Saturday 25 July 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay to get a replacement?

I bought a couches last year September. Sometimes this year after the first lockdown I realized that when I seat on them I tend to sink. So I logged a complaint with the store. After a couple of weeks they sent someone to come assess the couch. He left with the word that they would come and collect the couch for repairs. That never happened until I called the store several times, then on the 8 July in the evening they came and collected the three seater couch.

They had promised to bring it after a day or two. On Saturday 11 July I called them only to be told they can't bring it over the weekend. So they said they will deliver on Monday 13. I opposed that as I had to work that same day, then we agreed for the next day. They only got to call me later in the day telling me the driver got lost. They say my phones were not available, yet I used the same number to enquire about the delivery.

The day they took the couch, I remained with the two seater from the same set of chairs. Now the two seater has the same problem yet I haven't been using it. It been in my spare room due to the limited space in my living room. I informed them once again of the same problem. They said they would bring the one they took and they would take the second couch. I called them yet again telling them that um not satisfied with the quality of the set therefore I need a different make. I was told I should pay an amount of P1149 for the usage of the set.

Please assist I need new couches and need the store to assist me in a proper manner better than what I have been through.

Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that goods must be “of good quality, in good working order and free of defects”. Clearly that’s not the case with your furniture. Normally the procedure would be to allow the store to take the goods back and offer you one of the three Rs, a refund, replacement or a repair. However, it’s up to the store to decide which R to offer you. This store is entitled to attempt to repair both of the couches. But just once. The Act continues to say that if the same problem occurs again within three months the consumer can now demand either a replacement or refund. There’s no second chance to repair something.

In your case it’s more complicated because it seems like they are willing to offer you a replacement but they want to charge you P1,149 for the time you had the couches. Unfortunately, that’s probably reasonable. You had the couches from September until April when they first started to fail you and in that period you had the use of them. I admit not for as long as you would have hoped but for those 7 months the goods were fine.

I suggest that you either give the store one opportunity to repair the couches, or, if you can afford it, pay them the amount they requested to get new replacements.

Can I claim?

Kindly help or clarify if this is ok. I took a loan in November 2019 of which I was asked to pay for the loan insurance also. I was told that the insurance is to cover my loan in case i lose my job in 6months. So 6 months down the line I was retrenched and now I was told that I don’t qualify to be covered because the retrenchment was initiated before the 6 months period where my retrenchment letter was dated 30th April 2020.

I need help on this please. I’m currently job hunting and I don’t have money to pay for the loan.

This is really unfortunate. You’ve been incredibly unlucky. Many insurance products such as the one that came with bank loan have a waiting period before which you’re not able to submit a claim. It happens often with life insurance policies but also funeral plans and vehicle policies. It also happens very often with polices that cover retrenchment. This is all to prevent people who suspect that an unfortunate event, like illness, retrenchment or even death is likely to happen from getting a policy deliberately to cover that event.

The really bad piece of luck for you is that even if you took out the loan on the 1st November last year, your retrenchment date was exactly six months minus one day after the policy was created. It’s even less if you took out the loan some time later in November.

Looking back it might have been wise to ask your employer to date the retrenchment letter a day or more later but that’s too late now the bank know all the details.

Saturday 18 July 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can’t I get a refund?

Afternoon. Kindly assist me with the following:

On 7th July 2020, through my junior at work we made a booking with a hotel for 12 people to stay from 9th to 12th July 2020 for P38,130. On the 8th July 2020, we made a cancellation of our booking. Now the hotel is demanding 100% payment sighting that it is within their cancellation policy. Is this procedural and lawful??

Unfortunately, this is how hotels normally operate. The quotation they sent you is very clear about the fees they charge when a customer cancels a booking. It says “a) 1 month before the date is 50% of amount, b) 1 week before the date is 75% of amount c) any other after a week is 100%”.

I know it must be frustrating given that you only booked the accommodation two days before you were all due to check in so the first two cancellation periods never applied to you because your booking was already within one week of your planned stay. However, it’s certainly normal practice in hotels to charge a customer a cancellation fee. It’s possible that the hotel might have turned away other customers once you’d reserved the rooms.

I’ve heard of similar situations where the hotel was able to rebook the rooms and then they’ve refunded the original customer but that was more due to kindness than any obligation they might have had.

Remember that this hotel didn’t take your money under any false pretences, they didn’t deceive you and they weren’t the ones who cancelled the booking. I know it’s frustrating but the lesson is never to agree to any commitment if you’re not 100% certain you can adhere to it.

Meanwhile, there’s something you didn’t tell me. Did you actually pay them yet? Did you sign a booking form? Your answers to those questions might change things slightly!

Can I get a refund too?

Good day sir. I have a quick question, but first here's my story: On Sunday 24th May 2020, I purchased a water purifier for P1,500 from someone on Facebook, and he came and installed it. That Wednesday 27 May, I woke up to find my house full of water, the filtration system was leaking. I contacted him and he came on the 7th June. He fiddled a bit with the device and said it was OK, it had just needed a little tightening. That same night, it started leaking again. It seemed to me that the device was probably defective and I requested a replacement, which he agreed to but never did. He stopped taking my calls. On 28th June, he answered and said he'd find me a replacement filter. I told him I'd rather get a refund as I wasn't interested in this gadget anymore. Once again he agreed and said he'd talk to me on the 2nd July. He hasn't communicated since. His partner also doesn't take my calls. My question is, where do I go for help? Secondly, they advertise these things on Facebook. How do I help the next person not to go through this headache?

I think this supplier needs a lesson about the new Consumer Protection Act. It’s something that ALL suppliers need to understand. Section 15 (1) of the Act says that goods must be “of good quality, in good working order and free of defects”. Section 16 (1) says that “the producer or importer, the distributor and the retailer each warrant that the goods comply” with that requirement. Read that last bit again. Everyone in the supply chain is now forced to promise that the goods are adequate. No longer can they play the blame game, saying it’s someone else’s responsibility to fix things. Sections 16 (2) and (3) then say that if the goods fail to satisfy these requirements the consumer can return them for either a repair, replacement or refund but it’s up to the suppler to decide which they offer. However, the best bit comes next. Section 16 (4) says that if the same problem occurs again within three months the consumer can now demand either a replacement or refund. There’s no second chance to repair something.

I think we should both tell this guy what the law says, don’t you? Maybe a little education on consumer rights would help him to honour his obligations. In fact, maybe all suppliers need to learn this?

As for your last question, how you can help other people not to experience the same disappointment, let’s see how well he responds. Then maybe Facebook can do what it’s best at!

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, na├»ve 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.