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.