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?