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.