my sample part and they told me they will source for the correct part. Upon receiving the quotation (P5,500) the price was more than double the previous price and I told them I cannot afford hence the request for refund. The answer that I received from the manager, I quote, “No problem, but it will take time for refund, once we have enough cash we will call you.”

My question is that is it lawful for them to tell me that it will take long for them to refund me. Since I had paid them cash, do I have to suffer to get my money back.

Just so everyone understands, we don’t have a right to change our minds when we buy something. I know some stores allow customers to return things, but that’s just good customer service, not a consumer right. It’s not something you can insist on in other stores.

The right we DO have is to return something that is faulty or that was mis-sold but I don’t believe either of these happened in your case?

Nevertheless, the store has said they’ll refund you in this case which is good news but I can understand your frustration that they are taking so long to make it happen.

I suggest you speak to the manager or owner and ask exactly how long it’s going to take. That’s not an unreasonable request.

I need a refund as well!

I bought a phone last year July which is still under warranty of 12 months. By November the phone started giving me problems, it started freezing and I took it back to them. It spent a full month there being repaired.. When they called me to come and collect it I found it not working again. I returned it to them same day and they told me they are taking it back to the technician. I kept checking in on them and I was told that it was still with the technician. December they called me to come and collect it. I went there, just when I was about to leave their shop I realised that the screen was not fitted properly. I immediately took it back. They apologized and took the phone back. January they called me back, I went to get it. I inserted the sim card on the 3rd day after collection, then BOOOOM!!! the phone still freezes. I took it back again and demanded my money back since they could not fix it. They have been having my phone for the past 3 months or so and they said their office does not handle refund cases. Shocking I know. Now they said I should top up with P500 and get a different phone. The thing is I do not trust them and their technician. I just want my money back. Please help me.

This is ridiculous. The good news is that law is on your side.

Section 16 of the Consumer Protection Act says that when goods are faulty the supplier is required to repair them, replace them or refund the customer. That’s quite simple. It’s important to know that it’s up to the supplier to decide which of those three options they offer you.

However, the Act then says that if goods are repaired and the same problem occurs within three months the supplier is then required either to replace them or refund the customer. They no longer have the right to say that they’ll repair the item.

This is a powerful new protection that we consumers now have and it’s very important that we all understand it. Suppliers now only get once chance to repair things. Once only.

I suggest that we both educate this supplier on their new obligations and see if they can behave better!

Sunday, 1 March 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Do I get my premiums back?

Please help me here sir. I want to find out if there is anything that I can benefit from the just terminated funeral policy I had. I happened not to be able to pay accordingly because of some commitments and failing to reach their office for payment. I never had any issues of paying the policy while I was using Standard Chartered bank so when I moved to Bank ABC they told me they do not have stop orders with Bank ABC and there is no way they can help unless I pay over the counter of which this led to me not being able to be consistent due to several reasons. So today I went to pay so they told me the policy has been terminated on the 15th of February.

You’re not the first person who’s contacted us with this question. In fact, we hear it all the time and it’s a clear sign that the insurance industry is doing a very bad job at educating consumers on what insurance actually is.

Put simply, insurance is paying someone else to take a financial risk on your behalf. For example, I pay an insurance company a premium every month so that if I have a car accident, the insurance company will pay to fix my car and any other cars I might damage. I also pay my bank a small sum every month to pay for my funeral if I die. I also pay a monthly premium so that if anything is stolen from my home the insurance company will pay to replace it.

The common misunderstanding is that what you’re buying is the transfer of risk, it’s not a savings scheme. If the event against which you’re insuring happens then the costs are paid, but if the event doesn’t happen you don’t get your money back. You were buying cover against the event happening, not an investment. It’s like paying rent to occupy a house. If you signed the tenancy agreement but never actually moved in, would you expect the landlord to refund you? No. It’s the same with insurance if the bad events you’re insuring against don’t happen.

The good news is that you can start another funeral policy really easily.

Should they have let me test it?

I bought a budget semi-smart phone from a Rail Park shop on 12th Feb, at a small amount of P200 to use while awaiting my iPhone which is undergoing repair. When I requested for the demo phone to be switched on so that I can browse to check if it meets my taste, I was told it can only be done once I have paid for it (made no sense to me). I bought the phone and later realized its super slow and frustrating to type with it. In 2 days time, as I stay in Jwaneng, I went to Jwaneng shop requesting to return and buy different model from same shop. They told me no returns accepted. I will be meeting the branch manager this coming Monday as he was away. The only thing I signed is SIM registration. It seems I should have also signed 'warranty card', which never happened. I don’t know what is contained in guarantee card but I don't see any fairness in buying a phone you have no idea of until you have purchased it but you are not be allowed to return unsatisfied.

My first observation is that it’s always going to be a difficult experience, downgrading from an iPhone to a P200 phone, that’s just to be expected, isn’t it? We can argue the merits of iPhones and its competitors but if you’ve spent time using a high-end smartphone of any origin, using an entry-level phone is going to be a shock.

More importantly, you have a good point about the P200 phone you got. I think it’s reasonable, no matter how cheap an item might be, to ask to see it working before you buy it. Firstly, you have a right to see that it does what the store claims it does but you also have a right to see that it does it reasonably well. I don’t think it matters that it’s very cheap, it still needs to do its job reasonably well.

Let me know what the store manager says and if they come up with a solution. If they can’t or won’t address your concerns, at least you have a backup phone you can keep for emergencies.