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.