Saturday 25 December 2021

The rules on advertising

The Consumer Protection Act 2018 did something new. Something that had never been done before.

It included strict rules on how companies can behave when they advertise their goods and services. 

There were hints in earlier laws but this was serious, specific and comprehensive. And it's good. And it came with serious penalties for those companies that decide not to behave properly.

Here's a brief summary of the rules. 


Suppliers MUST NOT make false claims about:
  • The nature of a product and its uses 
  • Whether something is new or used 
  • If something has been approved 
  • When or for how long it's available 
  • When it can be made available or delivered 
  • The price 
  • Warranties, guarantees and consumer rights 
They MUST:
  • Advertise goods for the real price 
  • Have enough stock to meet reasonably expected demand 
  • Disclose any limitations on the stock available 
  • Indicate how long the goods will be available 
  • Understand that if they fail to disclose how long something will be available, it must be available for one month 
  • Understand that if goods are not availed as advertised the consumer can cancel the purchase and get a refund. 

When something is offered for sale:
  • The information provided on goods for sale must be accurate, clear and complete 
  • The price must be displayed clearly 
  • The price must be displayed IN PULA
  • They supplier must not charge the consumer more than the price displayed 

If a supplier breaks these rules they can face a fine of up to P50,000, jail for up to 3 years, or both.

Saturday 18 December 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my stuff?

In September 2020 I paid for building material amounting to P15,000. Then my builder lost the receipt/invoice. I report the issue to the supplier. Their Security Manager advised me to give them 3 months for them to check if the material did not leave their shop. After 3 months the manager kept telling me they have not yet managed to resolve my issue. I tried to go to other managers in the shop they told me he is the only one I have to deal with.

I went to Consumer Affairs and they told me there is nothing much to do because its me who lost the receipt. They advised me to be patient with them. They talked with the Security manager but they eventually gave up. I have been patient with the Security Manager even up to now. They are still telling me they have not yet balanced their books, therefore, they can not help me.

I need you advice on what I can do now.

This is really unacceptable. I understand that you lost your receipt and that makes life a little bit more difficult for the store. I get that and I'm sure you do too. However, I can understand this being difficult only if the store doesn't keep any records. But it's 2021. They'll have a computerised point of sale system that connects to their billing system and they can easily find a record showing that you bought these supplies on a particular date and a particular time. If you paid for the goods using your bank card they'll definitely have very detailed records but even if you paid cash they a professional supplier will still have records.

There are two possibilities. Either they don't have detailed records of things they've sold in which case they're incompetent and can't be trusted or they can't be bothered to check for you in which case they're also incompetent and can't be trusted.

I'll get in touch with the store for you and remind them that they have an obligation to act professionally, promptly and respectfully. They can't wait 15 months without giving you what you paid for and make up excuses about why they can't.

I need that money back!

Richard I need your help because I feel I have been unfairly mistreated. On the 1st December I ordered a smart watch online from a local company, it costed P499. The site promises free next day delivery. After 2 days with no word from them I called and the man told me the watch is out of stock, and he promised to get back to me with a solution to my predicament. I waited for a call which never came through, had to call him several times until I was referred to someone else who he said he was his brother. He advised I top up with P200 to get a different watch which I did instantly. I was told the watch was gonna be sent through the following day. 2 more days pass with no watch or an explanation on what the hold up is. I'm told the brother is in SA and he is the only one who can confirm the shipment of my order. I eventually get assistance from someone else and he assured me he will send the watch on the 9th. When the watch is about to be sent they told me they are sending me one that costs P529 but I paid P699.) He eventually sent the watch.

Now here is the thing, They advertised something which is not in stock and it's still advertised as available. They failed to communicate with me unless I called them. I had to pay for the delivery myself because they didn't pay the couriers. Right now I am an unhappy client, feeling unfairly treated and I want some of my money back.

It's not even about the money, it's about the principle. Please help.

I think we need to teach this company a few lessons. Firstly, they need to learn some common courtesy. You don't treat a customer with such rudeness.

Then they need to learn about Section 5 of the Consumer Protection Act which is called "Prohibition of false or misleading representations". This section talks very clearly about making false claims in advertisements. Then there's Section 7 which is entitled "Bait advertising" and this talks about the same things. It also says that a supplier who breaches these rules on advertising can face "a fine not exceeding P50 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both". I don't think they need to go to prison yet. That's unless they fix this problem and offer you the money you're owed. Then I think handcuffs might be necessary.

Saturday 11 December 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

He's ignoring me!

I gave someone a deposit of P700 to manufacture steel window frames for me on the 9th of November. He has been taking me from pillar to post since, claiming there isn't any material in all GC shops. I asked him to return my money on several occasions as my project is lagging behind and on all counts he promised to do so. He is not taking my calls any more. On 26th November I used another SIM card and I pretended to be somebody else and I asked for a quote. He quoted me and assured me that material is available.

What can I do?

What can you do? You can get angry, that's what you can do. You can get even more angry than you are already. This sort of thing is happening way too often and the time has come to take the battle to the people that let us down and then refuse to talk to us. My patience with such people has disappeared and I think yours should too.

The first step in this battle is to contact this guy and explain to him what the Consumer Protection Act says about situations like this. Section 14 (1) of the Act says that where:
"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 exactly what "timely" means but I think we all know when something is NOT "timely". This guy obviously doesn't know what it means.

The Act also says that as consumers we are entitled to "timely notice of any unavoidable delay". Again, I don't think this guy has a clue about this.

I really respect your investigative skills. More consumers should do what you did. Use another number to call someone who's let them down and see if they still exist. Then ask some questions to find out the truth.

I'll also contact this guy and see if he really wants a battle with you, me and the readers of The Voice. He needs to know he'd lose.

If you break it, you pay for it

A member of the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group recently posted a question about breakages. A store put up a sign near the plates they were selling saying "If you break, you pay". Was this fair? Was it legal? Was the store allowed to post such a warning?

Yes, they most certainly are.

I think it's quite simple. If you break something that doesn't belong to you, you replace it, don't you? If I came to your house and broke something, wouldn't you expect me either to replace it or pay you to do so? I don't see that it's any different in a store.

Obviously, a decent store with a compassionate manager might be tolerant of minor mistakes. They might think that a very minor financial loss is insignificant compared to their relationship with a customer. But that's just good customer service, not a consumer right. There are also circumstances when I think the store should be more relaxed. If they've stacked things in a way likely to make things get damaged, then they need to take some responsibility.

Some members of the group asked whether the store's Insurance would cover the damage. Yes, in principle it might but in practice it won't. Insurance policies almost always include an excess amount. This is an amount that the customer pays before the policy pays out. This is done specifically to prevent customers from submitting small claims and not swamping the insurance company with endless paperwork. Anyone with a home or vehicle insurance policy will know about this. You pay the first couple of thousand and the insurance company pays the rest. I suspect that if the store has an insurance policy they won't be able to submit a claim for just the price of a plate when their excess might be a few thousands.

The lesson is simple. Treat a store's property the way you would treat a friend's property. Even when they're not your friend.

Saturday 4 December 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why won't they take it back?

Good day Richard. Kindly assist. I asked my sister in gabs to buy a TV. She managed to buy the TV but when she finally sent me the details I discovered that its FHD instead of the UHD. I asked her to return it and ask for a refund or because its not what I wanted.

Now they are giving her a hard time. They're saying they only return faulty products but the return policy says otherwise.

How do i get them to assist her accordingly because they are refusing to take it back.

Firstly, let's admit that you are one of the lucky ones. You chose to buy something from a store that has a generous returns policy. Most stores only offer what the law demands. That says that we can return items only when they are faulty or when the item was somehow mis-sold. They don't allow you just to change your mind if you don't like the item or it doesn't meet your needs.

But this store is one of the better ones. Some stores decide to go above just what the law demands and offer their customers something special. These are the stores we should support because they offer much more than others.

This store has a "7-Day Return / Exchange Policy" which says "if you are not completely satisfied with your products, we will gladly exchange them, or alternatively, refund your money, provided the original receipt is supplied, and that the goods purchased are not used, still in their original condition and packaging, and in a condition for re-sale".

I respect that. That's a real advantage to consumers like you and me. However, it seems that some people in this company have decided that they know better than the company policy and have decided you deserve less than they offer other people. In your place I would be very angry.

I contacted the store and asked them to look again at this situation and apply their own policies. Let's hope they can read their own policy and do the right thing?

Update: The store responded saying that the 7-day policy only applies to items that are faulty which is simply NOT what the policy says. I've tried to explain to them that the Consumer Protection Act is very strict and says a supplier can't just make things up if they feel like it. They also complained that you took 6 days to change your mind. It's a long time since I studied maths but isn't 6 less than 7?

Where's my CV?

I paid a certain document consultancy agency money for them to do a CV for me. They said that the CV will be ready in 24hrs which wasn't true. I had to keep calling them amd bothering them. Then finally they sent a CV that seems to be an edited version of someone elses CV, with wrong qualifications, mixed up details which i brought to their attention.

I brought it to their attention and they said they would fix it but nothing. Their phones are off. Is it possible to get my money back in this case since they failed to do their part? Not only that when I call they switch their phones off.

Yet again a company thinks it's ok to go silent on a customer who has paid them good money to perform a service for them. Why do they think this is a good idea? Do they really think we'll give up?

The Consumer Protection Act says that we are entitled to services that are delivered "in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect". I expect that if I pay someone to do my CV they should at least include my details, not someone else's.

I contacted the company and but didn't get a reply.

Update: They didn't reply to me but I understand they you your completed CV, this time with your details, not those of a stranger. I hope it's ok now?

Saturday 27 November 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should I get my goods?

May you please help me get my money back from a company that advertises on Facebook. They scammed me of my heard earned P1,000 that I sent to them for quilt bedding sets on 8th September. I did a bank transfer and they did confirm receipt and later said they will send them after 5 days when they receive new stock because they were now our of stock of my bed size because I had paid for super king bedding sets.

I have tried to reach out to them but they no longer respond to my messages on Whatsapp and my number has been blocked.

I have bad news and good news. The bad news is that I've dealt with this company before on behalf of another consumer. They were not very helpful then and refused to even deal with her because she had criticised them on Facebook. They have a habit of going silent on people who dare to criticise them.

The good news is that this time they're talking to me. Maybe they developed a conscience? And maybe they realised that giving their customers the silent treatment doesn't help their business.

They responded to my messages and told me "I believe they all received a message from us that we had a delay for deliveries since we had closed down for almost a month. The team is working on re-delivering all orders that had returned back to the office, they should have received they order by end of this month. Thank you."

With luck this means you'll get what you paid for. If they let you down again, I think it's time to take the gloves off and report them to various authorities. We can start with the Competition and Consumer Authority who have the power to demand they do what the law demands. But maybe we should report them to a body that is even scarier, a group that genuinely can make or break a company? Readers of The Voice. Do they really want to take that risk?

Should I get a refund?

I bought an ice pop machine and the machine worked the day they trained us to use it but from then onwards the machine never worked. That was April, I reported the problem to the owner and he promised to give us another machine but till date no machine. In August after losing so much business I asked him to please refund me my money and take his machine.

He keeps on making me false promises. What do I do in such a case? He has even blocked my calls.

May you please advise me what do I do?

I really don't understand why some suppliers think it's a good idea to go silent on the customers they've let down. Do they really think that this will make customers give up? Will it really allow them to keep their customer's money and not give them the products and services they paid for?

No, it won't.

The Consumer Protection Act says a few things about situations like this. It says that consumers have a right "to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects". If they fail to do that, the Act says they must either "repair or replace the defective goods" or "refund the consumer the amount already paid". I don't think that's hard to understand.

I contacted the guy and he responded quite quickly. He told me that he'd already spoken to you and agreed to repay you P1,200 since you used some of the products that came with machine, the flavours, colours, chemicals and the icepop tubing. He also told me that you agreed he can repay you in several instalments. He promised me that he'll pay you P600 by 27th November and the rest the following week.

Let's see if he keeps his promise. If he doesn't, I think he might also need to face the wrath of Voice readers.

Saturday 20 November 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's her pension?

I'm not sure if this is the right platform to seek help on but let me just try since I don't know what to do at this point. My mum retired last year October and it's been a year and a month now. She has not gotten her retirement package, she has made countless calls and visits to offices and she is told her file is going to BURS and even to date nothing has been done.

This has led to her not being able to keep up with payments for her policies and her credit card and loan that she should have cleared by now. Interest has been added and she gets calls from collectors. Her medical aid payments are also behind and her funeral policy. She is accumulating debt that could have been avoided. The administrators have been no help and the officer who is in charge of her file never picks calls or relays messages when she calls. We are left helpless now and I just resorted to this because she is getting old and this is taking a toll on her. We'll appreciate all the help you can give us.

This isn't the first complaint I've had about this situation and about this company. They seem to take quite a relaxed approach to processing retirement packages and have clearly forgotten that pensioners have a right to see things done properly and promptly.

I'm sure we all understand that there are procedures to be followed and BURS certainly have a role to play but that's no excuse for being so inefficient.

I'm no expert but I can't see why this process should take a matter of weeks, certainly not more than a year. That's just useless.

I contacted the pension administrators and they responded quite quickly. They said that "have escalated the complaint from the client to the relevant authorities. They will be assisted accordingly."

Let's hope that all the other retirement packages they're processing will be treated better. 

Update: The pension administrators tell me: "I have escalated the complaint from the client to the relevant authorities. They will be assisted accordingly."

Won't they fix my phone?

I need help with a phone i recently bought at Rail Park Mall. I bought an iPhone 7 128Gb end of September with 12 months warranty and on the 30th October the phone started glitching and showing lines in the screen. Also the touchpad wasn't responding. It was on a Sunday so I waited until Monday to take it back to them but what I am getting from them is a poor service and their technician is telling me that there isn't anything much they can assist me with as it seems like it's a manufacturer problem. But I bought it from them and it's still under warranty also at some point he was telling me he can refer me to another technician of which I will be the one paying if they manage to fix it.

The salesperson also suggested that I get help somewhere since they have lots of such complaints in their store.

No, No, and No again.

This is incompetence and neglect of the highest order.

The situation is actually very simple. They sold you a phone that should work. Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that we are entitled "to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects." This phone is clearly not that.

Frankly I don't care whether they think it's a manufacturer problem and neither should you. Section 16 (1) of the Act says that the "producer or importer, the distributor and the retailer each warrant that the goods comply with the requirements and standards". No longer can the retailer blame someone else and deny responsibility for fixing a faulty product. No more making excuses and passing responsibility to someone else. It's their job to fix it.

I think the best thing we can do is contact the store and make it very clear to them that they have an obligation to fix your phone and to do it quickly. No excuses.

Update: They're being a little slow to respond. We won't give up.

Sunday 14 November 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my TV?

Can you please help us locate the owner of a store. I long placed a TV order in March, and until now the owner hasn't delivered nor at least refunded us. We reported the matter to the Competition and Consumer Authority but they said they cant find him and he is not taking their calls. I call him almost everyday he doesn't take my calls, now he has blocked me. He even deleted the shop's facepage.

Maybe I have magical powers.

I messaged the owner of the store and he responded quite quickly, asking for your name, contact details and a copy of your receipt. I explained to him that I'm not sure that a receipt is necessary given that he has your name and cell number, I suggested that this should be enough to trace you in his records. That's assuming he HAS records.

It's quite surprising how often the smaller suppliers I contact with issues like yours don't seem to keep records, preferring to rely on nothing more than a receipt book and their own memory. I sometimes wonder whether it's just their way of keeping records out of sight from the authorities but maybe I'm being too suspicious.

Curiously, I checked out the company you paid and they are indeed a registered company but are owned by a parent company that was deregistered in July this year and therefore no longer operates. Maybe I'm being simple-minded but surely a company that is owned by a company that no longer exists, doesn't exist itself? The owner wasn't able to explain this to me.

I won't give up applying pressure to the owner, let's hope he does the decent thing.

Update: He's agreed to pay you P1,000 every two weeks until the debt is fully repaid.

Where's my car?

I ordered a car from UK worth 65k and have paid the 50% deposit last year September. I've been very patient with them since there were issues of lockdown but it's been 12 months now and they are not communicating. I've demanded my deposit but they tell me they can only refund when the car has arrived, which they also don't know when it'll arrive. Their last communication with me was a voicenote on Whatsapp on the 9 February saying the car is about to reach Durban. When I made follow up now the story has changed to saying they're checking at the port of loading if the car has been loaded. It's very frustrating and am thinking of taking the legal route.

I'm sure there are some respectable, reliable car importers that don't tell lies to their clients, I just haven't met many yet. But my experience is based almost entirely on the endless stream of complaints we receive, almost all of them telling stories very similar to yours. Some have waited even longer than you.

The last two years of Covid have made life very difficult for every company that moves goods from one place to another. We all understand that and I'm sure we've all been more tolerant of delays as a result. However, that doesn't excuse companies from their obligation to keep us informed. If there are delays the law says that suppliers should tell us about them. Often.

In your case I suspect we're dealing with something slightly different. He's not telling the truth. He claims not to know when the vehicle will arrive? I don't believe him. He later said he wasn't sure the vehicle had even been loaded? I still don't believe him.

I contacted the guy running the company and his response wasn't very helpful. When I mentioned that I'll be covering the issue in the media he said he'll be talking to his lawyer. Let's see what someone with an understanding of the law says to him. If the lawyer wants to talk, they know where to find me. If they want to get threatening, I'm looking forward to a good laugh.

If he doesn't cooperate, I think legal action might be the right approach but we can use various channels to make him do the right thing. We can involve the courts, the Police, the Competition and Consumer Authority and even the local Council to see if they want to renew his trading licence. I'm sure we'll find a way to make him to behave properly.

Saturday 6 November 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will they repair it?

Please may you assist.

I entered into a hire purchase agreement to buy sofas on 24 September 2021 paying a deposit of P2,000. However before even a month passed one of them was broken. I then informed my salesperson and a stock controller later on came to my house and took pictures, thereafter he said that he would inform me after forwarding to the manufacturer. He never did and I kept on going to their premises and calling to ask for feedback to no avail.

The first installment was due on 01 November and they advised me to continue paying as he will give me a response before the end of the day, but he never got back to me and I ended up making the payment to avoid arrears and other implications. Today he says that we should send him pictures to forward to the manufacturer which implies that he might have never done anything at all.

Please may you advise/assist on how to proceed. I am very stressed about having paid and continue paying for a defective product. I have all the intentions to pay off as per my agreement and on time.

First lesson. 

Just because you buy something on hire purchase, that doesn't mean a store can ignore your consumer rights. Your consumer rights are absolute and not something a supplier can argue with you about. 

Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that we have a right to "receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects". It doesn't say "except when bought on hire purchase". The Act says that goods that aren't up to standard can be returned and the supplier must offer us a repair, replacement or a refund, whichever they choose. It doesn't say "unless it's hire purchase".

I've sometimes heard that some suppliers will tell a consumer that because they signed a hire purchase agreement their rights are fewer than if they'd bought for cash. They'll point to a clause in the agreement that says they can do whatever they like when something goes wrong. The good news is that Section 23 of the Consumer Protection Act is very clear. A supplier may not enter into a contract which requires consumer to "waive any right" or which allows the supplier to "waive any liability". The Consumer Protection Act is in charge.

Meanwhile, it's incredibly important that you continue doing what you're doing, which is paying your instalments. You're right to want to "avoid arrears and other implications". The moment you stop paying, the store will start saying that you broke the agreement and that means they don't have to repair anything. Whether that's in line with the Consumer Protection Act is an issue we'll explore some other time. In the meantime, they can make your life extremely difficult and very poor.

We'll get in touch with the store and see if they can't move a little faster.

What is insurance?

Again, we were asked about insurance. Several people asked us about what happens when they cancel a funeral plan, having never submitted a claim. Do they get a refund of all the premiums they paid?

No, you don't get your premiums back. The only refund you might get is if the insurer deducts your premiums after you cancel the policy or if you paid for the plan in advance. Then you might get something back.

Think of it this way. Imagine you signed a tenancy agreement to rent a house and then paid the rent for several months, but you never actually moved in and the house was empty all the time you were paying. If, many months later, you terminated the agreement, would you get your rent back? No, you were paying for something you didn't use. It's not the landlord's fault you failed to move in, you could if you'd chosen to.

It's the same with insurance. You pay a premium every month so that if something bad happens, the insurer will pay the bills. If you or a loved one had passed away during the policy, you would have avoided any major funeral costs. But it DIDN'T happen. You were lucky and yes, so was the insurance company. I'm sure you're happy nobody died, aren't you?

Saturday 30 October 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is this phone new?

I was wondering if you could help me. I was bought an iPhone 11 by my father about a fortnight ago at a shop in Galo, Francistown. First, I received a notification that it couldn't be confirmed whether my phone had a genuine Apple display so I went back to the store and spoke to the owner, and he told me that some of the phones have those messages because when he receives them in bulk, some are faulty or damaged, so they're sent back to Apple to be fixed and sent back to him. He told me that the message would go away in a few days.

Some days later I had some more problems with the phone. It would either restart itself or the screen would just turn black, even though it was on. So I went back and he took the phone and gave me a new one. With the new one, the verification message still appears, which makes me suspicious. Also, the battery capacity is at 92%, which I thought was odd for a brand new phone. Today, it just randomly restarted. I've never had any problems with brand new phones in the past, and I don't want to have to keep having them exchanged.

Is there any action I can take?

Yes, there's a very simple action you can take. Go back to the store and tell them that the only option you'll consider is a complete refund.

These guys are clearly lying about the origin of the phones. They're either fakes, perhaps second hand phones they've bought from some other country or phones that have been repaired or refurbished. The condition of the battery suggests this is an old phone and when you sent me the serial number I was able to check and the phone is long out of warranty, again suggesting that it's not new.

I'll get in touch with them and explain this to them. If they give us even a hint of resistance we'll escalate this to the Competition and Consumer Authority. Do they want a fine of P50,000? A prison sentence? Both?

What is insurance?

A consumer reported to us that they'd hit another car and were charged by the Police. The other driver asked for P4,000 and so far he's paid them P3,500, owing them the remaining P500. Now he says he's getting calls from an insurance company, demanding a further P45,000 that they spent fixing the car. He asked if this is right?

Here's what might have happened. After the accident the other guy claimed against his insurance policy but had to pay an excess fee of P4,000. Our reader agreed to pay that for him. However, the insurance company had to pay a much larger amount to repair the car (minus the excess). They are now entitled to claim that amount from the guy who caused the accident.

Yet again we need to discuss insurance, how it works and what it is.

I found a quote on Wikipedia that said that insurance "is something people buy to protect themselves from losing money". When we buy an insurance policy, whether it's for a vehicle, a house, our property or someone's life or health, we pay a regular amount to the insurance company and if something bad happens to the property or people we've insured, the insurance company pays the bills.

However, the most important thing to understand about insurance is that an insurance policy only protects the person who pays for it and not anyone else. In this case, the insurance company are looking after the interests of their client, not the guy who caused the accident. If he'd has an insurance policy, his insurer would be protecting him. He didn't, so he's on his own.

In this situation, while it's unfortunate, what the insurance company is doing is correct. They're entitled to ask the person who caused the accident to pay the costs of putting things back to normal.

There's a simple way to prevent situations like this. If you get a car, get an insurance policy as well. The good news is that a third-party policy, one that just covers the damage you might cause to other people's vehicles, can be remarkably cheap. And it can save you a very great deal of money.

Sunday 24 October 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I change my mind?

Good day. Kindly assist. I purchased 8 dispensers from a company in Block 8. I was supposed to supply them to my client but when I got to their end the user didn't want it.

The same day I contacted the company I bought from, for exchange or refund since my client didn't want it but upon contacting the company they told me that they already used the funds. Today as I was making a follow up regarding the refund, the sales officer said there is no refund according to the manager.

I have a screenshot where the sales rep said that and my communication with the manager. I would really appreciate if I can be assisted because I need to supply my client asap.

I'm sorry but I'm not sure I can give you any good news.

The Consumer Protection Act says that you are entitled to a refund only if the goods you received were faulty or if they misled you somehow. Even then, you can't normally insist on a refund until the store has tried to repair or replace the item you bought. There is no immediate right to demand a refund, only the right to receive what you thought you were buying or a refund if they can't offer that.

In your case, unless I've misunderstood, the correct goods were supplied to you at the agreed time, at the right price and in good condition. The store has actually done everything a consumer might expect.

The problem is that there is no connection between your purchase of the goods from your supplier and your deal to supply the same goods to your client. The fact that your client then changed their minds isn't the fault of the company you bought the goods from.

In future in your position I would try to negotiate with a supplier that you can return the goods if they're not wanted, or agree with your client that they can't change their mind. Next time you should ask for a purchase order from your client that commits them to paying your invoice.

I want a working phone!

I bought a phone for P345 from a store in Rail Park Mall on the 28th. I realized the keypad isn't working. After the holidays I took it back and they tried to fix it. I even left it for a day or 2 with them but still it wasn't working. On Thursday last week then they only told me they will have to take it back to the manufacturer or where they bought it. I tried to explain that I can't stay without a phone as I need the phone to provide services for my business. The man who was assisting me then told me they will take it for 7 working days for fix, and they can't give me another phone as their warranty card says no refund and no exchange.

Here we go again. Another store that makes things up. I've heard from so many consumers who are told by stores, most often cellphone stores, that "there is no refund" and "there is no exchange".

But that's not a decision they're entitled to make. The Consumer Protection Act is clear that refunds and exchanges are most certainly option that any supplier MUST consider. They can't just deny their obligations under the law. In fact, there's a word for people that do that. Any guesses?

I suggest that we both approach this store and explain to them that they can't make up rules that satisfy their needs and don't satisfy the needs of their customers and the law. Do they really want the Competition and Consumer Authority on their case? Do they really want readers of The Voice to know how little they value their customers?

Finally, do they really want to be reminded that the maximum penalties for breaking the Consumer Protection Act are "a fine not exceeding P50 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both".

Well, do they?

Sunday 17 October 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where is it?

I commissioned a company to make a plant stand for me. They insisted that I pay a 70% deposit, which I did and I have the paperwork to prove it. They told me the work would be done in 4 - 8 working days. That did not happen and they requested an extension which I agreed to.

Two months passed without the stand and I requested my money back. Numerous times they said they would deposit the funds and I think it has been 4 months now. Now they won't pick up my calls and I am not sure whether I need to take them to the police or where to go to get my money back.

Let's talk about the Consumer Protection Act.

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".
Note that it says "timely performance". That means they must deliver the services in a reasonable time. Obviously that can vary depending on the circumstances. Some services take longer than others. But these guys told you that it would take just over a week. You were kind enough to give them an extension but I don't think you meant four months, did you? I don't think you said they could go silent, did you?

The same part of the Act also says that a supplier must give a consumer "timely notice of any unavoidable delay". This is actually very simple to understand. Suppliers are required by the law to keep their customers updated on progress and inform them of any delays. But perhaps more importantly, it's not just the law, it's good customer service. It's just reasonable behaviour.

I contacted the supplier and he's at least talking to me. He claims to be out of the country but I don't think that should make any difference. I'll keep the pressure up.

A simple rule about prices

In the last few weeks several people have contacted us reporting problems they'd experienced with prices. Most often people have told us about times when the price of an item at the till was higher than the price on the shelf. I know that's happened to me, it's probably happened to you as well. 

One of the consumers who contacted us had a slightly bigger problem. She'd ordered a large number of cookware items from a supplier at a price that both she and the supplier agreed, P107 per item. That price was discussed over the phone and in various messages.

But then it went wrong. The supplier called her to tell her that the items had arrived but the price was now P124, not P107. Obviously she complained, reminding the supplier that this wasn't the agreed price. After some argument they offered to discount this new, made-up price of P124 down to P118.

The consumer and I had a chat and I suggested she give this company some free education. She told them that Section 7 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a supplier:
"shall not advertise any particular goods or services as being available at a specified price in a manner that may result in consumers being misled or deceived as to the actual availability of those goods or services from that supplier, at the advertised price".
She told him that Section 11 (3) of the Act says that a supplier:
"shall not charge a consumer more than the price indicated or displayed for goods or services".
I also suggested that she tell him that Section 23 (1) (a) of the Act also states that a supplier may not:
"unilaterally amend the terms of the contract or agreement".
Finally, I suggested that she remind them that any breach of these clauses of the Act can lead to:
"a fine not exceeding P50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both". 
They had a quick think and offered her the items at the original price of P107.

See what a little education can achieve?

Saturday 9 October 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

My TV is broken!

On the 23 April 2021, I bought a 55 inch Telefunken smart TV. This television started developing some horizontal lines and eventually the situation worsened in August. I decided to take back the TV to the store on the 23 September where I bought it and expecting that I will be given a new one. I was told that It will be fixed within 21 days and if its not repaired I will be refunded.

Having used the TV for 5 months I feel I must be given a new one or refunded. If it gets fixed I am afraid the gadget will trouble me. Currently we have no TV to watch we are waiting for the store to repair.

May your office help me in this situation? 

I know it's frustrating but the store does have the right to try and repair the TV. Once. 

The starting point is that Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a consumer
"has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects".
But life isn't that simple. Sometimes things go wrong. Things we buy sometimes are faulty but we're protected when that happens. Section 16 of the Act says that if the goods fail to meet that standard, the consumer may return the goods to the supplier. It then says that the supplier is entitled to "repair or replace the defective goods" or to "refund the consumer" but it's important to understand that they can decide which they want to do. They are entitled to repair the TV before they choose to give you either a refund or a replacement. I know it's irritating to spend a lot of money on a smart TV and then wait for it to be repaired but that's what the law says they can do.

But there's something that suppliers often forget. Section 16 of the Act also says that if a supplier repairs an item and "within three months the same problem recurs in the goods" they're not allowed to repair it a second time. They can now only refund you or give you a replacement.

My advice is to allow the store to try and repair the TV but make sure you tell them that you know they get just one chance to do that.

I can't get a loan!

I need your help with my former bank. In 2016 I took a loan with them and then in 2018 I paid it off. So last month I went to my new bank to ask for a loan, After a week they called and told me that I have been listed at CRB for bad credit record. Apparently it shows that I am still owing the old bank so I went to them to enquire about the matter. The branch manager told me that they somehow forgot to close the account after I cleared their loan, that's how my name ended up at CRB. I explained to him that this CRB thing is costing me now because it's blocking me in taking loans from other banks. The manager promised to help me and assured me that my name at CRB will be cleared within 3 days.

It has been two weeks now my loan at the new bank is still suspended because the old bank didn't close that account. Is it possible for you to get hold of them for me please.

Let's talk about another section of the Consumer Protection Act. Section 14 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 (…) performance of the services in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect".
I don't think that means we can expect perfection. Sometimes bad things happen but I think the law says that if mistakes are made, we have a right to expect them to be fixed. Quickly. Not next week. Not in two weeks. Not when the bank feels like it.

Never forget that banks have invested vast amounts of money (our money, in case you forgot) in technology, staff and training so they make profits as efficiently as possible. There is no reason why they can't use these systems, processes and people to fix your problem.

Maybe we should remind them that the maximum fine for breaching the Consumer Protection Act is a heavy fine or prison time. Do they really want that?

Saturday 2 October 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my lay-bye?

On the 20th August I went to a shop in bus rank Gaborone. I did a lay bye, Today I went to pay off the remaining balance but unfortunately I forgot my receipt at but I have taken a picture before I left home,

I went to the shop paid the remaining balance but the cashier told me they will need the hard copy. I explained and asked to explain to the boss there but she did not want to talk to me at all. I stood there for more than 15 minutes asking her to come out of her office. She later came and refused to help me but I had my identity card and the soft copy but still did not want to help me. They refused to give me the goods. I got so angry and ended up raising my voice. Things went so bad and everyone was looking. I was stressed that tomorrow is the last day of the lay bye and I cant get help. They told me I will never get the money that I paid last month if I don't collect it the next day but unfortunately i won't be in town that day. Please help me get my money back or I can pay the remaining balance to get the item.

I am so disappointed. Please help.

I don't understand why some people decide to go into the retail business when they dislike their customers so much. Don't they want to make money? Don't they want repeat customers? Don't they want their existing customers telling their family, friends, neighbours and workmates about how good this store is?

These guys are completely disrespecting you. Yes, you forgot the receipt and that was a mistake but this is 2021, the age of cellphones with cameras, online storage and stores with computer systems. In the modern age we deserve to expect the people who take our money to record it in a way that it can easily be retrieved.

All it should take in a situation like yours is for you to prove your identity and to prove that you paid them some money. The rest should be simple.

The solution is simple. In fact they can choose which of two solutions they prefer. Either accept your final payments and give you your property or they should give you a refund. If necessary we should teach them about Section 23 (1) (d) of the Consumer Protection Act which says that "suppliers can't make up stupid rules to screw their customers because they're too lazy to check their records". Ok, it doesn't say that, but it does say that suppliers must not "impose terms and conditions that are unfair, unreasonable or unjust".

Where are my windows?

Good day Richard. Kindly assist us here we have made a deposit towards installation of aluminium windows with a certain company. The agreement was we pay 40% deposit then when we are ready to install they will come to do it. We have since paid the deposit and have been waiting since July and he has not installed the windows. He does not respond to our messages nor does he answer when we call. Last week Tuesday we went to the workshop and he told us he will deliver by Friday when we called he did not respond. He has our P55,000 yet he is not delivering. We are running behind schedule to complete our house. Kindly help us get our money back if he is unable to deliver the service. We have tried to be patient but we have since run out of patience.

Yet another supplier who doesn't care. I sometimes wonder whether some suppliers realize how angry it makes their customers when they stop communicating. And how angry it makes us when they take huge amounts of our money and then try to forget we exist.

I'll get in touch with the supplier and see if he wants to speak to me instead.

I'll explain that yet again the solution is very simple. He can do the work and keep the money or not do the work and give the money back. Is that difficult to understand?

Saturday 18 September 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can they repair it?

Hello I need your help. I bought a cellphone at a store at Rail Park Mall. The next day I realized that the battery died, the phone loses power so fast I have to charge it every hour. I went back to the store and they refused to change the phone instead they offered to repair it which is going to take 7 days. So what does the law say?

The law is actually very simple in circumstances like yours.

Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a consumer "has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects". That's simple, don't you think?

Section 16 goes on to say that if the goods fail to meet that standard, the consumer may return the goods to the supplier. It then says that the supplier is entitled to "repair or replace the defective goods" or to "refund the consumer" but it's important to understand that they can decide which they want to do. They are entitled to try to repair the phone before they choose to offer you either a refund or a replacement. I know it's frustrating to spend a lot of money on a new phone and then wait for it to be repaired but that's what the Consumer Protection Act says they can do.

However, there's something that suppliers often overlook. Section 16 of the Act also says that if a supplier repairs an item and "within three months the same problem recurs in the goods" they're not allowed to repair it a second time. They can now only refund or you give you a replacement.

My advice is to allow the store to try and repair the phone but make sure they understand that they get just one chance to do to. Just one

Scam warning

We've been contacted by many people in the last few weeks who have fallen victim to scams. The really bad news, the upsetting news, is that scammers seem to be working even harder during Covid to steal our money than ever before. They realise that we're all short of money these days and many of us are desperate to make some more. So desperate that we make some foolish decisions.

Let me give you an example. In fact, it's the experience of several victims. They were approached by people on Facebook claiming that they had a remarkable "investment" opportunity called Marginbase. Specifically, they said that if someone invested P3,800 with their scheme, they would earn P53,950 within 7 days.

Just think about that for a moment. They say you can multiply your money by 14 times in a week. If that was true and you invested your P3,800, multiplied it 14 times in just a week and then repeatedly reinvested the money, after 5 weeks you would have more than P2 billion. After three months you would have more money than has ever existed in the history of the world.

Obviously, this is a scam. It's all a trick to get the P3,800 and it's not the only scam like this operating right now. They all make promises of fantastic profits and all demand between P1,000 and P5,000 to join. It's important to know that the joining fee is just the beginning. Once you've invested, a fake web page will show that you're making lots of money and they'll encourage you to invest even more and who wouldn't be tempted? They say you're making amazing amounts of money and you want to make even more.

Of course, the problem comes when you try to withdraw your money. That's when they'll put up barriers. They'll either say that you need to pay a commission or premium to get your money or they'll claim computer problems or that their systems have been hacked. They'll do their best to keep your money, all while reminding you how much money they claim you're making.

The lesson from this is never to believe anyone who promises you fantastic profits on a relatively small investment. No genuine investment makes miraculous profits and anyone who says they can is either lying, insane or misguided. Please don't waste your money because a stranger, or worse still someone you know, suggests that you can make a fortune. You'll never see the profits they promise and you'll never see the money you gave them again.

Saturday 11 September 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my sister's money?

Hello Richard. Please assist me here on behalf of my older sister. This what happened. My sister visited a certain garage at Francistown as she wanted a car. So she was told to pay clearance money of 35k and she did that. Upon the arrival of the car she noticed mechanical faults with the car and she did not take it. As a result she demanded her 35k back. And the garage owner said he will repay her after he sold his faulty car.

My sister ended up purchasing a car from a different garage while waiting for her refund from the first garage. The faulty car was sold but up to now the garage owner is playing hide and seek on refunding my sister. He will say he will pay tomorrow. Next week. Next month. Please help!! What can she do? Its almost 8 months now.

It's people like this guy that give car dealers a bad name.

I know for a fact that there are plenty of second-hand and imported car dealers who are honest, hard-working and committed to serving their customers to the best of their ability. Just not this one.

I've heard too often about people like this guy who insist on trying to sell a faulty item before they can refund someone who gave them a lot of money. It's not acceptable. Was it your sister's fault that the vehicle was faulty? No, it was his and he should face up to his responsibilities to your sister. He took her money, tried to give her a faulty vehicle and then kept her money. Not only is that a gross breach of her consumer rights I suspect it's almost theft.

The time has come for your sister to be much more assertive. She needs to make some demands and give him a deadline. I suggest she contacts him and says that unless he refunds in full within seven days she'll take legal action against him to recover the money he owes her. If he fails to do so, it's time to get even more assertive and get a lawyer involved. He has a choice. Pay up or pay her lawyer's bills on top of the P35,000 he already owes her.

Shouldn't they clear my name?

Can you please help. I have a credit card. In April this year the bank phoned to say that I owe them P1,200 for the card because they were not able to deduct as we have agreed from my account because their system was down. I paid the money in June. Recently I went to the same bank to apply for a loan in the same bank and they declined the application saying that they have blacklisted me even though it proves that I don't owe them after checking.

Are they not supposed to clear my name?

The first problem is that banks aren't perfect. They make mistakes. Their systems sometimes let them (and us) down. Clearly that happened when they failed to deduct your monthly credit card payments. Surely their expensive computer system has the ability to tell both them and you that there's been a problem and then to send a reminder that a payment failed and someone needs to take an action to keep your payments up to date?

However, it was also your responsibility to ensure the payments were made. I know it's easy to overlook this because we trust our banks to get things right. But they often don't so it's up to us to check.

Secondly, the way credit reference bureaus work is that they record facts. The bank will have updated the system to say that you fell behind with your payments and then later updated it again to say that you'd caught up. However, and this is the important point, those updates stay on your record for up to two years. That enables the bank and other potential lenders to see your recent history and make a judgment on whether they think lending money to you is a good or bad risk.

Given that it's the same bank that made the mistake that has since declined your loan application I think it's worth reminding them who actually caused the problem in the first place. Maybe they should take some share of the responsibility for the situation?

Saturday 4 September 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

I want a working phone!

I bought an iPhone 12 Pro for P17,000 in April from a store in Game City, I kept the phone without using since I didn't have Wifi to register Apple ID, I used the phone end of May but it had a problem with the speaker, at first I thought the problem was because I have not updated the software since the phone kept reminding to update software, at the time I did not have Wifi again. In July I managed to update the software and the problem with the speaker still persisted but I could not return it as I was alone at work however I returned the phone on the 22nd August. They called me after a few hours saying the phone was fixed it had moisture and dirt, however I tested the phone and it still had the same problem and I left it so they can fix it.

They called again on the 24th August saying the phone is fixed but still when I called with it the person on the other side could not hear me so they took it for the third time saying they will fix and call on 26th which they never did. On 27th I went to their store and asked them to give me a new phone or return my money. They told me it will take 14 days for them to fix and they can't give me my money back or a new phone rather they guy said he will give me his phone which he is using.

Please help me 17k is a lot of money.

You're right. P17,000 is a lot of money. You might argue that all customers are equal but let's talk facts. If you've spent P17,000 on a cellphone you deserve to be treated like royalty. You deserve a comfortable chair when you arrive. You deserve a cup of coffee and a biscuit. You deserve to be treated with respect. Yes, I obviously believe that you should be treated with respect if you just spent P17, but I'm sure you know what I mean. Someone who spends P17,000 on a phone is a premier, prestige, elite customer. You certainly deserve better treatment that this store offers.

I think the store need to understand when they sell something that is faulty, they have three options. They can either repair the phone, refund you or replace it. The critical thing is that the store can decide which of these things they want to do. They can choose to repair it if that's what they prefer. That's what Section 16 (3) of the Consumer Protection Act says. However, and this is the important bit that stores often overlook, the Act then says that if "within three months the same problem recurs" then they lose the chance to repair it again. They can only now replace it or refund you. There's no second chance to repair it.

Let's explain this to them and see which option they prefer.

It's not me!

This is my story. This December money has been debited off my bank account. It was a stop order and I didn't know what it was about. I went to my bank to enquire then they assisted me told me it's a furniture store. I went there and the lady who assisted me told me to go to the store in Tlokweng because the person purchased goods there. When I got there they told me that they had been a mixup of accounts and I asked them what I should do with the bank charges that accumulated. They told me that the person would have to refund me but I don't even know that person. I even told them that its their responsibility but even now there's no help. I even closed the account.

So far you've done everything right. You were right to speak to your bank and then right again to contact the store about this. Yes, clearly there's been a mix-up and they need to fix this urgently. Then they need to refund you everything, including any bank charges you've incurred if their mistake took you overdrawn or meant you couldn't make any payments.

You should also demand that they confirm that your credit history hasn't been affected by this at all. Normal practice when you get a loan or buy something on hire purchase is for that deal to be registered with credit reference bureaux. We need to make sure this hasn't happened this time because it would be false. You don't want their mix-up to haunt you in the future.

Update: I contacted the store and they promised to investigate and fix it as soon as possible.

Saturday 28 August 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why can't they fix it?

Can I ask for an honest opinion. I bought a PS5 with controllers from a local retailer lest than six months ago. It was brand new with receipts and everything.

Then after few months noticed that the other controller had problems. I then contacted the seller and they advised I bring it back so they take it to Sony in South Africa for fixing since its under warranty from the manufacturer.

Yesterday I called the seller telling them its been 3 weeks without feedback on the progress but to my disappointment they tell me Sony states that they can not fix it and in short he can not help me in that regard. Apparently Sony SA states that they can not fix the joypads and he said customers have been complaining world wide about the controllers being faulty and he said Sony does not have a solution regarding them.

So I'm asking how do I go about such case because we buy these things expensively to be told we can not help you while there is a warranty/guarantee in place still valid. 

What's a polite way of saying 'silly'? 

Ok, let's not even try to be polite. The store is being silly. Very silly. It really doesn't matter whether Sony can or cannot repair the controller, Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that consumers have "the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects" and that if a supplier fails to offer this then we can return the goods. It then says that the supplier must "repair or replace the defective goods" or "refund the consumer the amount already paid as consideration for the goods".

In your case it's very simple. Apparently they can't repair the controller so they have just two options left, replace it or refund you.

And there's one last thing. They're lying to you if they suggest that Sony doesn't have a solution. Sony is an incredibly powerful brand that wouldn't dare to treat its customers this way.

I'll get in touch with the store and tell them what I think they should do.

Update: The customer had what he said was a "heated conversation" with the store manager who first demanded that he pay for a new controller. He stood up for his rights and eventually got a free replacement.

Will they refund me?

I cleared a loan from company X through a loan from company Y beginning of June. In mid June and end of June I was refunded the May and June instalments which I understood because the payroll was already closed. I hoped the last deduction would have been June but that was not the case. In July they deducted again and I had to wait for 2 weeks to be refunded after several daily calls. Even NBFIRA I reached out to them. Its August they have deducted again, the second mistaken deduction. This time around I want to take action against company X for the financial embarrassment and inconvenience they have put me through, also my credit status is in disrepute, not to mention the inconvenience because they take long to refund. I'm thinking of going the legal route, please advise.

You've been very tolerant. Perhaps even too tolerant!

You were tolerant and understanding in the first couple of months when you were beyond the payroll cycle deadline but it's not acceptable for this Company X to take so long to stop the deductions from your salary. It's really not that difficult to do, it's something that happens all the time.

You can of course follow the legal route but I don't think you'll need to go that far. I'm sure we can avoid the costs and bother of taking Company X to court. What scares smart companies more than legal threats is the thought that they might lose customers because of their incompetence. They really don't want you discussing their failure with your family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and random people you meet in the street. That's what really makes them anxious. I'm sure this will get sorted out quickly.

Update: The customer contacted Company X again and made sure they understood his rights. They promised to refund him within days. Let's see if they can keep their word.

Saturday 21 August 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my money?

Afternoon Mr Harriman I need your help. I got a loan last year from my bank then they took 3 to 4 months without deducting then this end of July they deducted P1000 on top of the instalment saying they are paying arrears without my consent and my salary was P300 and they are saying the same thing is going to happen this month end.

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

The bank is entitled to catch up on the late instalments because that's what you agreed they can do when you signed the loan agreement. I bet if you look closely in the agreement it says that if they are so useless that they neglect to take the instalments when they said they would, they can catch up whenever they feel like it. That's how banks work.

It's also up to you to make sure there's always enough money in your account to honour your debts. I'm sorry if it sounds unsympathetic but it was also up to you to make sure that the instalments were paid. It would have been sensible to put the money somewhere safe when you realised the instalments weren't being paid. It was unwise to spend it when you knew the bank was owed that money.

The lesson from this is always to make sure that your bank takes the money you owe on the date you agreed it would be taken. If they fail to do so, you should contact them, give them a piece of your mind, remind them that Section 14 (1) 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 and "timely notice of any unavoidable delay". You also have a right to "performance of the services in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect".

In 2021, I don't think it's too much to ask for a bank to take deductions when they agree to do so. But it's also up to us as consumers to make sure they do because if we don't, we're the ones that suffer.

Where's my refund?

I need your assistance. A few months ago I visited a local branding shop for their printing services. So they helped me and I then paid up front and waited for my order to be ready. When I was supposed to go and collect they always came up with excuses telling me that they are not done yet and will sort that out. I went to their office more often but still no sign of my order. Nowadays they don't take my calls or respond to my texts. They always do this to their clients and I'm not the only victim. The company has cheated many people and they gave up and lost their money. How can you assist me or refer me to relevant authorities dealing with this kind of businesses?

Here we go again. Yet another company that takes your money and fails to deliver the products or services you've paid for. I'm sure they'll come up with some excuse about Covid affecting their business, something to do with imports being difficult or being let down by ither suppliers.

But I don't care and neither should you. The impact of Covid should make us sympathetic to the difficulties businesses face but it shouldn't make us forget our rights as consumers. We have a right to get the products and services we've paid for and if there are delays we have a right to be told about them so we can decide if we want to wait or take our business elsewhere.

I contacted the shop and asked when you would receive what you paid for. They quickly responded saying that your products was being sourced from South Africa and "it got interrupted with our supplier's inconveniences". He went on to say that they are "a small company and sometimes when such company matters arise it becomes difficult to solve them on short period since his not the only one affected by such an outcome."

He ended by saying that he would get you a refund within days. Let's hope he does.

Saturday 14 August 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They let me down!

May I kindly ask if Consumer Watchdog is able to assist in getting funds back for services not rendered.

Me and my husband met someone 5 years back and he stated to offer architect services and we paid a deposit but he failed to provide the plan and he then agreed to pay us back. However he never paid and his mobile number isn't going through. We tried to trace him but up to now nothing.

We have then engaged someone different and we have now started building. On the 24th June 2021 we then paid a one supplier around Gaborone who has also failed to honour as agreed. They have given us a notice that they will have paid back the money by Friday 31st July but he has not paid. His mobile rings unanswered and we reported to the police whom he never showed up.

I'm really sorry for your run of bad luck with suppliers. Building a house is stressful enough without having to deal with untrustworthy suppliers like these.

I also think we have a neighbourly obligation to prevent anything like this happening to other customers. In my experience people who behave like this will continue to do the same to other victims until someone stops them. Maybe that's our job?

Send me the contact details of both of the shady characters that took your money and let's see if between us we can teach them the error of their ways. Who knows, maybe we can achieve some good and prevent further abuse?

They won't fix my car!

I need your advice on this matter. Around 18 July 2021 someone rear ended my vehicle causing damage to my rear bumper and door. The driver was apologetic about the accident and offered to fix the vehicle without involving the police. I agreed to this. We made a written agreement for the driver to have the vehicle fixed before end of July 2021 as they were waiting funds from a business deal.

I provided 3 quotations from different panel beaters to the driver.

As we speak the driver has been promising to give me feedback and is not doing so. I've run out of patience as I want my car repaired, what avenues can I pursue here? 

Congratulations. You deserve a prize for doing the smartest thing a consumer has done all week. You got the person who damaged your car to sign a document admitting their fault and promising to pay to fix it. That was a remarkably smart thing to do and I wish more consumers would do things like this.

The bad news is that I suspect they now regret signing it because they're trying to avoid their obligations. So now it's time to get serious.

Given that you have a written agreement I suggest you consider legal action to get your money. How you do that depends on how much you're owed. If it's below P30,000 you should approach the Small Claims Court and present them with the signed agreement and the three quotations. If it's more than P30,000 you'll probably need to consult an attorney.

However, before you do either of those things, try one last time to get them to do the decent thing. Let them know you'll be taking legal action against them unless they fix the vehicle within 7 days. If you're feeling generous, make it 14 but however long you give them, if they let you down again you need to use the law to enforce your rights.

Saturday 7 August 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They blocked me!

Five months back I bought a couch at a shop at a cost of P8,800 but until now I haven't received my couch they have been giving me stories after story saying they are waiting for orders. I finally gave up and bought another couch from a different store. I have been asking them to refund me for months now but they always give me excuses and now the lady of the shop has now I think blocked me. She is not even taking my calls. Please help me. P8,800 is a lot of money. I just can't let it go like that.

Do I care that this shop is "waiting for orders"? 

No, I don't and neither should you.

What I care about is you getting the refund you deserve. As I've said many times before, we all understand that things have been difficult for suppliers over the last 18 months and many of us have been forced to be a little more tolerant of the delays they've experienced. However, waiting for a couch for five months is silly and it's even sillier that this shop has decided to go silent on you. In fact it's more that silly, it's crazy. Do they want their reputation to be ruined? Do they want everyone to know that they treat their customers like this?

I'll get in touch with the shop and ask them if this is what they want.

I want a new trombone!

I need your advice. Around March 2021 I called a certain music shop in Gaborone looking for a trombone silver in color. They assured me that they have it in stock and I can lay-bye it, I did all of this over the phone since I stay in Mahalapye and the shop is at Gabs. On July 2nd I visited the shop to pay the last instalment and collect it. The shop assistant opened the package and told me that the trombone doesn't look new, upon a close inspection I also realized that it has a lot of scratches, they offered to give me the old trombone and discount P100. I didn't agree to that offer and we agreed that they will contact me the following week and they never did. On the same day the shop manager notified me that if they find a new one it means the price is going to increase since my lay-bye was done on March before price increases.

I think this store needs to learn some basic lessons on customer service. And another series of lessons on the Consumer Protection Act.

Firstly, this store needs to learn the difference between new and used items. Section 5 of the Act says that a supplier "shall not, in relation to the marketing of goods or services, by way of words or conduct falsely represent … that goods are new or reconditioned". From what you've told me, when you first started paying for the trombone the shop didn't tell you that the trombone wasn't new? They didn't mention that it would be a scratched, obviously second-hand or damaged trombone?

Clearly they misled you. Clearly they also broke the law.

And then, after lying to you, they want to charge you more money to get the thing you paid for? Are they serious? Section 23 (1) of the Act says that a supplier may not enter into an agreement with a consumer that allows them to "unilaterally amend the terms of the contract or agreement". A store can't just change the price of an item because they feel like it.

Do you think they realise that the maximum penalty for breaking the Consumer Protection Act is a fine of up to P100,000, a term of five years in prison. Or both.

Shall we educate them about this?

Saturday 31 July 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I return the laptop?

I purchased a laptop and when I got home I checked and saw that this PC is very slow. I can't use it. The following day I went back to the shop to return it and get my refund. The shop return policy is after 24 hours u pay 25% for handling charges and I got there before 24 hours. When i got to the shop I was told to go back and come back on Saturday since the bosses were not there. Yesterday I went back to get my refund they are telling me the boss is still not there he can't speak because he tested covid positive so that means if i want a refund they will get 25% of the money or negotiate to 18%. I told him I came before 24 hours last time to return it.

He then told me again he won't take the PC since it had a dent on the keyboard .I told him that when I got the PC I asked you about this small dent and you told me it was because it has been on display for too long. We asked his workers if they remember this dent he told them to keep quiet and even chased them away so they wont say anything with some threats. So he is giving us many stories because he doesn't want to give back the money. I ended up recording the whole conversation and when I left I took the PC away and asked one of his workers about this dent she now admitted this was there. If they say something they will be chased away so they are supposed to take his side. So I don't know what to do to get my money back and return the laptop. Is there any way to get my full refund without cutting off 25% since I came before 24 hours and get my money back? Please help me.

I think I need to speak to the store manager. I think I need to explain in very simple terms how many parts of the Consumer Protection Act he's ignoring. He sold you a laptop that clearly isn't up to the task. You sent me technical details of the device and it was very clear that this is a reasonably up-to-date, quite powerful device and there's no good reason that it's running so slowly. Something is wrong with your laptop and Section 15 (1) of the Act says that you are entitled "to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects". Section 16 then says that if an item isn't satisfactory the consumer can return it and "repair or replace the defective goods … or refund the consumer the amount already paid".

Is that too complicated for him to understand? I'll try and explain it to him in very simple terms.

Where's my money?

Hello Richard! I took a loan from a payday lender and we both agreed they get their money straight from my salary and the loan ended on June. Today I got paid and they still deducted money from me! When I call them they are telling me I should wait until Friday so they check if the money is reflecting on their side. I cannot wait as I need the money to buy medicine as I am on isolation for Covid. I have proof in my payslip that they deducted my money but still they refuse to return it immediately. They changed dates now, they are saying Monday! I really need the money.

I don't understand how they managed to deduct this month without my consent. Not only do I have to buy medicine but I have stop orders tomorrow that will fail because of their incompetence.

I agree about the word 'incompetence'. Lenders like this one seem to forget that what seems like a small amount to them means a lot to you and me. They also forget that often the impact of their mistakes with our money costs us dearly. We have rent, other loans, bills, food and medicine bills to pay.

Update: I contacted the lender and I'm not sure if it was a coincidence but they repaid the amount they'd taken within 24 hours.

Saturday 24 July 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I claim?

My mother who was a furniture store account holder passed away in June and I was temporarily given the responsibility to administer her estate. I lodged her death with one of the shops in Gaborone a few days after her funeral and I was told that the account had arrears. I was made to fill the club funeral benefit claim form which was then sent to them. All the necessary documents were attached to this form for their perusal.

I decided to call them to hear their response a few days later and they asked me to resend the documents as they say they never received, I emailed the documents.

After that I was notified that I have to pay for the account arrears for me to claim the funeral cover fee. Upon that I requested the account statement which showed that indeed the account was in arrears, also on the statement there seems to be charges and payments that I wish to be clarified about by the shop and they have not been able to do so. In fact they gave me 2 options of either paying the money or they repossess the furniture. I told them I can't afford to pay them and suggested that they should rather subtract the money from the funeral cover and give me the remaining fees, that they refused.

So my question to your office is, is it right for them to demand me to pay?

Yet again here's another story that shows how unpleasant hire purchase can be. Even after the customer's death it sticks around to punish the surviving family. Unfortunately, the store is probably correct. If your late mother was in arrears with her repayments then the benefits offered by the hire purchase agreement were on hold. That includes any funeral benefit that the policy included.

The decision you face is a difficult one. The best thing to do would be to find a way to raise the money to pay off the arrears so you can get the funeral benefits. However, please don't get into debt to do this.

The alternative is just to allow them to repossess the goods but understand that this might not close the deal. Your mother owed them money and they're entitled to recover that. They can't claim it from you but they can claim it from your mother's estate, whatever money or property she behind her.

Let's hope you can find a way to raise the money needed to pay the arrears.

Where's my refund?

Kindly assist. I made an order with an import company. In January they told me that it will take 3 to 6 weeks for my order to arrive which didn't happen. In the beginning of June I wrote to them asking for refund and they told me it will take two weeks. They told me they had a problem with the bank because the refund is coming from China hence the delay. Then they promised that I will get my refund before 9 July.

Since then I have been calling them and its a story after another. I don't know what to do anymore.

We all understand that the last 18 months have been very difficult for us all and for companies shipping things around the world in particular. Moving goods from place to place is a lot harder than it used to be.

But this is different. They told you six months ago that the goods would take 3 - 6 weeks to arrive and I'm sure you would have been tolerant if the delay was a week or two but several months is unacceptable.

I contacted the company and they responded very quickly. Do you think it was because I mentioned I'd be covering this in The Voice? They said they acknowledge that you are their client and they "have been having a few challenges on customs clearance with our shipments from China and have been unable to deliver to our clients. We are now in the process of refunding all concerned clients herein and just waiting for the funds to clear out with the bank. May we ask that this be resolved amicably and refund the client before the 30th of July".

You've waited for six months so far, let's wait for another week and see what happens. If that doesn't work, then we can get a bit more demanding.