Sunday 30 August 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my phone?

I bought a new phone, a Huawei Y9s on 8th June and returned it to the shop on 17th July because it was losing battery fast compared to when I bought it. Mind you this is just 5 weeks, and they told me that it is normal for a phone to do that! The finger print scanner was occasionally freezing as well, the phone torch not working and the screen was emitting some kind of light when on rest mode. It just lit up like a torch, only the front part of the phone, I don’t know if it was because of the torch issue or what.

This week, I went to enquire what is the delay. They had no answer. I get to the shop yesterday to collect the phone, and they finally tell me that they broke the screen / cover, and that they said thats why my phone is not ready as they are awaiting that replacement. And nobody was going to let me know of this until I demanded they give me my phone

I gave them my phone still brand new, am I expected to just get a refurbished with phone with unoriginal parts when I paid for a new phone? This phone cost P4,995 and I was planning to use it a few years before changing it.

When you buy something like a new phone the law says that we have a right to expect “goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects, unless the opposite is clearly disclosed”. That’s not too difficult to understand? The law goes on to say that a consumer like you can return any goods that don’t meet this requirement and that the supplier should “repair or replace the defective goods” or “refund the consumer the amount already paid”. However, it’s important to understand that it’s up to the supplier to decide which of these they offer you. They ARE within their rights to try and repair the phone.

Your situation is slightly more complicated because it seems like they damaged your phone while they were trying to fix it. The law says that you’re also entitled to “timely performance and completion” of a repair and “timely notice of any unavoidable delay” if there’s a problem. It goes on to say that you’re entitled to expect services “in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect”.

I think we need to help the store understand their legal obligation because clearly they don’t know about them. Let’s offer them some free education!

Is Mufhiwa Building Projects a pyramid scheme?

Hello Richard. Kindly help me here. have you heard of Mufhiwa Building Projects? I think this is a pyramid scheme. Its not practical for 6 people to contribute P170 and be given 600K to build a house!!! Its so sad many of our people are falling for this trap. They have approached a friend and she doesn’t want to take my advice.

Kindly research on the matter and update. Thank you in advance.

You are completely correct. This so-called Mufhiwa Building Project is an obvious pyramid scheme.

Their busines model is very simple, just as you describe. You contribute P170 and then recruit six people beneath you who also contribute the same amount and this continues for several levels and then, they claim, you will have earned enough money either to build your house or pay off your home loan.

I’ve spoken to several people who are trying to recruit others into this scheme and they all say the same thing. It’s all about recruitment. There are no products, no investment schemes, nothing other that persuading other people to join the scheme. That makes it a pyramid scheme.

One of the defences these people all make against the charge that it’s a scam is that it’s a registered company. They’ve even shown copies of a CIPA company registration certificate for the company. However, that means nothing other than someone has paid to register a company. It doesn’t say that the company is legitimate or has honest intentions. It just says that someone has filled in some forms and paid a fee.

Like all pyramid schemes, this one will eventually collapse when they can’t fund enough new members gullible enough to part with their money. Did I mention that promoting or even just joining a scheme like this could cost you a fine of up to P100,000 and up to five years in prison? Or both!

Saturday 22 August 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my stock?

Greetings, I’m seeking help from you regarding a matter whereby a lady robbed us our hard earned cash in pretence of ordering stock for us in China.

I’m an unemployed graduate and wanted to start something for myself to make money. In total we are 9 people and the amount she robbed us is P31,000. The police were involved and even now we haven't been helped with anything. When we call she doesn’t answer, when we text she just ignores our messages.

Please help us.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a situation like this. In normal times it happens often enough but in the strange and difficult times we now live in, there are more and more people trying to get us involved in their money-making schemes. We can all see why people are interested.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t try to earn some extra money, but there are some precautions we should always take whenever we try to do so. The first, and perhaps most important, is to get things in writing. Before you hand over any significant amounts of money to someone you must put your agreement in writing and both parties must sign it in front of witnesses. The agreement should explain exactly what each party is going to do, when they will do it and what will happen if something goes wrong.

Whenever money is involved, you also need to make sure the money leaves a trail behind it. Whenever possible, don’t use cash or money-transfer systems. Use bank accounts and transfer money electronically in a way that can be investigated. That doesn’t guarantee there won’t be trouble because some scammers use legitimate bank accounts (usually belonging to another victim) but it certainly reduces the risk and it allows the banks and the police to trace the money.

There’s another reason why a written agreement is so important. It’s a very good test of someone character and honesty. Someone unwilling to put an agreement inwriting can’t be trusted.

However, here’s another lesson. The Police can’t always help. Unless there’s evidence that someone like this person deliberately set out to steal your money, they probably can’t help. It’s not the job of the Police to involves themselves in business issues that go wrong, it’s their job to catch criminals.

I’ll try and contact this “lady” on your behalf and see if I can talk some sense into her.

Where are my glasses?

Early this year I went to a book store. I happened to forget my glasses I use for driving. The following morning I phoned and sent an SMS, alerting that I had forgotten my shades at the shop. I could not go back that morning but the following day I went back and I was told that the shades indeed were found, handed to one of the workers. He told me that the shades were stored overnight at the shop. The following day the person who picked them came to the shop and asked if the owner of the shades had not come to pick them. I was told the person who picked them asked them to hand the shades to him and he did. By the time I got to the shop the officer had already handed my shades to the stranger.

I reported the issue to the management and they kept on tossing me from pillar to post telling me they had reported the case to Head Office in South Africa. I followed with emails to both Botswana and SA management but to date there is no response. I need my shades and driving in intensive sunlight, glare and shine is damaging my eyes which have now started tearing.

Please may you intervene in this case as soon as you possibly can.

I think you have a right to expect the bookstore to do their best to trace who this stranger was. Yes, it was kind of this person to hand in your glasses when they found them but it was blatant theft to collect them from the store, knowing they weren’t theirs. A sensible store will record the name and contact details of someone who hands in lost property or they might even have the person on their security camera footage. I’ll get in touch with the management to see what can be done.

Saturday 15 August 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my bed?

I bought a bed from some warehouse on 17th June. I saw their advert on Facebook and talked to the sales rep. We communicated on Facebook until delivery date. Since day one the bed I bought for P3,000 was having a noise and the mattress is uncomfortable. Now they are playing the hard to get.

I have been heart broken till now. They promised to change the bed and they keep on giving out empty promises. I’m so broken since I got robbed of my hard earned P3,000.

The most hurting part is that the sales rep has that stinking attitude.

I’m very sorry for your trouble and I’m also sorry for the fact that I probably won’t be able to help. That’s because these people don’t like me and they’ve already blocked me from communicating with them. We had a similar situation with the same company in May this year when they simply failed to deliver a bed a customer had paid for three months beforehand. I contacted them and they simply refused to cooperate. They accused me of being “unprofessional” and refused to allow the customer to cancel the purchase and to refund her.

I tried contacting them again but it’s clear they don’t want to speak to me. However, I contacted the Competition and Consumer Authority and reported your complaint to them. They have the power to insist that shady suppliers like these guys don’t block their calls. Let’s see if they’re prepared to flex their muscles!

UPDATE: They started communicating again. They’ve promised an exchange once we’re released from the lockdown. Maybe the pressure from the Authority had an effect!

What should I tell my friend?

Hello Richard, I have a friend who is planning to invest all his money in something called FOREX. He says that you put your money in it and that they use the money to make a profits by doing foreign exchange then your money is paid an interest of 15% every month. I am not convinced about this. Is it something legitimate? Should I allow him to continue? If not what should I do to convince him otherwise. It's like he is planning to invest ALL the money he has. Every single thebe.

I wish we all had friends like you, people who take the time to protect the people they care about and do their best to prevent them being abused and scammed.

Firstly, there’s nothing inherently wrong with forex. We all do forex transactions when we change Pula to another currency when we travel overseas. Even when we withdraw cash at a foreign ATM, our banks are converting our money from one currency to another. It’s normal practice. However, you’ll find that there are many people around who suggest that ordinary people like me, you and your friend can make profits from doing this. They suggest that by looking closely at the exchange rates between currencies and the tiny changes that happen every day between the relative values of different currencies we can buy and sell them to make a profit. Yes, that’s certainly possible, but is it likely?

Financial institutions like banks and investment companies spend vast amounts of money on supercomputers that model the forex market and just as much money employing some of the cleverest people you’ll ever meet to make money this way. Do we really think mere mortals like us can compete with them?

And then there are the claims made by companies like this one. Anyone who guarantees that we can make 15% per month is either lying, ignorant or insane. No legitimate investment or business opportunity can keep a promise to make those profits. You’d be lucky to make 15% in a year, particularly in these troubled times.

The company you identified seem suspicious. Their domain was only registered late in 2019 and they seem to have connections to other companies with shady histories. Worse still is that they appear to have been the subject of a warning from the Nigerian authorities earlier this year.

I think your friend deserves to know all of this, don’t you?

Saturday 8 August 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must we pay for the power?

My mother has a house in Mochudi which she rented out when she moved to her other house in 2013. Tenants kept moving in and out over the years and sometime in 2018 the last tenant moved out and the house stayed vacant until I and my younger moved in in March 2020. We reported an electric fault the first week of July after the main switch kept tripping and when BPC attendants came they disconnected the electricity completely and accused us of fraud as they said the meter box had been bypassed and electricity had been used illegally for sometime. I went to BPC offices to explain what happened but I was told there is nothing they can do to help us because as the owners of the house we had the responsibility of everything that happened inside the premises.

I was told we will have to pay a charge for fraud based on an estimate of our monthly usage amounting to P21,000. I resolved to paying an amount of P14,500 for the electricity to be restored. We have accepted the wrong which has been done but we feel its not fair as BPC wanted the whole amount paid before restoration of power and they refused to offer us a payment plan.

This must be very difficult and challenging for you and your mother. However, I think BPC have a point, that as owners of the property, you had a responsibility to ensure that the electricity BPC supplied was used properly and legally. In theory I think BPC can be expected to chase the tenant who tampered with the equipment but can anyone identify which tenant it actually was?

I think the best approach is to try your best to negotiate something with BPC and then perhaps try to identify which tenant bypassed the power supply and take legal action against them to recover your losses.

The lesson is that landlords need to be very careful about how their tenants behave and to regularly inspect meters and cabling to ensure that nothing illegal (and incredibly dangerous) has been done.

Where’s my phone?

I bought a Samsung J6 phone from a store located in Rail Park Mall in Gaborone on the 18th May 2019. The price for the phone was P2,495. I used the phone for about six months then it froze while charging it. On the 5th December 2019 I went back to the cellphone warehouse shop and reported the problem with my phone. It was then inspected by a lady and took it for repair by their technician. She promised that my phone would be fixed within seven working days or I will be given a new phone if fixing does not materialise. The phone was still under warranty of 12 months. From December last year up to date I have not received my phone. They are always narrating stories barring me from seeing the shop owner but failing to give me my phone or a new phone. I always call the shop and sometimes travel to Gaborone to pick up my phone but nothing has ever worked. The always make numerous excuses and promises which they never fulfil.

Please Consumer watchdog help me. I want my money back because I don't trust the company anymore.

This is complete incompetence. I understand that sometimes a repair can take a while to complete, cellphones are highly technical devices. However, taking eight months to repair a fairly normal phone is completely unacceptable.

I think that we should BOTH approach the store and tell them that Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act 2018 says that consumers have “the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects”. Clearly a phone that doesn’t work properly fails this test.

We should also tell them that Section 14 (1) of the Act says that when “a supplier undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of a consumer, the consumer has a right to … timely performance and completion of those services” and “timely notice of any unavoidable delay”. In other words, a store like this one should do things reasonably quickly and they need to tell you if there’s going to be any delay. Finally, the Act says that consumers have a right to “performance of the services in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect”.

Let’s see if the pressure of us both educating them about the law will add some pressure.

Saturday 1 August 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

My phone doesn’t work!

In June, I bought an iPhone 7 Plus from a local company I had seen on Facebook that sells electronics. On June 23rd I met up with the lady and she gave a phone that was sealed and assured me that it was brand new.

At that time, she did not have any forms with her for both of us to sign the warranty card she said we would sign, let alone the receipt. We went to the nearest Internet cafe in main mall where we had met for her to print it. I signed the form and she signed later after I told her to sign because she seemed to be forgetting that we are both signing the form.

She said she does not have a receipt book with her so she will not give it to me right away but will email it or send it through WhatsApp when she got home, of which she did not to date.

On July 1st my headsets were only working on one side. She told me it was probably because I stepped on them as she has never had such complaints before. She proceeded to say that phone accessories are not covered on the warranty card. On 15th July, I noticed the flashlight was not working and thought it was just a problem for that time so I just left it as is. However, a few days later I noticed that also the back camera that was not functioning as it was just blank when I tried using it. On the 19th, I woke up to a phone that was malfunctioning as I could not hear people during calls and they cannot hear me too. Additionally, whenever I try to place WhatsApp video and audio calls, they fail.

On the 19th I went back with another complaint about all I just mentioned and all she said was I probably dropped the phone. She went on to say I probably dropped it in water even though this model is waterproof. Again, she mentioned that I was the first ever to complain about her products.

I am therefore seeking for assistance as it is clear that her herself has no intentions whatsoever to assist me and she is not responding to me anymore.

What sort of phone retailer can’t give you a receipt or proof of the warranty? What sort of phone retailer makes up a series of excuses when the phone has a long series of faults? She’s entitled to claim you dropped the phone or stepped on the earphones when there’s some evidence to back up those claims. Finally, what sort of retailer uses a company name like this one did (which I’ve hidden for now) when no such company has been registered with CIPA?

The answer is simple. A phone retailer that isn’t really a phone retailer. I’ve contacted her and asked what she plans to do to honour the warranty that the law requires she offers you.

Is this pricing allowed?

Is there any reason shops in Botswana continue to sell us stuff at the same price as in South Africa but in Pula. For example I bought a couch at P4,999 and when I went online I noticed it's R4,999 in South Africa. Is this OK? Does government allow this?

You’ve asked a really important question. I think we’ve all seen this in many stores that also operate in South Africa. The number used to show the price is either the same or very close to that shown in SA, just like in your example. Just a few days ago a member of our Facebook group posted a picture of a tub of ice cream that still had its South African price displayed. The South Africa price was R52.99 and the local price was shown as P50.95. If the current exchange rate was used accurately the price to us should have been around P41.

In the past we’ve asked some of these stores why there has been such a difference. They told us that that it came from the added transport costs but that doesn’t make sense as they transport goods further within SA. They’ve also claimed it related to taxes, duties and labour costs but none of that makes any real sense.

In 2015 the Ministry of Trade and Industry said that it was an “unfair trade practice" if "the Pula/ Rand exchange rate differential is not passed onto the consumer" and they warned that businesses not doing this should "stop forthwith and failure to do so may result in their trade licenses being reviewed, which may lead to their suspension or cancellation”. I think it’s time the authorities took another look at that idea, don’t you?