Saturday, 24 September 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What can I do with my phone?

I bought a Samsung a72 from a store at the station in Gaborone with a warranty of 3 months. Within a short period of time the phone started freezing and showing pictures when making calls. Then I went back to the shop and they exchanged the phones. 2 weeks later the phone was flashing on screen and when I scroll down it will be scrolling forever without stopping until I switch it off.

Then I reported to the shop where I got it and the owner said there is nothing he can help me with unless I give it to them to fix which I refused telling them I can't get a brand new fixed phone. Right now it has a speaker problem and when I talk it either increase or decreases the volume.

I bought it at P6,200.00. I'm struggling to use it and I reported at Consumer Affairs but its dragging. Please help me sir.

Where shall I begin? Let's start with this nonsense about a 3-month warranty. That's not a real thing. Section 16 (2) of the Consumer Protection Act say that if goods are faulty a consumer:
"may return goods to a supplier in their merchantable or original state, within six months after the delivery of the goods".
So it's six months, not three. Don't they know this? How can any company that sells things in 2022 not know this?

Secondly, they clearly have a problem with the phones they're selling. I can understand one phone being faulty, these things occasionally happen, but two? That's too much to believe. There's something wrong. It might be a faulty batch of phones but these are high-end Samsung phones, so I find that hard to believe. It's more likely that they're second hand, perhaps refurbished or maybe even faulty phones that have been returned by customers overseas and then ended up being sold here as new. We all know this happens, don't we?

I'm also surprised by the price. I checked around and the price you paid is cheaper than in other stores. A lot cheaper. That's always suspicious.

I'll get in touch with the store and see if they'll see sense.

Is it a virus?

I bought a memory card from a store at Riverwalk on the 5th of September and on the 10th of September my phone reported SD card not inserted yet it was inserted and when I look at my files they were all deleted. I then took the matter to the manager who told me that I should come next day when the IT guy is around. The manager told another IT to check if indeed the card that I bought is the problem or my phone. Then she verified that the problem was the card, so she couldn't help me since she was not sure how to handle the issue. Then she said I should come the next day after she talked to another IT to help her. She even mentioned that the virus is now left on my phone they will have to clean it up and clean the memory card. Then to my surprise when I followed up today they told me a different story that they can't help me. I asked for a refund and they refused. As a result of all the above my phone cannot do voice notes, cannot even take any pictures, my phone cannot open any stickers sent to me please advise.

They need to take full responsibility for their fault. All I want is them to clean up my phone and the card as well like they promised or issue another card. I already lost important information on my phone because of their card.

I think you need to speak to a real expert, instead of the so-called IT people this store uses. It's highly unlikely that a brand new SD card would come with a virus on it, it must have come from somewhere else. Even though SD cards and memory sticks are very useful, they are very dangerous and are one of the most common ways computer viruses and malware spread from one device to another. I know several organisations that have now banned them completely because of the risks they pose. You only need one employee to download something dangerous alongside pirated music or movies and store it on such a device and before you know it an entire company can be a victim to a ransomware attack.

My suggestion would be to find someone or a company who is expert in these things and see what they can do to inspect your SD card and phone to see if they can be recovered.

And in future, please make sure you backup everything that's important to you.

Saturday, 17 September 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my car?

Sir i need your help. In March, I signed a car contract with a car importer. I paid for the car of which they were supposed to import from Japan. The car was supposed to be delivered in 12 weeks from the time of payment. Even up to now they have not yet delivered the car.

I have made several attempts to get in touch with the director but he is not taking my calls and isn't responding to my messages. Your help will be highly appreciated. Thank you.

I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that they're talking to me. I contacted them and they fairly quickly responded, confirming that there have been delays with your vehicle. They also suggested that they'd been in touch with you to discuss a solution.

Now here's the bad news. FIVE other people all contacted me in the same week, telling me identical stories about the same company. They all paid the company large amounts of money and are still waiting for their vehicles, months after they were promised. They were also being ignored and not given feedback.

Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that where:
"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".
But we don't need a law to tell us that, do we? Isn't it just polite to tell people if something will be late, particularly a customer who has paid a great deal of money.

This company is clearly going through some difficulties and I hope they manage to honour their promises to refunds their customers.

Update: It's now SEVEN other people with the same problem. 
Further update: It's now NINE other people.

Where's my stuff?

I have a problem with a company. I ordered a vinyl cutter from them in February. I paid cash and to date since then they have been giving me excuses. They always say since May that the goods had arrived and its always another month and now I also wonder where are the goods?

All I want is what I ordered, and it seems like I was lied to for all those months. Last month I was told my goods have arrived and to come collect and when I got there there was a different story. I gave them the whole month to clear their goods and now we're on 2nd month.

Please how best can you advise me, because now I can't get what I ordered and to get a refund is also another month. Today I spoke to one of the owners and told me that isn't not his problem. How can you help me at least to recover my money back?

Again, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that like the car importer above, this company is also talking to me. They told me that they responded to you and that "he asked to be refunded immediately and he was told refunds are not immediate they take 2-3 weeks."

Readers of The Voice should know that when I passed this message to you, you responded by saying "That's what exactly what they always say. Since May the goods had arrived and I've been told the same, now that it's been months.

We should both keep the pressure on them because clearly they're a bit confused about where the goods are, when they'll arrive and (I suspect) whether they really exist.

The bad news is the same as the reader who is still waiting for his car. In the last couple of weeks I've heard from several other readers who have exactly the same problem with the same company. They also seem to be going through some difficulties.

With both of these companies, I'm sure we all understand that times are tough but that doesn't excuse letting them down and then going silent on them, does it?

Saturday, 10 September 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is my phone new?

I bought my iPhone XR from a store, they claimed it's a new phone, but the battery health wasn't 100%, also the model number according to Apple community is a refurbished phone. A month into using the phone it kept crashing. I had to send it back to them and they claimed it needed a software update, which wasn't true because I had already updated it. It also came with a damaged box and no charger. They gave me a separate charger with the claim that the phone doesn't come with a charger rather it's sold separately.

And they informed me that a cellphone shop in Square Mart is their supplier, and the supplier is not willing to assist with the query. They claim that it has been 8 months with the phone. I showed them the complaint I sent them about the phone being refurbished in January, hardly 3 weeks after buying it, So they are the ones who didn't escalate my issue well on time with their supplier, and that isn't my problem. So I told them I still demand a new phone and not a refurbishment. They said they'll call you so you help them hold their supplier responsible.

I think this store need to learn a few very simple lessons.

Firstly, selling a refurbished phone as new is illegal, contrary to Section 13 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act which says that a supplier must:
"inform a consumer that the goods sold are used goods by … placing a label on the goods that indicates that such goods are used goods (and) placing a notice on the invoice issued to a consumer".
Secondly, do they really think consumers can't identify a refurbished iPhone when they see it? It's simple. If you check the model number of an iPhone, the first letter describes its origin. If it starts with M it's new, F means refurbished and N, like in your case, means it was a replacement phone. Someone in the world returned their new iPhone to an Apple store and it was replaced with the phone you now have. And guess what? Most replacement phones have been refurbished.

Next, like you, I really don't care about their relationship with their supplier. That's their problem, not yours.

And finally, they don't get to tell me what to do. I'm not getting involved in any arguments with their supplier. They need to honour their obligations to you and to the law. Quickly.

Update: I contacted them and they said they'll contact you and see how best they can assist you.

Where's my loan?

Can you please assist? My husband applied for a personal loan with his bank. Before this application, a friend paid him back a certain amount she owed him and the payment was done through the bank. Now the lady who was assisting him at the bank says they cannot assist him with the loan he requested because he has to submit a formal written letter with a stamp and letterhead from the person who was paying him back. Mind you they were just friends assisting each other with money. Now the question is since they are just friends where should they get the letter with stamps and letterheads because it was not even company money or anything.

How is that possible and how can we go about it?

I haven't spoken to the bank but I think I know what's happening here. I think this is about the anti-money laundering laws that banks are required to follow. These AML rules say that banks need to have some knowledge about where the money we receive and give to other people comes from and what it's being used for. Most of the time it's simple. We get our salary, we pay our bills, we go shopping and occasionally we make large purchases. Those are easy for the bank to understand because they can see when we swipe what we're doing. However, payments they can't easily understand make them unhappy if they can't explain what's happening. The authorities are entitled to wonder whether the money is secretly funding terrorism, drug smuggling or the paying protection money to the mafia.

I suggest that we both speak to the bank and ask them how they can help you fix this problem.

Saturday, 3 September 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will they repair it?

I have a complaint about a shop in Main Mall where I bought an iPhone 6S Plus which is not working according to my expectations.

Ten days after the date of purchase the charger stopped working. I tried to reach out to them but they kept ignoring me, I bought it in Gaborone but I stay in Serowe so because of lack of money I couldn't go to Gaborone. In July it was less than a month after buying it, I went to them to tell them about the charger. They gave me another one and I went back to Serowe. Still in July the phone had a problem of vibration I told them via WhatsApp but they ignored it until it started switching off at 29% power. I also tried to reach but they kept ignoring me until I told them that I'm going to the police. A constable in Serowe connected us until they agreed to diagnose the phone and repair it so last week Monday I went there to give them the phone for diagnosis and repair. They suggested I come back with money to top and get another iPhone bigger than the one I'm using. I left my phone which was supposed to be back on Wednesday, I tried to communicate with them but ever since then they switched off their phone. I received my phone on Thursday morning but they are still not replying and they did not repair anything.

I think we need to escalate this situation and help you demand your rights.

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". Clearly they failed this test.

Section 16 (2) of the Act say that a consumer "may return goods to a supplier in their merchantable or original state, within six months after the delivery of the goods … if the goods fail to satisfy the requirements and standards" required by the Act and then they must either repair the item, replace it or refund the consumer. They failed this test too.

Section 16 (4) of the Act It goes on to say that once something has been repaired, if "within three months the same problem recurs in the goods, the supplier shall … replace the goods or refund the consumer the amount paid by the consumer". Yet again, they're failing.

I'm not convinced this was a new phone when you bought it. I checked the serial number and the warranty on the phone expired in 2017, suggesting the phone was first activated in 2016. I think they're hiding something.

I contacted the store and all they could say was that you should return it to them again. They weren't able to offer anything better than that so let's get a bit more aggressive, don't you think?

My Jojo collapsed!

I engaged a compony for installation of a Jojo tank at my farm. I paid them the full amount and 2 days after the installation the structure collapsed owing to their poor workmanship. They then promised to buy the Jojo tank and re install the structure. It's been over a week since their promise and now they are not even taking my calls.

How can you help? Or do you suggest I move forward?

I suggest you DO move forward. By getting even.

I can't think of a better example of a failure by a supplier. Section 14 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" they have a right to expect the supplier to do their job "in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect".

A Jojo tank on a stand shouldn't fall over. It's not complicated, is it? And if it does fall over, the job of the supplier is just as simple to understand. Fix it.

I'll get in touch with the guy and try my best to explain these simple facts.

Sunday, 28 August 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my tractor?

I followed a certain page on Facebook in June who claimed to be selling used tractors in Caledon in Western Cape in South Africa. I made an enquiry on their Whatsapp line and they responded that they do have it. 

A proforma invoice was sent to me on 11 July 2022 and they told me that tractor will be delivered within 3-4 days. On 12 July they confirmed that they have received my payment and will now process the export documentation. That was the last time I heard from them.

The amount of money I sent is R85,000 and this was done bank transfer using FNB online banking.

Now they do not read my Whatsapp chats or answer my calls.

Unfortunately I don't think I have any good news for you. The bad news is that your money is gone, never to be seen again. You've been scammed.

There's a company with the name you gave me that's registered in South Africa, but it isn't registered with the number shown on the invoice you sent. The real company's registration number is very different. This isn't just a simple mistake, this is a con. The genuine company is also registered at a very different address to one shown on the invoice.

Their Facebook page is also suspicious. They only offer a cell number and the web site they give hasn't been set up yet. Also, the domain they're using was only registered a year ago. The Facebook page offers some very good deals on tractors but these deals are way too good to be believed. I'm no expert on farm equipment but I checked the prices for similar equipment and the prices these guys offer are incredibly low.

This is yet another scam, just like many others we've seen before. These scams always offer normally expensive vehicles or equipment at remarkably cheap prices. In fact they're nothing more than Facebook pages that anyone can set up.

The lesson for us all is a simple one. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

How do I buy cryptocurrencies?

Hello Mr Harriman, I need to buy a certain crypto currency. By doing a bit of research I have heard it's going to go up. I have tried to buy it through some American crypto app but cannot download the apps because of our region. I have done my research, I just need the correct avenue to enable me to buy.

I know it's a gamble but I don't mind I just need an avenue to buy it because there are a lot of scammers. You probably don't believe in crypto, I understand, but just like stocks, if done right it can be lucrative. I just need help on how I can purchase the currency.

Can you recommend any crypto person or company to help me buy?

It's not that I don't "believe" in cryptocurrencies, it's just that they're incredibly risky. Their value can rise extremely quickly but it can also fall just as quickly. That's why they should never be seen an investments, just like any other currency. People don't "invest" in the Pula, US dollar, Euro or Yen, they trade them. Some people, a very small percentage, make money by doing this but the overwhelming majority either make no money or lose it. That's even more so with cryptocurrencies. For example, if someone had bought Bitcoin this time last year they would have lost 57% of the money they spent by now. With the smaller cryptocurrencies like the one you told me about the risks are even greater. Just remember that even though it's quite easy to buy a cryptocurrency, it can be very difficult to sell it again if the value drops. You might not find anyone foolish enough to buy it from you and you'll be stuck with an asset that's disappearing in front of you.

Then there's the scammers. The currency you mentioned appears to be legitimate but the whole industry is dominated by crooks, scammers and liars, all trying desperately to get your money.

My advice is simple. Investing your money in cryptocurrencies, like any other currency, is little more than gambling and you should treat it that way. If you've done your research and have some spare money you don't need and can afford to lose, then have a go. Otherwise, play safe.

Saturday, 20 August 2022

The Voce - Consumer's Voice

Where's my car?

Hello Richard. On June 15 I paid P68,000 to a South African car dealer through their agent in Botswana. I wanted a Nissan Dualis which they promised to deliver that same week. On the day when I was expecting to receive the car (20 June), they informed me that the truck that was carrying the cars to Botswana had a slight accident and unfortunately my car got damaged (they sent me photos of the damaged car). I then told then that I cannot take a car that has had an accident, so they promised that they will sort me out with another Dualis soon.

Days and weeks passed without any communication from them, unless if I am the one who questions on the progress. I am still waiting even now, and they are taking me from pillar to post. Every day is a new story. I have asked them for a refund since they cannot give me a new car, and still they are not helping.

None of them, the car dealer and the carrier company, wants to take responsibility. Please help.

I'm sure there are some honest people in the car import business but sometimes it's hard to find them.

I understand that when importing cars there are occasional accidents like the one that happened to your car. I also understand that in a situation like this, it's the job of the importer to find you're a new vehicle. So far, so good.

But something doesn't add up. If it only took 5 days last time, from the 15th to the 20th of June to ship your vehicle why is it taking so long this time? Why has it been two months? Perhaps they don't have the right vehicle available? If that's the case why can't they just tell you and let you decide what to do? Whatever the reason, I think it's time for a refund.

I suggest you contact them and give them a deadline. Tell them that if they don't refund you within a week you'll take legal action against them to recover your money. Tell them you'll also be contacting the Competition and Consumer Authority, Consumer Watchdog and The Voice. Between us we should have enough muscle.

Another second-hand car disaster

I bought a BMW X1 from a dealer in Mogoditshane on the 20th June. On the 31st July I experienced an engine problem and contacted the owner of the garage the next day only to be told that the warranty was only 7 days and that I had signed to agree with that since it's written on the receipt. I was never told about the 7 days before then.

Their salesman gave me the car with a dead left headlamp and promised to fit it but never did it and I had to pay someone P600 to fit it. I also had to buy myself the back wiper for P150 since they did not put it on. Also a pipe from the water tank started leaking and I had it replaced for another P600. On the 31st July while on a trip the car slowed itself down near Mahalapye and we stopped to observe what was the problem and there was some loud noise coming from the engine. We had a towing company transport the car on a truck to Mahalapye since it was the nearest place of safety. I paid P850 for the service.

Please help me get assistance.

Buying a second-hand car is an incredibly risky business. We've had hundreds of complaints over the years that were all very similar to yours and the challenge is always the same. Most second-hand car dealers offer almost no warranty on the cars they sell and customers often only discover this when they get a receipt, after having paid a huge amount of money. We could argue that explaining this after the consumer has paid isn't legal but that would be a job for attorneys.

The lesson is simple. Be VERY careful when buying a second-hand car. You should ALWAYS get a mechanic to inspect any car you're thinking of buying. Most of us have a friend or relative who knows more about cars that we do. Ask them to take a look. If you don't have someone, go to the garage that serviced your last car and ask if one of the mechanics wants to earn something extra. I promise you it will be worth a few hundred Pula or a crate of beer to get their expert advice. It might save you a fortune in the long run.

Also, get the dealer to put something in writing about the state of the car you're buying. Insist that they identify all the known problems before you hand over your money. If they refuse, ask yourself what they're hiding because they certainly can't be trusted with your money.

Saturday, 13 August 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

How much was the engine?

Please advise. We went to a certain store in Mogoditshane to buy a car engine. Upon arrival we were told that the engine costs P9,800. After a discount we paid P8,700.

So then the manager told the shop assistant that the price has changed and was not updated on the system yet. He said the price is P14,000 and expected us to top up and pay the amount. We refused and requested a refund. He then changed and said it's fine we can take it. While they were preparing to give the engine to us another man came in seems like the owner and told us they will be making a loss if we took it at P8,700. They didn't want to give back our money and we ended up negotiating with them and taking it at P10,000.

I was just wondering if they are even allowed to do that to customers. I feel frustrated.

I think this store needs to think very carefully about how they advertise their products, in particular how they display their prices. You had a reasonable right to expect that the price displayed for the engine was the correct price and my view, as someone who isn't an attorney, just an amateur, is that once you paid the price and they accepted your money the engine was your property.

So maybe the store made a mistake when they displayed the price? Yes, that might be true, everyone makes mistakes sometimes. But the time to correct the mistake was before they took your money. And if they did make a mistake and don't want to sell you the item at the lower price, how dare they refuse you a refund? That's completely unacceptable.

You were very flexible and tolerant when you agreed to negotiate a higher price and I think the best thing is to put this behind you. Yes, you paid more than you originally thought but you paid a lot less than what the owner wanted you to.

Maybe you've done ok?

Where's my refund?

I wanted to track a lost phone and I searched numbers on Facebook to find someone to help me locate it. He said I should send P400. After a few hours I managed to find the phone and I called him to refund my money.

He said they had already cashed the money so I should wait until they close and he will ask his boss to ewallet which he didn't do. The following day he said we don't have enough in the till and he said he will do it when he goes for lunch. That's it, he stopped communicating with me. He's refusing to refund me and he's not picking my calls nor replying to my messages.

He said he is from a store which was a lie because when I called them they said they don't know him.

There are two issues here. Firstly, should he refund you? I think that depends on whether he did any work in the few hours after you sent him the P400. I suppose it's possible that in that time he was very busy doing his best to track your phone. It's possible you would have been very pleased to be told where your phone was. It's possible you would have thought it was value for money. However, I think it's up to him to demonstrate that he was a busy guy in that time. But that would mean he must answer his phone and anyone who refuses to answer for so long is hiding something.

The second thing is he's a liar. He claimed to be working for the company, he made excuses about talking to his boss and getting money from the till when in fact they've never heard of him. He was lying to you and you can't trust a liar.

This guy can't be trusted. I'll contact him and try to persuade him to do the right thing but you know something about liars? They lie. They can't be trusted. If that approach doesn't work I think you need to visit your local Police Station and suggest they consider laying a charge of Obtaining By False Pretence, contrary to Section 308 of the Penal Code. That should wake him up and help you get your money back.

Sunday, 7 August 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can they charge me so much?

I'm kindly asking for your advice. I owe someone P1,500 motshelo money. When returning back the money is it possible for the person to say I owe them P6,000. Looking at the duplum law rule. Shouldn't I be paying P3,000.

Thank you.

I think you know your rights already!

The in duplum rule is something understood and enforced in many countries including our own and it's quite simple. To quote a highly respected judge (one of ours) in a judgment passed in 2008, the rule "serves to aid debtors in financial difficulties by holding that it is unlawful to recover interest equal to or more than the capital sum upon which interest had accrued". Later in the judgment the judge also said that "the application of the in duplum rule cannot be waived".

In simple terms, the in duplum rule is law and there's no way around it. If the person running this motshelo scheme wants their money back, they're entitled to demand it form you including interest but the interest cannot be more than the P1,500 capital you owe. So you're right, they can't demand more than P1,499 in interest payments.

I think you should also approach NBFIRA, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority and get their advice and ask them to examine this scheme. Depending on the setup of the scheme, they might be able to give you some advice and assistance.

The simple truth is that you can't avoid paying your debts. They don't go away and they can damage your finances for the rest of your life if you're not careful. However, the Consumer Protection Act offers consumers protection from lenders using "force, coercion, undue influence, pressure, duress, harassment, unfair tactics". They must recover their debt in a reasonable manner and charge only what the law allows them to charge.

If this person refuses to see sense, I'm happy to contact them for you and explain all this to them.

Will they pay us?

My brother is late we buried him this month. He insured himself and we proceeded with the claim and they promised that it will take 24 hours. We waited and waited until I phoned them and they said that the policy has been deactivated last year August but the owner has been paying until the last month, they didn't communicate with him telling him that the policy has lapsed. They took the money even after August.

They said he missed some months in different years and they didn't communicate as they are supposed to do. I went to the post office were the claim was processed and they were surprised because they didn't tell them as they do in all policies, when someone missed payments they inform them to tell the person to pay outstanding balance but with this one they didn't.

I know that some companies insist that it's entirely the responsibility of a customer to make sure that monthly instalments are made, whether it's insurance, hire purchase or a bank loan. I understand that. However, it's 2022 and don't they have our cellphone numbers and email addresses? Don't large companies have expensive computer systems that can be set to send out messages when the payments they expect aren't made? Is that too much to ask for? I don't think so. They're making enough money from us that I think they can afford to ask their IT people to help us all out.

However, that all depends on us keeping them informed if we change our contact details.

The lesson here is that we can't always rely on banks, insurance companies and hire purchase stores to let us know if there's a problem with our payments. Yes they should be telling us but we know they can't be relied upon to do so.

Update: I contacted the insurance company and they responded extremely quickly, saying they would look into the situation urgently. I then heard from the reader who said the insurance company had already been in touch, apologising and promising to make the payment the following day.

Saturday, 30 July 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should he send the money?

My cousin was sent some gifts from UK through a company called Cargo Trade. So they are saying they demand P3,500 so that they can give us those gifts and the phone number is not going through. They don't reply to us. The are busy saying we should sent P3,500 before we receive the gifts. We asked where is the office located so we can take them. They are busy saying no just send some money. I have the number of that person who claims to be the manager of the company?

This is a scam.

Firstly, there is no company registered under that name in Botswana and I can find no trace of any business using that name. Secondly, the cell phone number you sent me for the company also seems to be unanswered, unknown and untraceable.

More importantly, this is exactly the same story we've heard many times before. Typically a victim befriends someone on a social media channel, often Facebook but also Instagram and Twitter. Quite often that friendship develops into something much deeper, in the minds of the victims it even transforms into romantic attachments. It might seem hard to believe but the victims often consider themselves in love with their scammer.

Then what happens is that the scammer offers to send their victim a package. Often they'll claim it contains a laptop, high-end cellphone, jewellery and even cash. A few days later the victim, like your cousin, gets a call from someone claiming to represent the shipping company saying that there's a fee to pay. Sometimes they'll say it's a clearance fee, other times they'll say it's a tax or duty. Whatever they claim, that's what this scam is all about, the fake fee they claim you must pay to receive your package.

The clever thing about this scam is that it sounds plausible. If you've ever had something shipped to Botswana from overseas you'll know, as I do, that the shipping company won't deliver the package until you've paid BURS for any duty that might be owed. But in this case BURS isn't involved. This is just a scammer making up stories to steal your cousin's money.

Chatting with a scammer

We've been warning people recently about the various scams that are actively recruiting new victims. Most exploit our ignorance about cryptocurrencies and forex trading, promising that we can make vast profits on our 'investments' if we sign up. One of the ways I've been researching this is by talking to scammers and pretending to be a possible victim. However, sooner or later I've lost patience and accused them of being scammers. That's when they go silent or block me.

But last week something remarkable happened.

I persuaded a scammer to confess and tell the truth. It was fascinating. He didn't give me his name but confirmed he was in Nigeria and "I'm a final year student studying biological sciences currently I'm at home because our universities are on strike, our government is bad after school no work so we had to struggle by scamming".

He also told me that the scammers he works with are serious criminals. Their business isn't just scamming people, it also "involves killing of beloved ones and others". He claimed he wasn't involved in the contract killing side of the business and he was just "on legitimate scamming". One of the things that surprised me was how little he said he'd earned from scamming. Just $1,500 over 3½ years. That's just P4,300 each year. However, the good news is that he spent it all on his school fees. At least he's concentrating on his education.

Most of what he told me we all know already. These scammers take over the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram accounts of real people and then use their identities to recruit victims. But how do they persuade people to do this? It's simple. With money. He told me he pays people "10-30 dollars depending on the country facebook account".

He also shared with me the scripts they are told to use when recruiting people, the stories they tell to potential victims. I didn't learn much from this scammer that I didn't know already but it was fascinating to hear from a real scammer how he worked. And how guilty he sometimes felt. Too bad. If he feels guilty, he deserves it.

Sunday, 24 July 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get a receipt?

Hello Sir. I was buying eye glasses using medical aid. The glasses cost P1600 but medical aid covered me with P1100 so I topped up with P500.

After telling them that I need a receipt for the glasses so as to be refunded at work they said they will only do it for P500 not the cost of the glasses which is P1600.

I thought I have to be refunded what I have spent.

Is it fair and ok Sir?

Yes, I think this is perfectly fair. In fact, this is exactly how it should work.

Firstly, you're paying your medical aid to cover the costs of any medical issues you face. Medical aid providers cover the cost of our medical bills although they often require the member to pay some of the bills. Sometimes it's 10%, other times it's the VAT, with some it's a higher percentage for certain things like glasses.

In your case you have a very generous employer who covers the shortfall. Even though you paid the P500, you can claim that back from the company you work for. That's why the optician if giving you a receipt for just P500. That's the amount you claim from your employer. You weren't thinking of claiming the full P1,600 from them, were you?

I want a working fridge!

I am kindly asking for advice on the following matter. I purchased a fridge from a store in Francistown in February 2021. A few months into using it the fridge began giving me problems and I contacted the store about the matter. After weeks of being given the run around a technician finally came to see the fridge and initially he said the problem can not be fixed and he will write a report for me to get a new fridge.

Weeks later I was told that the company found a replacement door for the freezer, which apparently was the source of the problem. The door came months later only to realise that it was for a wrong model. The technician and the store then told me that they are going back to the initial idea of me getting a replacement fridge. They then told me that the model that I have has been replaced by new model and that I need to top up to get the new model.

I was told that after transporting the fridge to the store (at my own costs by the way) I would have the new fridge in about 4 hours. Hours after having returned my fridge I called to find out if the new fridge is ready for collection, only to be told that I have to wait for the fridge to reach the supplier in Gaborone and that the process can take up to 2 weeks. The shop failed to give me answers as to what will happen to my groceries in the weeks that I will be waiting. Long story short, I am currently without a fridge.

Kindly advice me accordingly

Why can't they make a decision? I don't think this store knows about customer service or about the Consumer Protection Act.

Their customer service failures are simple. Why are they treating you with so much disrespect? Why are they ignoring your needs and putting themselves first?

Their ignorance of the Consumer Protection Act is also surprising. You are under no obligation to pay for a more expensive fridge when it's their responsibility to give you a fridge that works. The fact that the model you had no longer exists is their job to manage, not yours. If they need to replace the faulty fridge with a slightly better one then they need to pay for it, not you.

Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that when a store:
"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". 
I don't think this store understands that either.

I'll contact them and see if they can perhaps go a little faster.

Saturday, 16 July 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my car?

Hello Mr Harriman. I kindly need your advise and most importantly your help. I paid one guy to purchase a car for me from Durban in January. No document was made we just made verbal agreements because I had thought he would deliver it just like my first car. I paid 80k cash and I have at least the proof of payments. He had promised that I would have my car in 4 weeks but there's nothing up to today. He bought my first car and he delivered it well on time the problem is this second car. It's been 6 months and his phones are not going through nothing whatsoever.

Please Mr Harriman how can you help me. I can't even sleep when I think of my hard earned money please sir. I'd really appreciate it if you helped.

I wish I had some good news for you. Unfortunately, I don't. Not yet.

The bad news is that you made a mistake by not getting something in writing with this guy. A written agreement would be a very good starting place if you wanted to start legal action against him. A sale agreement doesn't need to be a complicated thing, it just needs to be a written agreement that says he's buying a car on your behalf, stating the relevant dates, conditions and the payments required. You don't need an attorney to write it for you. It can be very simple. All it then needs is your signatures and those of some witnesses.

However, all is not lost. I suspect that the proofs of payment are better than nothing. So would any SMS or WhatsApp conversations you might have had with him.

Back to the bad news. He's disappeared. None of the numbers you have for him are working and he doesn't appear to exist on Facebook. This is going to be a challenge. It might be worth contacting the Police to see if they know anything about him. Perhaps other people have complained about him as well?

Update: The company he was operating was deregistered in 2020. If he was using that company name to sell you a car in 2022 he's in deep trouble. We should both alert the authorities.

Is it real?

Good day. I have applied for an online loan at Norton Finance and Swoosh Finance in South Africa and was approved. Thereafter I was asked to pay legal fees for the insurance but to date they are not sending the loan as agreed on the contract. I was asked to pay transfer duty but still I can't get the loan. Cancellation too calls for money equivalent to what I have paid so far.

I sent the money through Mukuru. Their phones are still going through and are still asking me to pay the last fee for tax charged by Reserve Bank.

How can you assist me?

I'm sorry. Much as I'd like to be of help, I can't. You're the victim of a scam.

I think it's worth highlighting some of the clues about these fake lenders. Firstly, no legitimate lender lends money across borders. No South African lender will lend money to someone who lives in a different legal jurisdiction. Secondly, I bet they operate from a free email address and a cellphone number? I bet they've never called you from a landline or emailed you from a domain similar to the company names they claimed?

I also predict that they offered you loans at incredibly low interest rates, just a fraction of what your bank would have offered. I predict they also offered to lend you enormous amounts.

This is how all these fake lender scams work. They make loan offers to people who have been turned down by their bank or who can't afford the amounts charged by conventional lenders. They're appealing to the desperate.

Finally, and I'm sure you know this now, but real lenders don't demand money from the people they're lending to. Real lenders don't charge their customers money. They certainly don't charge you legal fees, insurance and cancellation fees. It's all lies.

The worst news is that there's nothing you can do to get your money back. Scammers don't offer refunds.

Saturday, 9 July 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can they repair it three times?

I bought an iPhone last month and I used it for 4 days and then it lost network. They took it back and they said they are fixing it. I got it back on Tuesday and I used it for hours then the problem starts again. When I tell them the refund they refuse they say I let them fix it and they won't refund.

We've explained this many times before but it's worth stating again what the law says.

Section 16 (2) of the Consumer Protection Act says that even without a warranty, a consumer
"may return goods to a supplier in their merchantable or original state, within six months after the delivery of the goods … if the goods fail to satisfy the requirements and standards" (required by the Act).
It then says that the store must either repair the item, replace it or refund the consumer their money. 

It goes on to say that once something has been repaired, if
"within three months the same problem recurs in the goods, the supplier shall … replace the goods or refund the consumer the amount paid by the consumer".
I explained this to the reader and then something remarkable occurred. They told the store manager that they knew their rights but this didn't work very well. The store's argument was that the phone was actually refurbished, it was second-hand. So they felt the law didn't apply to them. In fact they decided to be very creative about what the law said. They messaged the consumer saying:
"I guess you were mis informed. That law only applies to brand new phones. Second hand phones one is given 3 attempts".
Unfortunately, there's no polite way to describe this comment. It's a lie. An untruth. It's made up. The law says nothing of the sort. I confronted the store manager about this and he admitted he knew it wasn't true.

He told me the phone would be repaired within a few days. Let's wait and see if this was another lie?

Scam warning (again)

I've been asked again to warn people about the scams using the name of the Yellow Card cryptocurrency exchange. These scammers, who offer enormous profits just pretend to be connected with Yellow Card when in fact there's no connection at all. They're faking it, just like they fake the payment notifications they claim as proof that people can make money from their fake scheme. One of the things these scammers do is to hijack other people's Facebook, WhatsApp and cellphone accounts so they can seem to be real people with real profiles, perhaps even people we know. But how do they do this? How do they gain control over other people's accounts?

It's very simple. We give them our passwords. A member of our Facebook group sent me screenshots from a conversation he'd had with a scammer. The scammer approached him saying he represented a clothing company that was running "a giveaway of p2000 to the first 50 people". In order to get this "giveaway" he was required to give them his name, date of birth, "state/province", country and occupation. Already I think you can sense this is suspicious, can't you? Someone offering money in Pula want to know his "state/province"? But then it became really interesting. They also wanted his "Facebook phone number" and "Facebook password".

This is how they hijack our accounts. The scammers are given access to these accounts by the account owners themselves and they then use these genuine accounts to steal money from further victims.

The same goes for their bank accounts. These scammers often ask for money, the so-called 'investment' to be paid into legitimate bank accounts here in Botswana. These accounts are usually the accounts of other victims who've been told they'll get a percentage if they share their bank details.

The bad news is that sooner or later the bank account holder will realise they've been scammed but it'll be too late. Who knows what the criminals will have done with their account? The victim might then face the ordeal of explaining to the bank or even to the Police why they were willing accomplices to a crime.

The lesson is very simple. Never, under any circumstances, give your Facebook, WhatsApp, cellphone or bank details to anyone who asks for them. The only people who will ever ask for these things are criminals. Do you think you can trust criminals with your identity?

Saturday, 2 July 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my fridge?

Hello Richard, I need your assistance. I bought a fridge in December 2020 from a furniture store in Gaborone station. It was a combined fridge for gas and electric I wanted to use it for gas but it was not working. I did tell the furniture shop that it is not working and they did come to attend it but they attended the electric side, I went back again to report again and they told me they were not aware that I am complaining of which part of the fridge so they are going back to the office they will come back again.

They never came back and I decided to take the fridge on my expense back to the shop in August last year. They told me they will call me, but they never did. From the time that I was complaining about the fridge I stopped paying because ever since I bought the fridge it was never used. They started calling me this month this year saying they are going to list me with ITC and ended up doing that. The fridge is with them and now I want to get a loan and I can't because I am listed. I would like you to assist recover my instalments fee and be removed from ITC listing as I have never used the fridge. I have incurred more cost every time having to explain and call their bosses without resolution.

Normally my advice when thinks like this happen is NEVER to stop paying your hire purchase instalments. That's because when you stop paying your instalments the store can refuse to honour the warranty you got when you bought the items.

But in this case, I think we can overlook that. This is a situation where I think the store must ignore their contract and do the right thing. They let you down repeatedly, firstly by selling you something that failed and then by repeatedly failing to fix the fridge.

I've emailed them and asked then to take a look and politely suggested that they consider how well they've treated you. Let's hope they can do the right thing.

Is it legit?

Hi Richard. Please tell me about these guys who are offering loans from outside the country like South Africa at 3 percent. How legit are they?

How legit are they? The answer is simple. They're not. They're scams.

We've been warning people about scam lenders like this for several years and the pattern is always the same. They always offer loans across borders, almost always from South Africa. That's the first clue. Genuine lenders don't lend money to people in other countries. It just doesn't happen. Would you lend money to a total stranger in another country, someone you'd never met? Of course not.

The next clue is how cheap these loans appear to be. The interest rates they claim to charge are much, much lower than what real lender like a bank would offer. That's simply unbelievable. How could they afford to offer such low rates?

They also offer huge amounts of money. They often say they can lend many millions. Remember that they're saying they'll lend these amounts at incredibly low interest rates to people they've never met in foreign countries.

The final clue is how easy it is to get one of these fake loans. You give them just a few personal details and they say they'll send the money. Anyone who has ever borrowed money from a real lender will know this isn't how things work. Real loans take time.

One of the tricks these scammers play is that they'll often use the name of legitimate, registered lenders based in South Africa. They'll even quote the registration number and the web site of the real company, pretending it's theirs. I've spoken to the owners of the legitimate companies and they say it's incredibly damaging to their genuine lending businesses.

The truth is that everything you hear from these fake lenders is a lie. Just before they say you're going to receive the loan, they'll invent a reason why you need to pay them for something. They might say it's an account opening fee, lawyers' costs, a transaction charge, whatever it is, that's what this scam is all about. The whole story was made up to get that money from you. That's what the scam is all about.

Saturday, 25 June 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my refund?

I ordered a phone from the company with an app. Now the guy is not giving me solid or sound feedback when I follow up. He last said it takes 16 days of which I ordered on the 6th May. That guy kept saying the phone is at customs now the phone is damaged. The last call I made was about damaged products of which he was to deliver not give me feedback about shipment. I genuinely need the phone I can't be waiting this long just to get a refund especially that I have been patient with him. I need a specific date so I can make arrangements to place new order elsewhere.

Some suppliers really need to learn some basic lessons. Primary school lessons.

Firstly, they should know that Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act says that a supplier must give a consumer "timely performance" and "timely notice of any unavoidable delay" in any services they offer. In simple terms, if they said it would take 16 days from the 6th May, then as soon as they realised there was a delay it was their job to call you and let you know.

They should also know some more about the Act. I contacted the owner of this company and it was clear he had no idea what the law required of him. He seemed genuinely surprised when I told him that the Consumer Protection Act says that when goods are sold through mail order like this, there are some new obligations on companies like his. Firstly, the contract must be in writing. Secondly, they must offer a "cooling-off period of 10 working days" and the supplier must allow the "consumer the right to cancel the contract any time as long as it is within the cooling-off period".

But did he tell his customer this? No, he didn't. Instead he told me that their "refund policy on our website as people make purchases states that refunds are given within 4 working days". That's fine but did he explain that to her? No, he didn't.

I asked him when the consumer would receive her refund and he told me "before the week ends". But he didn't. On the Friday I asked him and he said "as per our policy we have upto Monday". That's the policy he didn't tell her about?

Let's see if he honours his promises this time, despite not doing so before. Let's also see if he wants to learn what the law says. 

Update: The refund was eventually made.

More scam warnings

Last week I warned readers of The Voice about the scams that are using the name of the Yellow Card cryptocurrency exchange. I tried to explain that these scammers, who offer enormous returns for our "investments", are just pretending to be connected with Yellow Cars when in fact there's no connection at all. They're faking it, just like they fake the payment notification they claim as proof that people can make money from their fake scheme. One of the things these scammers do is to hijack other people's Facebook accounts so they can seem to be real people with real profiles, perhaps even people we know. But how do they do this? How do they gain control over other people's accounts?

It's very simple. We give them our passwords. A member of our Facebook group sent me screenshots from a conversation he'd had with a scammer. The scammer approached him saying he represented a clothing company that was running "a giveaway of p2000 to the first 50 people". In order to get this "giveaway" he was required to give them his name, date of birth, "state/province", country and occupation. Already I think you can sense this is suspicious, can't you? Someone offering money in Pula want to know his "state/province"? But then it became really interesting. They also wanted his "Facebook phone number" and "Facebook password".

This is how they hijack Facebook accounts. The scammers are given access to these accounts by the account owners themselves and they then use these genuine accounts to exploit further victims.

The lesson is very simple. Never, under any circumstances, give your Facebook password to anyone who asks for it. The only people who will ever ask for your password are criminals. And they can't be trusted.

Saturday, 18 June 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will they charge me the right price?

I paid a P10,000 deposit for a stove priced at P12,000 on the shop floor. I have a time stamped photo of the sign saying P12,000, but when I got home I realized the contract was down for P13,000 and when I went into the store at Airport Junction they had increased the price on the shop floor to P13k.

I requested on a later date that I should have gotten the P12,000 price but they said I should have raised it on the same day.

Do I have something I should fight for here or I should accept defeat?

It depends if you care about your rights and the rights of everyone else.

I suspect this is an experience we've all had, when the price we're asked to pay at the till is more than the price we saw on the shelf or in an advertisement. It's certainly happened to me a few times.

The good news is that the law is on our side. Section 11 of the Consumer Protection Act is one of my favourites. It starts by saying that prices must always be displayed and that they should be displayed in Pula. Better still, Section 11 (3) of the Act says, in very simple language, that a supplier "shall not charge a consumer more than the price
indicated or displayed for goods or services".

I think you should go back to the store and explain this to them. I've also contacted them and I'm sure they'll do the right thing.

Update: The store manager contacted the customer and has promised to do all he can do to assist. Let's hope.

Yellow Card scams – another warning

Several people have asked yet again about a particular scam that's still going around.
Most people on Facebook will have seen advertisements for an opportunity to make a lot of money using Yellow Card. Many people have tried to post these advertisements in the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group but I've declined them. One recent advertisement said that if you joined and invested P300 it would grow to P3,000 and that "you will get your profit within 2hours of mining". They claimed that P2,500 would grow to P20,000 in the same time.

These adverts all had three things in common. They all mentioned Yellow Card, they all promised that I could multiply
my "investment" many times over in just a few days and they all included screenshots of bank payment notifications. However, all three of these claims were false. Firstly, it's nothing to do with Yellow Card, which is a legitimate exchange where you can buy and sell cryptocurrencies. Secondly, there is no investment in the world that can multiply money as quickly as these people claim. Thirdly, the bank alerts were obviously faked.

In my conversations with these scammers they all eventually confessed that they were associated with a range of web sites that made these offers and all of these sites were registered in just the last few months. They were also all reluctant to say where in fact they were based, most claiming they were in Botswana, but it was obvious they really weren't. Some couldn't even spell the name of the country or town they claimed to be in. It was also interesting to see that the web sites were all almost identical. This is clearly an organised scam. I've noticed that very often the people trying to post these advertisements use different Facebook profiles but the same cell number. Another trick they play is to persuade new recruits to post videos saying they've made money from the scheme. However, I managed to trace one of these people and she told me she had been paid to do this.

Please I beg you, don't fall for scams like this. You'll never make a profit and I guarantee you'll lose any money you "invest". If you're ever in any doubt if something is a scam, you can always contact Consumer Watchdog for advice. And remember that anyone who invites you to join their money-making scheme wants to make money FROM you, not WITH you.

Saturday, 11 June 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will they repair the tombstone?

In March 2022 I purchased a tombstone for my late mother. The total purchase price of P29,000 was for supply and installation of tombstone in Maun including transportation to Maun. I also purchased some tiles worth P960 for decorating the tombstone slab and handed them over as agreed. On the 24th April they advised that they would be delivering the tombstone in Maun on the 27th April.

I drove to Maun from Gaborone and waited for them up to the 30th April whereupon they showed up with a cracked and broken tombstone, no tiles and no refund for construction of the base slab which they had explicitly requested that I construct at my own expense even though the cost was already included in the original quotation and was fully paid for. I acceded to the request in the interests of time since I had already been waiting for 3 days and I trusted that I would be refunded.

They insisted that I accept the tombstones in its broken and shambolic state and my protests and refusal to accept the tombstone were met by angry and vitriolic attacks from the managing director and owner.

With no further communication and or commitment to replace the tombstone I wrote a letter of demand on the 10th May 2022 to which there has been no response. I also attempted to report a case of theft of the decorative tiles that I had bought and was turned back at Central Police Station.

Please advise me on how to demand my money back as I have been cheated and threatened the owner going so far as to tell me that I cannot and will not teach him how to run his business.

I know that companies in all industries should treat their customers with respect and courtesy but I think there are some industries where this is even more important. Specifically, I think consumers are entitled to a lot more compassion when they deal with companies offering any services involving illness and death.

This company seems to have forgotten that they are dealing with a family that lost their beloved mum. That doesn't mean mistakes can't happen but it does mean they should show some sympathy and not act like bullies.

I contacted the MD of the company and he gave me much of the same treatment. I tried to explain that he can't expect to deliver a broken tombstone and then do nothing to fix it. In particular I told him that Section 14 (1) (c) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a "consumer has a right 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". I also explained that Section 14 (2) says that if a supplier that fails to do this 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".

Unfortunately, he wasn't persuaded. He doesn't think the law applies to him, saying that because you didn't buy insurance that covered the tombstone during transportation, that somehow excuses him from his obligations. Let's see what some additional pressure might achieve.

Can I get a refund?

I paid for accommodation at a hotel for 4 days but I only stayed for 3 nights. The Manager is saying they are not refunding me yet my banking details were taken by the reception when I checked out promising to refund me. When I called this morning they said they are not refunding and referred me to the manager who said they are not refunding for shortened stay.

I am stressed because it is an imprest, government money which I have to retire or else it will be taken from my salary next month.

Sorry, but I don't have any good news for you. It's normal practice for hotels to charge you for the time you booked, not necessarily the time you stay. The only exception to this is if you give them longer notice. Just checking out midway through your stay isn't enough notice. If you think about it, it's a reasonable policy. They could have offered the room to someone else and they'll lose the money they would otherwise have made from your stay.

I contacted the hotel and they confirmed that the check-in form everyone signs when they arrive says clearly that "premature departures will be charged in full".

Saturday, 4 June 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will they give me a refund?

I have a problem, i bought a car on the 15th May from one of the garages in Mogoditshane, unregistered. I took it unregistered so I could register it for myself since I needed the 2,000 it would cost if they registered for me. I managed to register the car last week Friday, and that Friday I was driving it for the second time since I parked it on the day I bought it. I went to Gaborone to service the and car. When my mechanic saw it, he said it has to be cleaned because it had too much sludge and Sunday before he cleaned it, the car started smoking badly. The same afternoon he cleaned the sludge which seemed to have affected some parts of the engine.

After he completed the service the problem still remained. I tried to talk to the owner of the garage and he said there is nothing they can do since I had already asked the mechanic to help me. I told him I need a refund but he doesn't want to talk to me, he cuts my calls when I try to reach out.

Whenever I try to talk to him he gets aggressive, he doesn't address me politely, which makes it difficult to pursue the matter. Please advise me?

I must be honest, this is likely to be complicated.

The first mistake was to buy the car without having it thoroughly checked out by an expert. Every time you buy a second-hand car, no matter how old or cheap it might be, you must get it checked out by an experienced mechanic. They'll be able to spot things that the rest of us wouldn't spot. If you don't know a mechanic, ask your friends, family, workmates, someone will know one. If that doesn't work, I suggest you visit the last trustworthy garage you used and see if one of the mechanics wants to work a little overtime for you. It might be worth a few hundred Pula and a crate of beer to get their advice. It might save you a lot of money in the long run.

The second mistake was to get anyone other than the garage to look at the problem. They can now say that someone else messed with the vehicle. It's obviously not true but it's an argument they can use to defend themselves.

I think the best option is to contact the Competition and Consumer Authority and see if they have any advice. They've had some success dealing with shady car dealers and their power and experience might be useful. If that doesn't work I can explain the Consumer Protection Act to them. I'll make sure to use short, simple words so they understand.

Can I change my mind?

This serves to enquire about my rights as a consumer who has since purchased some goods and want to retract. I have bought a smart TV at some store and was supposed to come back and collect it since I did not have money for transport by then.

I now want to cancel the purchase due to financial issues I am currently facing. The TV was worth P7,499.95.

This also might be complicated.

Remember that our consumer rights, while powerful and extensive, don't include the right to change our minds. The law only says that we can return an item we bought if it's faulty or if it was somehow mis-sold. If the item is in working order and we've changed our minds, it's up to the good will of the store to take it back. It's their decision.

Yes, some stores have a policy of allowing returns but that's just very good customer service, it's not a right we have. That's why the products from these stores are usually a bit more expensive. We're paying for the right to change our minds.

I think you should ask the store if they'll cancel the deal. Remind them that the TV hasn't been delivered yet, it hasn't even been taken out of the box. It's as good as new and it's certainly not second hand or used.

However, even if they do agree, they might still charge you a fee to do this. It might be worth it.

Saturday, 28 May 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

My car was a write-off!

My brother wanted to buy a new car so he went to a major dealer but currently there is a short supply of cars in the market. He ended up going to a smaller car dealer, where he found a mint clean GD6 with a mileage of 10,000km. He engaged with the garage and asked them the usual questions of someone who wants to buy a car. They told him the car was just being used by the garage management hence the low mileage and they told him the dealer was the first owner.

It looked clean and almost new so he went to the bank and processed a loan of P387k to buy the vehicle and paid the dealer. Two weeks later, my brother is driving around down, and some lady tells him that was her car, and to get her number come and get the service book. We made contact with the lady and went to see her only the be shown the pictures that the car was crushed badly in an accident and was then written off. The dealer bought it and fixed it.

The concern here is that he didn't disclose that he was selling a car that had been in an accident and he sold it at 20k less than the price of a new one.

We have the pictures of the car at the accident scene. So do we have any recourse here?

You have one major recourse. You can lose your mind with anger. You can become really, incredibly angry. So can the authorities.

Firstly, this car dealer lied to you and lying is always a bad thing and the law agrees with me. I'm not an attorney but I think you can approach the Police and accuse him of "obtaining by false pretence". That could get someone up to seven years behind bars.

Then you can approach the Competition and Consumer Authority and ask them to investigate a clear breach of Section 5 of the Consumer Protection Act. This says that a supplier must not, when marketing goods:
'falsely represent … that the goods have a particular history or previous use".
This seems very simple to me. They must also not claim that the goods:
"have been used for a certain period to an extent or in a manner that is materially different from the facts".
Failing to tell you that the car had been in a very serious accident and was then written off is outrageous. 

I suspect that this dealer is going to fix this problem for you rather quickly.

Can I get my money back?

I have a situation. Earlier this year February I made an agreement with a construction company to build a 3 bedroom house for me. I deposited P150 000 into the construction company. We made an agreement that the house should be done in 5 months. The problem is that up to now the house is still on foundation level. The owner of the company is making excuse after excuse. Where should I report sir because nothing is happening but I got that money as loan and it's being deducted from my account every month.

She is not taking my calls most of the time. When she takes my calls she would say that she paid for materials and the material will be delivered but it never happens. So I asked one of the guys she hired to build the house. It seems that she is broke because she sold all her cars.

I am so stressed. Please help

I think you need to move quickly. If her company is collapsing and your detective work is correct and that she's selling assets, you need to get there and make sure the money you've given her is retrieved as soon as possible and before the authorities close her down.

I think you need to speak to an attorney and get their specialist advice on the best way to get back the money you gave her. Please do this quickly.

Sunday, 22 May 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will she be paid?

Good morning sir. There is an woman she has an insurance policy in which she also insured her grandmother. In March 2022 the grandmother passed on to glory then she went to the insurance company and was told to send the death certificate which she did. She was told the policy owes P400 and she should pay that P400. She paid at the Palapye office and she been waiting for them to pay which they failed to pay.

Now she went back to them now they say the policy can't be cashed because its been closed or something like that and they can't help her. What can she do?

I contacted the insurance company who held this lady's insurance policy and the situation is complicated. Without disclosing too much information, they told me that this lady has, for a very long time, only paid her insurance premiums occasionally. Worse still, at the time of her claim she was a year in arrears. Not a single payment in 12 months. She was told that the policy would be reinstated if she paid the arrears but maybe she didn't understand, or perhaps they didn't explain clearly enough that she would not be able to submit any claims for a few months. That's because life insurance policies and funeral plans almost always have a waiting period before a claim can be submitted. Because she was in such great arrears, the policy started again as if it was a new one.

The lesson here is to clearly understand any policy before you sign it and start paying. Conditions like the ones this lady experienced are incredibly important. The simple truth about insurance policies is that if you don't pay the premiums, you don't get the benefit. That can be more than just an inconvenience, it can be a disaster.

I need my money back!

Hi Richard, I need your help. I contacted a guy selling bricks on Facebook in Kanye to deliver some bricks for me. He came to my plot in Jwaneng when I was not there and confirmed the place with him and he confirmed he will deliver. This was in January 2021. I paid him P4,000 as deposit so that after delivery I could pay the rest. The guy never delivered the bricks despite communication with him that I needed the bricks. It was an excuse after excuse about car breakdowns and all. I kept on contacting him and he said he will deliver.

The last conversation was this year January were he promised he will bring them but failed again. I told him that I no longer need the bricks but I need my money as I had bought bricks somewhere else. He promised to give me my money back but till now am still waiting. I need help to recover my money, as now he is not answering my calls. Please help.

I really don't understand how some businesses think they can operate like this. How do they sleep at night? Don't they have a conscience?

Luckily the people who wrote the Consumer Protection Act had this situation in mind. Section 14 of the Act says that:
"Where 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". 
He should have been constantly updating you on the delays, what was causing them and what he planned to do to speed things up. He obviously failed to do that. 
The Act goes on to say that if the supplier fails to deliver the services they promised they must either: "remedy any defect in the quality of the services"
"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 simple terms, you deserve your money back. All of it. Now. No more excuses and delaying tactics.

I contacted the guy and asked him what he was planning to do but I haven't yet received a reply. I won't give up.

UPDATE: He says he'll refund you.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

The Voice - Consumers Voice

Can they charge this much?

Is there any body that regulates loan agreements as in the amount of interest to be generated? I mean is it within the law for a loan of around P77,000 to be paid back as P286,000?

For clarity purposes an elder took a loan for P77,000 then he was told that he was to pay back the loan over 7 years at a monthly premium of around P3,400. Mind you the elder earns around P5,500. Another dubious part is there was around P9,000 was taken from the initial loan with unclear description as to what it is for, meaning that he did not get the actual P77,000. On top of that there were small fees amounting to roughly P600 termed as service fees. My question here is that can someone pay more than triple the principal? Why was the loan designed to take around 3/4 of the persons take home.

And why also was the form brought along to the signing without the whole document for them to read? This clearly shows that the agent wanted to hide some details for the elder to sign clueless.

You raise several important issues. Firstly, how much interest can a lender charge? The answer is simple. They can charge whatever they please. I don't know of any law, regulation or rule that limits interest rates. However, there is one limit that everyone should know about. This is a thing called the 'in duplum' rule. This rule says that when a debt is settled, the amount of interest paid must not exceed the capital amount remaining. But the important issue is that this only applies if a debt is finally settled in one payment, not if it's paid over many years.

Secondly, the maths is correct. Seven years is 84 months and 84 x 3,400 is P285,600. However, that seems an enormous amount to repay to me. If these figures are correct, this person is paying an annual interest rate of over 50% and that is scandalously high. While that's not illegal it's certainly immoral.

Finally, there's the affordability issue. Lenders should be checking how affordable a loan will be before they give someone the money. Any loan that takes more than half of someone's income is clearly not going to be affordable and it's reckless of any lender to offer it.

I suggest that your elderly friend contacts NBFIRA to see if the company lending this money is legitimate. I suspect something is very wrong here. 

When will they pay me?

Hello sir, I want to know where can I report an insurance company based in Gaborone. I was involved in a minor car accident in January and I submitted quotations even now the insurance company has not helped me.

I have been told 2 months back that the assessor is coming to assess the car and the quotation. The quotes I submitted were valid for a month and now they are invalid. I requested they refund me my subscription money because they can't help me.

The car insurance was for the value of 300k, every year I paid 12,000 annual and another 12,000 this year. I never defaulted and this was supposed to be my first claim.

This is completely unacceptable. When someone submits an insurance claim there's obviously a process to go through but there's no way it should take this long. I could understand if it took a week or two to fill in forms, get quotations for repairs, sort out arguments with the other parties involved but four months is ridiculous.

You sent me the contact details of the person who sold you the policy and it's important to understand that he was an insurance broker, he didn't work for an insurance company. His job was to find the best policy from the best insurance company that best suited your needs.

I hope this is just a result of this insurance broker being inefficient. The bad news is that it might be something more serious. There's a chance that you never had insurance at all. This wouldn't be the first time we've heard of an insurance broker who sold a customer a policy and then took the monthly payments but never actually passed them to the insurance company.

I've tried contacting the broker but he doesn't seem to want to talk. I'll speak to NBFIRA instead. You should too.

UPDATE: It seems that the broker never opened the insurance policy. NBFIRA have been informed.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

When can I get my phone back?

Hello Richard kindly assist me here. I brought an iPhone 8+ to a repair shop on Sunday for back glass repair and water damage. They told me it would be done in 2 hours but the next thing they told me to come on Monday. The following day I was told the technician was sick and unable to come to work and that he was said to attend to it on Tuesday which he failed to do. I told them to please backup my phone and gave him up until Thursday. To this day I do not have the phone. His exact words where "your phone will be ready when it's ready". He said this today after making me wait for an hour and a half outside their store.

Some stores are run by people who do not deserve to be in business. I've said this many times before and some people have misunderstood so let me say this clearly again.

You have no right to be successful in business. Success in business comes from a lot of hard work, attention to detail, honesty and a lot of luck. I think the two biggest things you can do to make your business successful are to find something you're good at and enjoy doing and then to treat your customers with respect, humour and honesty. This store is not doing any of those things and I predict this. They're going to fail.

Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that "Where 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". I think that's quite simple. If they said the repair could be done in 2 hours that should be true. Of course, we're reasonable people and we accept that sometimes things don't go to plan but this isn't good enough. Repeated delays and excuses aren't good enough.

I contacted the store and they have finally responded, saying they will look into the situation. But it shouldn't take this long, should it?

How many times can they repair it?

Hello Richard l have stress here. l bought a fridge for my Mum in October 2021. On 24th l transported the fridge to my mum but when plugging the fridge it was not working. We reported the fridge in January they told us the technician will come and assess the fridge. The technician fixed the fridge but I told them l no longer want the fridge but they said the fridge is ok. The fixed fridge was producing loud noises and even freezing on top. Even if you put it at low it will even freeze on top. It just worked for 2 months then that same problem again. The fridge is not working l took the fridge to the store complaining that l need my money back.

l no longer trust the fridge but they said there's no refund and they will fix the fridge at least 3 times. l asked them where in their Ts & Cs that is written that a nowhere is written so help Richard. l don't have a fridge and they are refusing with my money.

Yet again it's time for some free education. This store clearly doesn't know what the Consumer Protection Act says. Section 16 (2) of the Act says that even without a warranty, a consumer "may return goods to a supplier in their merchantable or original state, within six months after the delivery of the goods … if the goods fail to satisfy the requirements and standards" required by the Act. It then says that the store must either repair the item, replace it or refund the consumer their money.

That's normal and just to be expected. If something is faulty then the supplier must fix the problem. However, the best part of the law is what it says next. It says that once something has been repaired, if "within three months the same problem recurs in the goods, the supplier shall … replace the goods or refund the consumer the amount paid by the consumer".

In simple terms, the supplier only gets one chance to fix a faulty item. If it fails again within three months it's time for a replacement or a refund.

I've emailed the store's Head Office and explained this to them in very simple terms. Let's see if they can understand it.