Saturday 19 December 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my money?

I've been scammed of P36,000 by a furniture store in Francistown.

At the beginning of November I had identified a lounge suite at their store. They had the maroon and dark brown colours on display. The staff then informed me that they do sell this sofa set in black too. Towards the end of November I went back to the store to confirm they still had the black one, they insisted I pay ASAP as the sofas are running out.

I then decided to purchase the black leather lounge suite from them on the 27th of November. After having sent the money directly to the company account they informed me that they do not sell a black version of the sofa set even though they had been telling me for weeks before that they did.

I then asked for a refund and they have been sending me back and forth between their head office in SA. It's now 2 weeks later and we still have not received our money. They have also been trying to convince me to accept a different sofa set of which I did not want.

I have now already gotten another sofa at a different store and I would just like my money back.

What actions can I take to ensure I get my funds back?

You can complain. Loudly. Very loudly.

You don't need to be an attorney to understand that you had a contract with the furniture store which both parties agreed to and which THEY then broke. They agreed to supply you with a black lounge suite and took a huge amount of your money in return. Then they broke that agreement.

They also ignored their obligations under the Consumer Protection Act. Section 7 (6) and 7 (7) of the Act says that when "goods or services are not availed as advertised, the consumer shall have the right to cancel the contract" and that "the supplier shall refund the consumer the amount paid". The Act does NOT say that they are permitted to take two weeks to do this. It does NOT say that they can keep your money for as long as they like.

I've contacted the store's Head Office and I'm confident they'll see that their store has badly let you down and get you your refund very soon.

Where's my money too?

Late January somebody hit my car from behind. They had insurance and in early February I was asked by the insurance company to take my car for assessing at a repair shop. I did this and delivered the quotation for just over P13,000 to their office. I was asked to submit all my KYC documents online which I did. I have been following up constantly with them by phone calls and emails since May but still am waiting for the claim to be paid. I have called over 30 times to follow up but always get put on hold or am told they will return my call, which they have only done once but with no information to share with me. It has been 10 months now and I can't seem to get a result no matter how hard I try. Could you please help?

Someone who was trying to be difficult would argue that you are not the customer of the insurance company. The other driver, the one who paid for the insurance policy is their customer and their obligation is to help them, not you. But I disagree. Their customer damaged your vehicle and their job is to protect the other driver's interests by honouring their insurance policy and paying you what you deserve. If they fail to do so, you'll be entitled to take legal action against the other driver and demand payment from them, not the insurance company. Do the insurance company want their client being dragged to court because of their incompetence? Do they really want their customer to report them to NBFIRA for failing to honour their obligations? Do they really?

I've emailed the CEO of the insurance company to see if he can intervene and encourage his colleagues to offer a decent service. If that doesn't work then you and the other driver should combine forces and report them to NBFIRA.

Saturday 12 December 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What should I do?

I need help. So I borrowed P5,000 from microlender last year November so on the contract I was supposed to pay P497 per month for the next 24 months. So for the past 4 months I haven't paid them or they haven't deducted money for my account so I was also at fault for neglecting to pay.

Now they have hit me with a notice last week saying that they will bring debt collectors at home or at work. I sent them an email trying to tell them they can start deducting double the amount till I cover my arrears but I got no response, I tried contacting them on Facebook and WhatsApp numbers but no luck. I do not have a phone at the moment so I can't call them. What's the next option for me because I don't want court stuff.

Firstly, you've done the right thing by not trying to escape your debts. Many people in your position go into denial and pretend that their debts don't exist and pray that if they stay silent long enough the problem will go away. However, they soon learn that this NEVER happens. Debts don't disappear if you ignore them, they get even bigger and will come back to make your life very difficult. Even more difficult than before.

The most important thing is to keep trying to contact them and when you finally talk to them, do your best to negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford and which the company can accept. The good news is that almost always a company like this will be prepared to talk terms with you. Yes, you've frustrated their plans to make lots of money from you by defaulting on your repayments but I bet they would prefer to get their money from you slowly rather than get nothing at all.

I'll also get in touch with them and see if they can contact you to discuss this further.

The bigger lesson is to avoid microlenders at all if you can. They can be an extremely expensive way to borrow money. For example, from the paperwork you've sent me, I can see that you borrowed P5,000 last year and have so far paid them a total of P4,473. However, once you add in the interest they were charging you have only reduced the principal amount you owe to P3,200. If nothing had gone wrong and you repaid everything on time you would have aid them a total of P11,928 to borrow P5,000 over just two years.

You've only paid off P1,800 of the amount you owed and you've paid them an extra P2,673 in interest and fees. And then it gets worse. Once you add in all the other things you owe them because you defaulted, your outstanding debt is now P5,989.94. That's a very expensive way to borrow money.

Where's my refund?

I made a purchase of a couch at a furniture store on the 1st of August this year 2020 for P5,519 and they failed to deliver. I requested a refund on the 8th October and they failed to refund me til now. What can I do?

You can lose your temper, that's what you can do.

Obviously I don't mean you should be aggressive or rude but you are entitled to be angry. You're also entitled to express that anger. You're entitled, I would even say you're obliged to stand up for your rights.

The simple fact is that you paid them a large amount of money more than four months ago for an item that hasn't been delivered. I know the store will probably talk about Covid and border problems and those are reasonable observations but that doesn't excuse them from keeping you informed. In fact, they had an obligation to do that.

Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act requires a supplier like this store to deliver goods in a timely manner. It also says that the supplier must give you "timely notice of any unavoidable delay". Clearly they need a little education about their obligations to keep customers informed. I also believe that they should deliver the refund in a "timely" manner.

Let's help educate them, shall we?

Saturday 5 December 2020

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get a refund?

Good afternoon. I bought a demo vehicle from a dealer in Gaborone in February 2020 and have never had peace with the vehicle. My major problem with the vehicle is the excessive wear and tear of the tyres, especially the front ones. I had immediately reported the matter to the dealer and only now they want to replace the tyres, with the same brand, which I am not comfortable with.

Furthermore, I had wanted to test drive a similar car to compare the ride comfort, something that has not happened up to now.

I have now reached a stage that I don't want the car anymore as it is not satisfactory. Please advise if it is possible to claim back my deposit of P100k that I paid when purchasing the vehicle.

I don't think you have a right to demand a refund. At least not now. Yes, I understand that the car has given you problems but the dealer is within their rights to do their best to repair the problem you presented. Once. 

The Consumer Protection Act says that when a product such as a car like yours has a problem during the warranty period the dealer has a right to decide what they want to do, choosing from three options. They can offer you a repair, a replacement or a refund, the three Rs. Clearly any sensible supplier will choose the simplest and cheapest option for them which is to try and repair the problem. They have the right to do that and I think that's what you should allow them to do. Give them that chance.

Then things change. If a supplier repairs something and the same problem reoccurs within the next three months, the dealer then only has two options. We're down to just 2 Rs, a replacement or a refund.

I suggest you let them try to fix the problem with the tyres and then keep an extremely close eye on the tyres for the next three months. If there's even a hint of the same problems go back to the dealer for a much better solution.

Can I get a refund too?

I want to know like when you ordered something online and you went to the agents but they tell you that your goods are soon to arrive and now the month is about to end and still nothing pops up can you like ask for refund? It was supposed to take 3 months to arrive but after 3 months when I asked them they said there were some delays. Mind you this 3 months ended in September so even today when I ask they still say maybe end of month.

Yes, you certainly can ask for a refund. Eventually.

Section 14 of the 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 … timely performance and completion of those services". The Act doesn't say what "timely" means exactly and actually I don't think the law should say what it means. Things vary. Fixing a gearbox takes longer than selling airtime. Getting a home loan takes longer than getting cash from an ATM. However, I think we all know when something is NOT timely.

We all know that things have been difficult for everyone this year and in particular for deliveries from overseas. We all understand this but the Consumer Protection Act goes further than just saying things should be delivered in a timely manner. It also says that a supplier must give you "timely notice of any unavoidable delay". It also says that when "a supplier fails to perform a service to the standards" the consumer has a right to a very simple thing. A refund.

Let's both approach this company and make it clear that they've had enough time, they haven't cared for you in the way they should and they owe you your money. It's not too difficult to understand.