Saturday 31 October 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will they clear my name?

In 2018 I owed a store some money since I had an account with them. During that year I stupidly didn't pay up my monthly debt. They ended up submitting my name as a debtor at ITC. In 2019 I started making payments towards my debt and I finished all the payments. I was paying through a debt collector in Botswana. I paid all the money and they even produced a letter showing my debt clearance. I called them the store telling them I had been cleared off their debtors and kindly requested if they could remove the flag against my record. Even now they still haven't waived the flag against me. It has now been a year.

I have some business ideas that require me to ask for assist from banks but all these banks remind me that I owe. I talk to them and they say I should talk to ITC for them to clear me. How best can I move from here? I'm strained financially from making international calls. Any positive help?

Unfortunately, I don't have any good news for you.

When you have a debt like yours the lender, in this case the store, is entitled to register that debt with a credit reference bureau. They can do this because you agreed that they could when you signed the original contract with them, it would have been in the small print of the agreement. The reason they do this is to warn other lenders that you are probably going to be a high risk if they lend money to you or offer you credit. If all lenders share this information then the overall risk to the entire industry goes down a little.

However, what they often forget to tell people is that even when you completely pay off a debt, your record will still show the debt for up to two years. That's because lenders also need to know about your recent history, not just the debts you currently have. I know this seems frustrating but it's actually in all of our interests for things to work this way. When someone fails to pay off a debt they might eventually be forced to repay it but in the meantime it's the other borrowers who pay the price.

My advice would be to put your business ideas on hold for a short period until you've stabilized your financial situation. That way you can start a business on a sound financial basis rather than being someone with a poor credit record.

Do I owe them?

I am a holder of a store credit card. Though I don't have proper records I have been holding the card for a long time. In brief I visited the store on the 24th May 2020 to purchase a vacuum cleaner which was costing around P830. I wanted to use my store card to keep it active as I knew I was not owing the store and to my surprise I was told that my card was owing an amount of P61 of which I did not know. Following that I opted to pay cash and further settled the P61. Today I went to Game stores to inquire of the alleged pending balance which is said to be more than P200 by a guy I spoke to over the phone alleged to be in South Africa, still I can't get answers as to why my account is still accumulating these funds.

I am really not happy because the South African guy told me that my account will continue accumulating money, and I was denied the opportunity to see the store manager and advised to come on Friday.

I don't like store cards. In fact, I REALLY dislike store cards. Firstly, they're a hugely expensive way to buy things. The stores tell us that their cards are about convenience, simplicity, rewarding loyalty and helping customers but they're really just a way to lend us money at very high interest rates. And they often have some deeply unpleasant terms and conditions.

You are now seeing the effect of those conditions. For some reason you owed them a mere P61 and within days it's become P200. That amount will grow and grow until they're convinced you've paid them everything they can squeeze from you. I think you should contract the store manager and insist of an explanation for the P61. I know you said that you were denied the opportunity to meet with the manager but I've emailed them and I'm sure they'll change their mind and let you have a conversation.

And the final suggestion is a simple one. Once you've paid everything they can prove you owe them, cancel the card. In future buy things only with money you have, not money you're borrowing from the store.

Sunday 25 October 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can she get a refund or a replacement?

My wife bought a phone from a store at the Station Mall with high purchase and she collected the phone on the 30th July. On the 6th September the phone went off and refused to power on. On 7th she took it back to them and they took it for fixing somewhere in Commerce Park so she spent the whole month without a phone. They gave it back to her on the 6th October. On 16th October in the morning the phone did the same thing so she returned it back to them again asking for a refund or a new phone but they refused to both of those and said they are takin it back again for fixing of which they are saying it should be a minimum of 21 days. In the mean time there is nothing they can help her with but she is paying her monthly instalments.

So my question is what can she do in dis situation and how can you advice or help her?

Unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. This store needs a quick lesson in Consumer Protection Act 2018. 

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 this phone wasn't in good working order when it failed the first time. Section 16 (3) of the Act says that when a product is faulty the supplier is required to offer their customer one of the 'three Rs', a refund, replacement or a repair but it's up to the store to decide which of those they offer her. They were within their rights to try and repair it. However, I wonder how competent the repair people are if it takes a month to fix a basic phone problem but maybe they'll say that Covid-19 delayed thing. It's possible, let's be charitable.

However, the Consumer Protection Act goes further. Section 16 (4) says that when "a supplier repairs goods returned by a consumer … and within three months the same problem recurs", they can now offer only TWO Rs, a refund or a replacement. They only get one chance to repair the item. If they fail to repair it the first time, the customer gets their money back or a replacement.

I suggest your wife goes back to the store and explains this to them. She can be their Consumer Rights Teacher for the day. If they fail to listen to her lesson we can ask the Competition and Consumer Authority to get in touch with them and flex their muscles. Meanwhile I've already contacted the store's Regional Manager so maybe we won't need to get too aggressive?

What can be done about my car?

I need assistance as I had purchased a vehicle from a local import car dealer and its has been giving me problems since the first week and the dealer is nowhere to be found.

We agreed 3 months warranty but the car gave me problems before the lapse. He took the car in for repairs but he then disappeared for a month saying he is still fixing it. The car drove for more than 600km when it was with him. I then told him I want my money back and he then told me the car is okay and he then sent someone else to give me the car unfixed and it was even worse than it was before and some parts and accessories of the car are missing. Since then he has been ignoring my calls and Whatsapp messages.

I don't often suggest this but I think you need to contact the Police. They might tell you that it's a civil matter but I think you should stand your ground and make it clear that he appears to have taken parts from the vehicle and has "obtained by false pretence" when he sold you the car. I understand that the charge might not stick but a phone call from a persuasive police officer might apply a little pressure.

Do you think a call from Consumer Watchdog telling him that we'll continue to cover the story in The Voice until he fixes it might help as well?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my bed?

Good morning Richard! I bought a bed on laybye. I was to pay for 6 months then I cleared all the payments within two months but when it was time to deliver the bed they told me it was rainy so they will have to wait to avoid it from being damaged by the rain and I understood. Five days passed without rain but my bed has not been delivered. I called them and asked why they didn't deliver? I was told that they have no stock so I have to wait again. So my question was can I get a refund because I really need the bed urgently? Please help. 

I suppose we should thank the company for not delivering the bed during the rain. That was kind of them. I think.

However, that's where their kindness seems to end and their uselessness began. Yes, it's been raining a little bit recently but hardly enough to stop a store from delivering your bed. Haven't they heard of weather forecasts? Don't they have a weather app on their phone? I suspect that was just a cover story to hide something else, that they didn't have the bed you'd bought in stock.

That's just incompetent and the store needs to remedy this situation immediately. They either need to deliver your bed today (which obviously they can't because they don't have one) or they need to give you your money back so you can take it to a store that's going to treat you with a little respect.

Is it really that difficult to ship someone a bed they've already paid for? I sometimes wonder why some stores exist if they can't even do basic things like deliver a product.

I'll also get in touch with the store's Head Office and see if they can't help the store do the right thing.

Must I go online?

I have been banking with my bank from 1996 to date. Just of recently they have introduced this electronic system to which they force everyone to use but due to some circumstances beyond my control I can not join it simply because the other shareholders are abroad and cannot be here to authorise this change.

I submitted salaries for my employees last week Tuesday up to this moment thy haven't been paid. I went to the bank and they have promised to do it but it's another day going without them been paid. I asked them if they can give me a cheque book so I can pay them using cheques they said they no longer issue check books.

I did my best to leave the bank without ripping the place apart and appear on news at 7. It shouldn't be a must that I should use internet banking. What if I don't want to? I'm willing to pay for all the charges so they leave the old system on.

Unfortunately, times change and while it's sometimes uncomfortable consumers need to move with the times. Cheque books are a thing of the past and that's actually a good thing in my view. Whether we like it or not the future of banking is electronic. Today and in the future we'll be interacting with our banks, insurance companies, cellular network providers and even our supermarkets using our cellphones and laptops. That's just how things work in 2020 and it's not going to change. It actually makes life a lot simpler and more secure.

In fact, I think you should embrace it. If you're running a company it's so much safer to pay your staff using your computer than it is the old-fashioned way. Spend a little time with your bank and I'm sure they'll help you understand how to use their online systems and you'll soon see how much easier your working life will become.

Finally, I don't see why your shareholders being overseas makes any difference. I'm sure the bank can contact them on your behalf and accept electronic instructions to make the necessary changes. I know the bank will accept such instructions because it's 2020. I also know this will happen because I bank with the same bank as you. If they can help me, they can help you too.

Saturday 10 October 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

When can I get my money back?

Dear Richard, please help. I am a customer of a panel beating busines. Three months ago I erroneously deposited P8,000 into their account which is linked to my account because of previous transactions. I approached the owner immediately after the transaction. The gentleman was furious and verbally abusive towards my request to return the money. He even went to an extent of threatening to refuse with my money and insinuated that if I want I can get a lawyer as I can't afford one.. It is an arid environment for every business and I would like to get my money back.

I have contacted him several times and he has continued to be verbally abusive and delaying the return of the money. Last I communicated with him he said he would deposit this past Friday but to date he has not. Is there a way you can assist?

This is completely unacceptable. At most it should take a couple of days to reverse a transaction like this. I contacted the guy and he responded, telling me that "there was a fraudulent transaction for the same amount occurred on my account, my bank is attending to this they now require a proof of his transfer into my account". Ok, if that's true, it might be a good reason why the repayment might be delayed by a couple of extra days, but certainly not by three months. Also, you and I both know that you sent him the proof of payment a long time ago.

He then said that "this person has not paid by EFT into my business previously" and I know that's untrue because you sent me details of previous occasions when you'd paid him electronically.

When I mentioned that I would be reporting about this issue in The Voice he responded by saying that "you may take this to The Voice as the error is not mine and there are procedures to be adhered to when returning erroneous EFT." Ok, I've now done that. It's now up to this guy to do the right thing and repay you your money.

Update: The money was finally repaid.

When can she get her phone back?

Please assist me. My sister bought an iPhone 8 from a company on Facebook 3 months ago. Just last week the phone was unable to get on network. We then took it to the company and told them the problem. They then said its because the phone fell. Mind you, this phone never fell. We put the screen protector and cover on day 1. Now the guy comes back and says he is fixing it. We asked him whats wrong and he keeps changing stories and being very rude to me and my sister. We bought the phone for P7,250. And this is apparently a new phone. He had said it carries a 1 year warranty. He further claims he has taken it to a repairman yet in another conversation he said he isn't fixing it. 

Now they are insulting us. We tried going to ask for a receipt just now they threw us out. How can u help us or how do we get help?

Another supplier who doesn't care about their customers. I particularly dislike cellphone stores who whenever someone reports a faulty phone immediately blames the customer for dropping it or getting it wet, even when there's no evidence whatsoever. The fact that the store immediately decided to repair the phone shows that even they didn't believe their first excuse.

I messaged the store and the manager responded, "with due respect i dnt discuss business things on whatsapp kindly come to the office". I tried email instead and they seem to be ignoring that as well.

I suggest you contact the Competition and Consumer Authority and lodge a complaint with them. I've emailed a senior manager at the CCA to warn them expect your complaint. They're waiting to do their job and hopefully force this guy to show a little respect to the person who pays his bills.

Update: He emailed me saying "we took it to the guy who fix our phone for repair i cnt be sure when will the phone done bt as soon ask it is done  sh will be contacted to come collect her phone". Keep me updated!

Monday 5 October 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

My eggs!

In July I bought an incubator from a guy in Palapye. I loaded eggs for the first time and they fell to the bottom of the incubator and broke. I reported it and sent pictures and he promised to replace it with a new one the following Tuesday. In the meantime, I had fresh eggs from the farm which had to be incubated within 10 days. He later asked to change to Thursday and he now wanted to fix it, and I refused and told him to stick to our agreement.

My husband went to Palapye to return the incubator a few days later to swap and when he got to Palapye, there was no new incubator and instead he just replaced the motor on the one we were returning. I only noticed when it arrived that it was actually the same one. I however went ahead and loaded the eggs which were about to expire. Some had already expired by the time.

When I checked the incubator when I got back from the farm I noticed the exact same thing had happened. The whole bottom tray had dropped the eggs the previous day and the upper two trays were not turning properly. I immediately reported this and he promised to replace the incubator by the end of the week. After that he had stopped taking my calls and not responding to my Whatsapp messages but leaving them on read. I requested a refund because I could now see that the new incubator is not forthcoming and I was continuing to lose fresh eggs which needed to be incubated within 10 days or less.

I paid him P5,000 and was never supplied with a fully functioning incubator. I have lost more than 700 eggs so far and still counting. All I need is a refund so I can buy a new one from elsewhere and stop incurring further losses. Please help me Richard. What are my options?

Your options are simple. 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 incubator. You followed the correct procedure when you returned it and allowed him to offer you one of the three Rs, a refund, replacement or a repair and he had the right to repair it. Once. The Act also 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. So then he had just two options. Replace it completely or refund you and clearly he's decided not to replace it. So it's simple. It's refund time.

I've contacted him and explained the rules and we'll wait to see what he says. Maybe he likes the idea of being famous? I suspect not.

My shoes are falling apart!

I bought Timberland boots from a store for P1,200. I only wore the boot for 3 days after collecting and it was already showing signs of tearing. I returned the boot back to the shop and they took it and told me they will wait to hear from their boss who is the shop owner.

I waited and went back to them after two days and when I got there they told me their boss said he will discount it by P200. I told them that won't help as this is supposed to be a Timberland, the toughest shoe by far. I told them I would like to speak to the owner or they give me his numbers but they refused.

I returned to them again after a day after I told them I want my money back and they should tell him that but they're telling me a different story, that he said he won't discount neither would he also accept the shoe back as it looks like I misused it but the receipt are there to prove and the day I returned the shoe and it is still there at their store. The owner said he can't be contacted and doesn't want to meet up with me.

How can you help me with this situation?

I'm not an expert but I know Timberland has a reputation for producing footwear that is almost indestructible. I don't believe they start falling apart after only three days.

However, I think I know the reason why. I think they're fakes and I think this for a few reasons. Firstly, it's the simple fact that they're falling apart. Then there's the price. I checked online and genuine Timberland Shoes like the ones you bought cost at least twice as much as you paid. Then there's the final clue. Timberland told me so. I contacted them with the name of the store and they told me that this store isn't an authorised Timberland retailer. I think this store might end up in some serious trouble. They deserve it.