Saturday 30 January 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They won't fix my phone!

Hello Sir, I need your help, I took my phone for screen repair on 21 December 2020. On 22nd the phone went blank and I took it back to the shop and they refused to help me. I went to the Consumer Affairs office to report on the 19th of this month and they told me they will call the man but they haven't got back to me.

Please help me. 

Yet again a store needs a little education on their obligations. Or maybe they know their duties already and have decided to ignore them? Either way they need to fully understand that consumers have rights and aren't afraid to use them. 

I messaged the store inviting them to consider their obligations under the Consumer Protection Act and asking whether they might be more helpful. They responded by saying they offered "no guarantee" on screens of brand new phones and that the receipt also said there was no guarantee. They also said that you agreed to this by signing the receipt before collecting the phone.

Well, that's nice but it's also nonsense. I messaged the store telling them that they're surely aware 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".
I also reminded them that Section 16 (2) of the Act says that a consumer: 
"may return goods to a supplier in their merchantable or original state, within six months after the delivery of the goods, without penalty and at the supplier's risk and expense" 
if they failed to offer goods in working order.

As for their claim that you agreed not to have any rights, that's also silly. Section 23 of the Act forbids a supplier from requiring a consumer to "waive any right" or allowing a supplier to "waive any liability".

This supplier has clearly failed to honour their obligations under the Consumer Protection Act. They have also failed to treat you with the decency that a decent company would offer. Do they really want to be famous for this?

My phone doesn't work!

Please assist me, I bought a phone in December and I am always missing calls it rings sometimes and most of the time it doesn't ring, I can't even take pictures. I went to the shop about the issue of not taking pictures. They said memory card could be having viruses which I always bought from them and they formatted it I went home withing 2 days the phone did the same thing. Today I went back to ask them to either give me another phone or I top up and get a better one the lady refused and said they don't exchange and they don't refund, they wanted to remain with the phone and fix it. I couldn't leave it because I thought since the phone doesn't even have a month they can help me better. Please assist they even refused to give me the owner/managers number.

Ok, is this yet another cellphone provider that thinks the law doesn't apply to them?

Maybe not. I contacted this store and they responded quite quickly.

They said
"Good morning Sir. Indeed the customer came here complaining about the memory card of which we formatted. The second time he came saying the memory isn't working and he has now removed it but he didn't bring the memory card to us. The third time he came with the card of which I replaced and gave him a new one."
So hopefully this will fix your problem. It's a shame it took us to escalate the issue but at least there's been some progress.

The lesson here is never to give up. If a store lets you down, just politely assert your rights, explain what you need them to do and very often they'll be reasonable people and fix your problem. If that doesn't work, then escalate the problem to the management and that might help too. If that doesn't work, then you can always come to Consumer Watchdog.

Sunday 24 January 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should I pay them?

Help! I received an email saying that I had visited pornographic web sites and that a hacker had installed malware on my computer and they had used the camera and the microphone without me knowing to record me while I watched pornography.

The email said that they had also installed a hidden application which had a second function to extract all my contacts from social media, phonebook list and emails.

The man said I must pay him $500 using Bitcoin or the video of me watching pornography will be sent to all of my contacts.

What must I do? I don't have Bitcoins and don't want to be exposed. 

Don't panic. Nothing is going to happen to you. You're safe. 

Despite the threats included in the email, you can feel safe that this is nothing more than a threat. The so-called hacker hasn't hacked your computer, they didn't record you watching porn and they didn't steal your contact details. They are not going to expose you and not humiliate you in front of your family, friends and contacts. This is just a scam designed to exploit the lack of knowledge people have about computers, the internet, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and technology in general. They rely on people either having a guilty conscience, or being terrified of being embarrassed. Or both. They rely on emailing thousands, if not millions of potential victims and hoping that just a few people will respond by paying them.

I can reassure you that they are emailing huge numbers of people because the very same day you emailed me, I got the same threatening email. I bet many readers of The Voice received the same email.

Just delete the email, add the sender to your Junk mail file and move on.

And finally, just to be safe, make sure your computer's firewall is switched on and any antivirus tools are up to date. These don't need to cost you any money and despite what a new laptop might tell you, there are plenty of free options.

Must I take the tablet to be repaired?

Good day Mr Harriman. I need your help, I bought a tablet for my son in Molepolole on the 16 December 2020. After 2 days of opening it it wasn't working and they took it for fixing. I got it back on 6 January 2021 but by evening it wasn't working. I went to them on 7th January they are suggesting I use my own expenses to take it back to their technician because there is nothing they can do. Please help what can I do?

You can explain to them that in 2018 the Government of Botswana introduced the new Consumer Protection Act. This replaced the older version of the Act and it reaffirmed a simple fact. If a supplier sells goods that don't work, they have three options. They can choose to replace the item, repair it or offer the customer a refund. It's their choice to decide which option they select but they MUST select one of them. They can't choose none of them. I suggest you tell them that it's Section 16 (3) of the Act they need to read, understand and remember. They need to stop making up stories about it being the responsibility of customers to help fix problems that are the supplier's job to fix.

You should also tell them that the next section of the Act, 16 (4), says that of the same problem happens again within three months of them repairing it, they don't get another chance. Then they only have two choices, a replacement or a refund. Given that they've already used up their one opportunity to repair the tablet, their options are now much more limited.

Ask them which they prefer, a replacement or a refund because those are the only options left open to them.

If they still argue, tell them that for a small fee I'll educate them on their obligations under the Consumer Protection Act. Correction, make that a large fee.

Saturday 16 January 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

When should they take my money?

Please educate me here. I have a policy with an insurance company and I signed that they take their money every last day of the month. For the past few months its not been the case, they take their money around the 5th, 8th, 10th which is not part of the agreement. The other month they did the same and found nothing in my account and my bank penalised and charged me P150 for that and still I had to pay them premiums. Can you explain to me why this is happening?

I'm sure many readers of The Voice will have had exactly the same experience. Maybe not with an insurance company but perhaps with their bank, network provider or any other company that takes regular payments from their bank account.

I suspect this all depends on what it says in the contract you signed with the insurance company. What were the precise words in the section about payments? Did it say the exact date that the payment would be taken? Or was it a bit more flexible than that? Did it say that payments would be taken on a specific date unless there was a reason not to? Did it perhaps say that the insurance company will normally take it on the agreed date unless they want to take it on some other date?

Regardless of what agreement says, there's a bigger issue. Simple courtesy. If a supplier such as an insurance company or bank needs to take money earlier than expected they should at least have to courtesy to tell me first. Or perhaps even to ask me if it's ok? Or to check whether it's going to inconvenience me or cost me money. The simple fact is that the insurance company were rude to you and that's not acceptable.

We should both contact them and remind them that courtesy costs nothing but brings forth respect.

A bed or a refund?

Hello Mr Harriman, I paid for a bed worth 1.5k in December 2019. I left the bed at the shop because I didn't have transport at that particular time. In February 2020 I found transport and told them that I am coming to pick the bed but the lady gave me endless stories that she is not at the shop so no one will help me, So I gave in. In September I called her again that I am coming to pick the bed she gave me a screenshot where she asked her boss if the bed is available and he said no and she told me it will be available after a week. I reached her after a week and she told me the bed is not available. In October I called her again that I am coming and she told me the shop has moved to a different place and i asked for her boss's number. She gave it and I asked for a refund and he also gave me endless stories and empty promises up to this date they are failing to refund me. I am so disappointed in them and if supporting local mean this its a problem now.

I can understand your disappointment. You paid for a bed more than a year ago and you still don't have it. That's completely unacceptable. You have every right to cancel this deal and walk away with your money refunded to you in full.

The bad news is that I've heard very similar complaints about this company before. They have a long history of mistreating customers like you and failing to deliver decent products in a decent way. That doesn't mean we can't get you a refund, it just means that this might be a bit of a struggle. However, it's a struggle I'm looking forward to!

The unfortunate fact is that some companies don't deserve to succeed, they deserve to fail. Those companies that sell decent products at decent prices and serve their customers with respect and care deserve to become fabulously successful. The others, the ones like this company deserve to lose every customer and shut down. It seems harsh but that's how business works. This company should close as soon as it's met it's obligations.

Like giving you a refund.