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?