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.

Saturday 17 July 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my bed?

Hi Richard. I really need your help, please our value for our money is no longer considered in furniture stores. I lay-byed a bed worth P4,000 last year August. I went to collect it but after making the payment I spent a week before getting my bed being told that its at the warehouse. I ended up getting it a week later.

After 3 months the bed started making noise. I didn't even waste time I went back to the shop to lodge a complaint and I was told it might be factory fault. They then promised to change the bed but it has been 6 months. Now every month I pay them a visit they keep telling me the same thing.

This bed is no longer comfortable for me, I don't rest well because of the noise. They are taking me for granted because they no longer take my calls at the shop where I bought the bed. Its been 8 months now since I reported this matter maybe a letter from consumer affairs will show them how serious this thing is.

Please help. 

One of the best things about the new Consumer Protection Act is how easy it is to understand. So easy that even some store managers can understand it.

Section 15 (1) of the Act says that a consumer "has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects, unless the opposite is clearly disclosed". Is that difficult?

If a bed is going to be noisy then the store need to tell you that in advance. There needs to be a sign in the store saying 'This bed will make unpleasant noises after three months". Otherwise you're entitled to assume that the bed will be silent, comfortable and likely to give you a good night's sleep. That is what the law offers you. That is what you are entitled to expect.

The store clearly failed to do this and I think we need to explain this to the store. Then we'll see if they're prepared to honour their obligations.

Update: Eventually, after repeated emails the store contacted the consumer and invited them to visit the store and select a bed to replace the noisy one. That's a lesson for us all. Don't give up and eventually the right thing might happen. Eventually.

Can I get a refund?

I laybyed a phone worth P1,300 and along the way I couldn't finish the laybye because my boyfriend bought me a phone. When I went to the shop to inform them that I can't go on with the laybye because of that and I'm looking forward for a refund. They told me that they can't refund me they'll rather make me take clothes from their shop with the money that I laybyed with. Is it fair Richard? Is it how things work?

There's a problem here. With lay-byes. Any attorneys reading this can tell if I'm wrong but I don't think there are any rules or regulations regarding lay-byes. I suspect it's unregulated.

So it might all depend on what was in writing. But there's another problem. Did you actually have a written agreement with the store? My experience is that lay-byes often don't have written agreements, just some receipts for the payments people have made. There's often nothing in writing that say what happens if you change your mind or can't afford to continue with the payments. There's nothing to protect the consumer if things go wrong.

I suggest it might be best to see if there's anything in the store that you might want for the amount you've paid so far. It might be the simplest solution to the situation.

Saturday 10 July 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my money?

I sold this man my car and he still owes me a balance of P13,000. What he does is take your car and sell it at a certain price and he gives you the money you wanted. He was supposed to pay me P15,000 but he has only given me P2,000. We had a verbal agreement. I went to the magistrate and he ordered him to pay me before 31st May. i served him with court orders and still the sheriff can't get hold of him.

So is there something you can advise me to do?

I think the first problem you face is the lack of written agreement. The rule really should be that any time you buy or sell something valuable, there must be an agreement in writing. It's particularly important when you're hiring someone to perform a service for you, like buying a car. Without an agreement it can be very difficult to prove what was agreed between the two of you.

Luckily, you seem to have found a magistrate who can overlook this and has given you an order to get your money. The challenge now is to make that order more than just a piece of paper.

I contacted the man and he wasn't very helpful. He asked me "Wat was the agreement between me and that guy" and told me to "Get the facts before u start publishing things u don't know Mr". Unfortunately, he hasn't said anything further and has chosen not to tell me what he thinks "the facts" might be.

I suggest you go back to the magistrate and get their advice. It might be time to make this a criminal matter and involve the Police. They might be able to persuade him to cooperate.

Can they do this?

I need your advise with a query that I lodged with a microlender. The query was on direct debits that they sent to my account on dates that we had not agreed on thus creating unpaid transactions in my account.

I work in a financial institution so account misconduct is a serious offense which is why I then sourced some funds to close the account. After closure I then lodged a query on around 6 transactions that they sent to my account on different dates and they only refunded one transaction, but on a complaint letter I sent I also requested an apology letter to assist with my employer case.

The explanation I got for the one refund was that the other direct debits were sent on those dates because my account was in arrears, but my question was if they had the right to do so and if creating unpaid transactions and charges of P325 each on my account was punishment for arrears. I requested for the part that stipulates that in our signed contract and the apology letter but I am getting no responses.

Kindly advise.

I'm sorry to hear about your problem. I haven't seen the contract you signed with the microlender but I suspect it says that if a customer is in arrears then they can take any catch-up payments whenever they feel like it.

Unfortunately, companies like this make money not only from the extraordinary interest rates and other charges they charge but also from the penalties they charge when anything goes wrong. The lender you chose is a particularly expensive one. For instance, if you borrow P10,000 from them over a year you'll repay a total of P19,116. If you borrow just P2,000 over a year the total repayment will be an extraordinary P5,028. And that's before anything goes wrong.

I'm also concerned about your position with your employer. Many banks and companies in the financial services industries insist that their employees don't get into high levels of debt. They do this to minimise the chances that their employees can be bribed or influenced to break the rules. The decision you need to consider is whether honesty is the best policy.

Saturday 3 July 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They took my money!

I request your help, I had acquired a loan with my bank. I was dismissed from work. I contacted the bank and informed them that I was no longer working. I further on made a paying arrangement since I'm home and not working. The account I was using ended up being dormant and it was closed. I happen to have a savings account with them. Now 2 days ago my sister transferred her business money in order to pay for her items online. The bank has now accessed the account and paid the loan. I ask for your help for the bank to pay back the money since I had an agreement with them.

Kindly advise.

I think you have a problem. Perhaps several problems.

Firstly, you did the right thing by talking to your bank when you lost your job. Lots of people just go quiet when they can't pay their bills but you did what everyone should do. They should talk and do their best to agree a repayment plan they can afford.

Things went wrong when you allowed someone else, not the account holder, not you, to use the account. The bank was entitled to believe that all the money in your account belongs to you. They were also probably entitled to transfer money between your accounts if there was a debt in one and a credit in another. If you check the agreement you signed when you applied for the loan you'll certainly find a clause which says they can do this if necessary. It also probably says that they can do this without asking you first and certainly if you are in arrears with your repayments.

I think it's still worth speaking to the bank to see if they'll reconsider the situation and refund you but I'm not optimistic.

And then there's your sister…

Where's my refund?

Sometime last year there was a professional modelling workshop advertised to teach young interested models. The price was P950 per child and was scheduled to be on 5-6 December but due to Covid protocols it was postponed to the beginning of 2021.

The workshop management are very unprofessional, communication is made when it is them, when I inquire about progress am told to await an official statement.

Now I have informed them that any date after 31 March will not be suitable. I have on numerous occasions informed them of that and requested that I be refunded the money and they refuse to refund stating that they will only refund when they cancel the workshop, it is over 5 months now with no progress and concrete explanation on way forward or the refund I have requested.

I therefore request your intervention in this matter because my kids can no longer attend the workshop, and I do not believe that any plans have been made.

I'm sorry to hear about this.

I think you should email the organisers and tell them that Section 14 (1) (a) 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".
Section 14 (2) goes on to say that when a supplier:
"fails to perform a service to the standards" they must "remedy any defect in the quality of the services (or) 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".
I would then tell them that if they don't refund you within maybe 7 days you'll seek a court order against them for the refund. If they don't refund you you should go to the Small Claims Court for that order against them.

I hope this helps.