Saturday 29 May 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my profile?

Good evening Richard, Kindly advise me on this. I had a business dealing with a particular graphic designer to design my company profile a month ago and he said I should pay the amount in full which was P600 but I told him I only had P500 in which the P100 balance will be paid when he delivers the document.

The gentleman has since started giving me excuses when I ask him for the document since I had told him that its urgent and he promised it would be ready in a weekend. As we speak it's more than 5 weeks and my concern is that I don't know the offices of this gentleman and he doesn't take my calls anymore. He picks and listens or just leaves it to ring until it cuts and he texts to say he will call and never calls. I am asking what do I do when I am treated this way. I have his names and his business names if you may need to know them. Kindly assist me with urgency you may seem fit. 

I have good news and bad news. Let's begin with the bad news. It looks like you found someone completely unreliable to develop your company profile. The sort of person who takes your money and then does nothing for it. The sort of person who then refuses to take your calls. The sort of person who you can't rely on. 

The lesson here is that even for a relatively small transaction like this, you need something in writing. It's 2021, so it doesn't need to be on paper, it can be just an email or a WhatsApp conversation but it must be a permanent record of what was agreed.

The good news is very simple. I contacted the graphic designer by WhatsApp at 1:33pm and at 1:35pm he messaged me saying that you'll get your profile in two days. Let's see if he keeps his word. 

Update: He did.

Where's my mattress?

Good afternoon Mr Harriman. I bought a bed on September 25th. The bed started getting uncomfortable and springs being easily felt on the mattress after a month of use. I reported the matter on December 4th and was told that they would place an order for a new mattress set to replace the one I had bought. On January 16th I visited the store after they never got in contact like they said the will. And they said I will have the mattress before end of February as the delays were caused by closing of the manufacturer because of holidays. On March 27th I went back to the store where I was told they cancelled the order because a certain lady who apparently shares the same surname with me said she the problem was the base not the mattress without checking our details and names. She said she will correct the mistake and we will have the bed replaced latest by 15th April which it never did. On April 20th I got a call confirming that they will come and change the mattress. The following day they said the bed hasn't arrived and she will see to it that it gets here. Friday 14th May I called them where I was assisted by a lady I didn't get her name saying she will talk to the managers and get back to me before the end of they day of which they never did.

What a mess. Just how difficult is it to get you the bed you're owed? Is it really that difficult for the store to contact their manufacturer, place an order for a replacement and then get it delivered to you? I don't see how it can be that difficult.

Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that when consumers obtain services from a supplier, they have "a right to … timely performance and completion of those services (and) timely notice of any unavoidable delay".

The Act doesn't say exactly what "timely" means but I think we can all agree that your experience hasn't been 'timely' at all. Your bed started to fail in October 2020, you informed them in December, and it's taken them five months to attend to it. That can't be seen by anyone as 'timely'.

I'll get in touch with the store and see if they need a calendar. Maybe that will help them keep track of time.

Saturday 22 May 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my wig?

There is this company that sells hair products and other stuff and I purchased a wig from them and they haven't delivered it. It was supposed to come from the courier company which also they didn't share with me when I asked. Can you help me trace them? I was given a number to pay by ewallet but the lady denied it, saying she is a client but her names match the ones on the banking details I was given.

I tried to reverse the ewallet but she already took the money out but they still haven't delivered my hair and they have disappeared just like that. Someone helped me find out about the lady and we found that they actually work at a bank.

This is complicated. I contacted the woman you mention and it seems like she's telling the truth. She's not involved in the company selling the wig, she's another customer. She tried to buy a phone from them recently and something went wrong and they offered her a refund. However, because this company doesn't seem to have any money, they diverted your money for the wig to refund her part of the money they owed her. You paid another customer, not the company. They robbed Peter to pay Paul.

I think we now need to escalate things with the company themselves. The name they're using isn't a registered company name in Botswana and their lack of available cash suggests they're either incompetent, very unlucky or dishonest. Regardless of which it might be we need to get you your money back.

The lesson from this is to always be very careful before you pay someone for something. If you can, insist on paying money directly from your bank account to theirs. That way you can check that the person receiving the money is really who they say they are. Of course, lots of people running small businesses these days use money transfer services like eWallet. They're harder to check because they often just use a cellphone number but you should always call the number you're given first to check who it really belongs to.

Can I get my money back?

Good day Mr Richard. Just a really quick question. We bought a sink from a certain hardware store in Palapye. We decided the sink was not to our liking so we wanted to return it. The shop owner told us that he does not accept returns and if we do want to return then he will take 10% of the money. My question is, in the absence of either a written or verbal notification of this practice, was what he did legal? I need your advice as I would like to take the matter further.

I'm sorry but I don't have any good news for you.

The Consumer Protection Act is very clear when it says that a consumer "has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects". It also says that when something is faulty they must either repair it, replace it or refund you the price you paid.

However, this is the bad news for you. This is only the case when the product you bought was faulty or if the seller mis-sold it to you. If the thing you bought works as expected then you have no right to return it. You have no right to change your mind.

Of course there are certain stores that allow you to return things but that's just excellent customer service and a way of boosting the loyalty and confidence of their customers. Unfortunately, not all stores are as committed to customer service as others.

However, there are stores like this one that allow you to return things if you pay them a fee. Paying them 10% might be the best solution in this situation. A 90% refund is better than nothing.

Saturday 15 May 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my refund?

I am kindly seeking for your assistance. I bought an iPhone 7plus 256gb from a local business. The phone price was P4,850. I paid the deposit in December, 70% upfront. I was told the phone takes 3-4 weeks to arrive. On January 15th the phone arrived. 3 weeks down the line the camera was malfunctioning, it looks like it was manufacturer's fault, as the camera never focused. I informed the seller, and she told me to bring it so she takes it to her technician. I did that but the technician couldn't fix the camera. I was given an option to change cameras or get a new phone. I refuse to switch camera because I said the phone will lose it value once it gets opened and cameras being replaced. I opted to get a new one.

That meant the phone has to be shipped back and me getting a new one. Okay fine. On the 9th of March I was told a new phone is coming and leaving Hong Kong. Later the statement changed that the shipment is stuck and up to now its the same old story, either the shipment is stuck or they have left but they'll take long. I have asked for a refund as now its been 2 months still going back and forth. The lady tells me that she has used up her savings she has no money, I paid almost P5,000 and I have no phone and she doesn't want to refund me.

I'm asking for assistance on what to do next. Thank you.

You've been very patient, perhaps too patient.

First let's think about the phone you bought. The iPhone 7 Plus model you bought hasn't been produced by Apple since mid-2017 and I wonder where this phone has been in the last few years? Has it been sitting on a shelf in Hong Kong gathering dust? Or has it been in use for that time? Is it in fact a reconditioned second-hand phone? Of course, there's nothing wrong with second-hand phones so long as the seller is honest about that. As consumers we have the right to know whether we're buying something new or second-hand.

Either way, you had a right to a phone that worked properly and if it went wrong you were entitled to one of the three Rs, a replacement, a repair or a refund. The store was entitled to decide which of these was best for them and a replacement is probably a good choice. But they can't take forever doing this. You had a right to a replacement promptly, not after nearly three months. I think you now have a right to demand a prompt refund and whether she's using her savings or not, I don't really care. I think you should threaten to take her to the Small Claims Court and get an order from them compelling her to refund you promptly. I'll also get in touch with her and see what she says.

They want us to pay for something we don't have!

I am in need of your help. My mom once tried to buy some sofa covers from Home Choice but they never arrived to Botswana and upon that she cancelled the order and only for her to start receiving payment statements from Home Choice that she owes the sofa covers which are not in her possession. She didn't pay as she have never received the sofa covers but instead Home Choice handed the account to Norman Bisset whom they are calling her every now and then demanding the payment. She narrated the story to them and they requested for her to write a police affidavit which stated that she have never received the sofa covers and the letter was sent to Home Choice through Norman Bisset. The Home Choice guys never responded to the letter till today but instead I'm still getting calls from Norman Bisset demanding payment for items that we don't have. Can you please assist.

This seems to be a very common experience. Many, many people have approached us over the years with very similar experiences with HomeChoice. You'd think by now they would have put in place systems that allow them to deal with these situations so they don't hassle innocent consumers who've done nothing wrong.

I'll contact HomeChoice and see if they can add your mother to the list of people that eventually stop bothering. We'll also need to insist that HomeChoice ensure your mother's credit history isn't affected by this. Your mother shouldn't be disadvantaged in any way because a supplier can't organise itself properly.

Saturday 8 May 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

I want a working fridge!

I bought a second-hand fridge in February from someone in Block 3 who repairs and sells fridges. After two days it stopped working. I told him to come pick it and refund me, he promised do so, but even now, he didn't, and he not picking my calls, please help me.

Despite what people might think, just because something is second-hand, that doesn't mean you have no consumer rights if it goes wrong. Of course, we must understand that a second-hand or repaired item isn't going to be quite a good or reliable as something new and we need to have sensible expectations. For instance, a 15-year old car isn't going to be as reliable as a new vehicle. An old laptop isn't going to last as long as a new one. A reconditioned fridge isn't going to be quite as good as a new one. That's just common sense but while a second-hand item might not still have the manufacturer's warranty the person selling it should still be as clear as possible what condition the item is in.

However, Section 14 (1) (c) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a consumer is entitled to:
"the use, delivery or installation of goods that are free of defects and are of a quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect".
That's the important thing in my view, "reasonably entitled to expect". We can't expect a second-hand and repaired fridge to be as good as a new fridge but I think we're "reasonably entitled to expect" a fridge that works reasonably well. It should certainly work for more than two days.

I contacted the fridge guy and asked him what he was planning to do to resolve this situation. All he could say was:
"Yeah only things wre not right bt dafnately by end of this months without failure lm going to give hr wht is hers of or before cs l delayed wth a project tht we wre doing".
I hope his fridge-mending skills are better than his keyboard skills. If you're willing, let's give him until the end of the month and see if he can do the decent thing.

I was sold a stolen laptop!

A guy in Palapye, a student at BIUST, he sells stolen items. He sold us a laptop for P7,500 in November. The Police called us and took it from us claiming it's a stolen item. The guy promised to make things right, to change it or return the money but up to this day he has done nothing. Now he doesn't even pick the calls, he's just a scammer.

This is serious. This is more than just a consumer issue, more than just a failure to offer good customer service. This isn't just a breakdown in communication or a failure to respect someone's consumer rights, this is receiving stolen goods and Section 317 of the Penal Code is very clear about the penalty for this. It says that any person
"who receives or retains any property knowing or having reason to believe the same to have been stolen … is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years".
I contacted the guy in Palapye and he didn't seem very concerned. He just said "the supplier isnt responding keeps postponing. he is in gabz". Unfortunately, I don't care. He sold you a stolen laptop and whether he was involved in the theft or not, he needs to treat this issue seriously and resolve it as quickly as possible.

If this guy has any sense, he'll do his best to distance himself from his supplier and give the impression he's an innocent victim of the criminal as well as you are. The best way he can do this is to give you either a full refund or a laptop that hasn't been stolen. Is that too much to ask? Or does he want to experience 14 years of official hospitality?

Saturday 1 May 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should I get what I paid for?

In March 2017 I paid one graphic designer/communications designer for some services worth P60,000 and I paid him P50,000 upfront. It has now been more than a year, the ONLY thing he has submitted is a logo, business cards and one editable letterhead. I have not paid him the remaining P10k because we were retrenched last year November and I am unemployed. I need your advice here Sir. I feel like I should terminate the rest of his services and ask for my money back or find a way to pay the remaining balance. In this case also, what is the best approach because for that long I have been asking for the remaining work but he gets arrogant and I ended up paying extra fees for something that he has promised to do? I think I have spend more than P10k asking for the same services that were covered on the invoice.

I think this all depends on what you agreed that he would supply and what he's failed to deliver so far. What's clear is that he has failed to deliver part of what you agreed and I think you need to make it clear that you know your rights and are prepared to demand he respects them.

The good news is that the law is on your side. 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".
Clearly he's failed to do that. Section 14 (2) also says that when a supplier fails to satisfy this requirement, they must
"refund the consumer a reasonable portion of the price paid for the services performed and goods supplied, having regard to the extent of the failure".
In other words if they only deliver half of the work, you're entitled to half of the money back.

However, there are some problems you might face. Firstly, you might have left this too long to take legal action against him. I'm not an attorney but I know that certain legal claims become 'prescribed' after certain periods. He might argue that you've left this too long and a court might agree with him. Also, he might also argue that the current Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in 2018 might not apply because you bought his services before the Act was passed. But let's not tell him that. Let's both tell him that you either want what you paid for, or a partial refund.

Which should I choose?

We have vehicle insurance and our car was mildly damaged at home when reversing, damaging the mirror, partially the front fender and door. The assessor told us we are at liberty to get quotes from our garage or that of the insurance company. The assessor says the damages amount to P7,000, which the Insurance can only pay P4,000 and we'd have to pay the excess. Our garage say they can fix the car for P3,500 but the insurance insists that we take the car to their garage citing issues like we're still going to pay the P3,500 excess even if we'd an option to go elsewhere. And that the Assessor is the one who determines which way to go. What should we do?

I disagree with what you've been told. It's up to YOU to decide what to do. The insurance company have their preferred garage which will charge P7,000 of which you must pay P3,000 or you can choose your own garage who are significantly cheaper but which will cost you P3,500 if you decide to pay for everything yourself and ignore the insurance policy.

We have to ask, why are the repair cost so different? What will the first garage do that the second one won't? Are they more experienced and might do a much better job? Or is it that the first garage does what many do and charge insurance companies a lot more than is necessary?

I think it's worth asking the insurance company to explain why their costs are so much higher and then asking the garage you found to explain why they are so cheap. Both you and the insurance company need to know why there's such a great difference.

Once all this is understood you can decide whether to allow the insurance company to take charge or whether you ignore them and do your own thing.