Saturday 26 November 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What made my child ill?

Hi Richard. Please clarify something for me. It happened that last week Tuesday I bought a pack of biscuits from one store for my 19 months baby. She ate the first packet same day I brought them, then the following day she had another one. Then I noticed she had some rash on her arms and part of her face. I thought it was heat rash. The following day, when I arrived home from work I found that the rash was now spreading to the rest of the body, I then took her to the doctor. Later I found out that the biscuits I've been giving her the best before date had passed, I sent a message to the said store's page. They responded and advised I come to the shop which I did. Met the manager who then told me to bring a doctor's report indicating that indeed the child was sick. Unfortunately the doctor could not help me because at first I did not tell him that the child was reacting to the biscuits which is true because I did not know what was causing the reaction.

I'm not a doctor or an expert in food safety but I suspect this is more complicated than it seems.

Firstly, the store did nothing illegal by selling biscuits that were beyond their Best Before Date. BB dates just offer advice about when something will be in its best condition. Expiry Dates are the dates that really matter and a store that sells something after an Expiry Date can get into serious trouble.

Then there's issue of your child's reaction. It's almost always incredibly difficult to state with certainty what food might have caused us to be unwell. Most of us, including children, consume a huge range of food items every day and without lab tests it's very difficult to pin the blame on just one of them. I would ask what other, perhaps more risky items she consumed that day and in the recent past? It could have been any of them or perhaps even not related to food and drink. It could have been something she touched, a new washing powder, an allergy to a pet or even just the heat we've experienced in the last few weeks.

Was I retrenched?

I am requesting clarity on a personal note. I want to understand which way or regulatory body to use when lodging complaints against my bank.

I took a personal loan with my bank which is insured against retrenchment in 2018 and I am now retrenched. I submitted my claim with the bank in March after been retrenched and they claimed to be doing their investigation. Now 7 months later they respond having declined my claim for cover.

What can I do?

Like many issues this all depends on what's in writing. Banks, insurance companies, almost every industry rely on contracts with their customers that dictate what their agreement says. Consumers like you and me rely on them just as much.

There's a fundamental principle in the law that says that when an agreement is in writing, that writing is all that matters. Subsequent verbal agreements, things we thought we understood, something a friend told us, none of that matters. The only thing that matters is what's written. Of course these days an agreement can be electronic, it doesn't need to be on old-fashioned paper but it's still in writing.

In your case the detail is what matters. The retrenchment clause in your loan agreement does indeed protect you and cover the payments if you are retrenched. But that's not what happened. You weren't actually retrenched. The bad news is that the company you worked for closed, it shut down and no longer exists so you weren't actually retrenched. Not technically. Not according to the agreement.

I think the best thing to do is to read your policy document very carefully. That's what matters.

Saturday 19 November 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my wine?

I bought a box of wine at a bottle store in Palapye. When I opened it and drank some it smelled bad. I took it back to the bottle store and they said I could have taken back the wine from the glasses and the person who was helping me said they don't drink so they don't know how it should smell. I had only drunk 2 small wine glasses, about half I think.

They said they can do nothing. They just said how are they going to take it back when it's half full. I told them I'm a regular customer I buy 2 boxes every week the same wine. I know how it smells and tastes. They kept on saying its just half.

What can I do?

I know drinking alcohol is not compulsory but you'd think someone who worked in a bottle store would know the difference in smell between good wine and wine that's spoiled, don't you? Even if they can't tell the difference, surely there must be someone there who can check it for you?

I contacted the bottle store and they weren't very helpful. They kept on saying that you had consumed more of the wine than they thought was reasonable. They told me that you "drinked all the wine in a box only one glass was left". They then told me " I manage to spoke with the supplier, they asked me to talk to you to contact them so that they can explain more about this issue."

Here's an important lesson. When you have a problem, the only people you need to contact are the people you paid. If they say you need to speak to someone else, such as the supplier in this situation, you can politely say No. You didn't buy the wine from their supplier, you bought it from the bottle store so it's the store's job to come up with a solution. It really is that simple.

I explained this to the bottle store manager but they found it difficult to understand. Then something surprising happened. The supplier called me. They were very understanding and very sorry that your wine was bad. They said that of course they would replace it but also explained that their understanding of the situation was exactly the same as mine. All it would need was for the store to ask nicely, return the bad box of wine to them and they'd give them a replacement to give to their customer.

I'll try again with the bottle store manager. Let's hope they understand now?

Is this real?

I saw a post on Facebook from a man saying he wanted to help 5 people with P3,000. All I need to do is tell him something reasonable I can do with the money. Do you think this is genuine?

Yes. It's genuine. It's a genuine scam.

I've seen several of these messages on Facebook and many people have tried to post them in the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group. As you can probably guess, it's not true. People don't give away large amounts of money to total strangers just because they ask. They really don't.

I've chatted with these scammers several times, pretending to be an innocent potential victim and every time the story is the same. There was always the promise of money and all I needed to do to get it was to prove my identity. However, instead of wanting to see my ID documents, they wanted something else. One told me "You'll got to verify with a Traction control now that you'll the one accpecting the giveaway". They then asked for my name, address, date of birth and "Facebook phone number". I gave them fake details and they then said "A verification code has been sent to your email send it to me so that we can verify you immediately".

This is what it's all about. That code was a Two-Factor Authentication code that Facebook sends when someone tells Facebook they've forgotten their password. If I sent it to them they'd be able to sign on to my Facebook profile, change the password and then do whatever they want with my profile.

The real tragedy is that once someone has given their Facebook profile to a scammer, it LOOKS like it's the victim who is the scammer. Do we really want our friends and relatives thinking WE are running scams?

Saturday 12 November 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should they have sold them?

I bought solar panels from this shop and unfortunately left them at the shop because of transport logistics. We had planned on collecting same day but when we got there our car was too small. I went to Gaborone to collect only to be told the panels have been sold and I was told to wait a week for the shipment that was expected a week later. Today I went back to collect and I was told they do not have the panels still. Now am offered back the money with 12% cut or am offered better panels and I have to top up the money to get an extra 2 panels.

Is that how it is supposed to happen when I didn't cancel my order? Are they not supposed to fully refund me if they can't provide the goods? I have collected all the other things

I just thought if they wanted to sell they could have communicated. Why didn't they communicate when selling?

When I first read your message I was shocked. Shocked by how unreasonable these people are. You spent a lot of money with them and they sold a major part of your purchase before you could return with suitable transport? That's wrong in so many ways. I was ready to contact them and tell them how terribly they've treated you.

Until I asked a question. I asked how long it was between you buying the goods and returning to collect them. You told me "about 3 months".

I had assumed it was a matter of hours, perhaps even a day or two. Now I think the problem is more complicated. I still think the store was wrong to sell the solar panels without calling you. That was rude of them. I've seen your receipt and it has your cell number on it. There's no reason for them not to call and ask what you were planning to do.

However, I also think you put them in a difficult position too. You bought an item and then disappeared. For three months you didn't contact them. They stored your goods for you for much longer than was reasonable to expect and like most companies, they'll expect to be paid for that, certainly if it was for so long and wasn't agreed in advance. I suspect, given the situation, that their offer to refund you minus a fee, or to sell you newer, better equipment is reasonable.

Is this scheme legit?

I'm writing to make enquires about the running of unregistered motshelo scheme. I am one of the members. We're charged 10% interest when borrowing money.

I borrowed P4,300 back in July 2021 and then my employer closed his company during Covid-19 lockdown. I didn't manage to payback anything until when I got another job in May 2022. On the 22nd July 2022 I said I was ready to settle my debt. They said the money had accumulated and that in January this year it was P8,000. I paid P9,040 because I wanted to increase my contribution so that by December I should get a better amount PLUS my interest.

To my surprise they're saying I still owe a balance of P7,000+. According to my calculations I have paid more than I was supposed to. I must say I deeply regret the choices I made I just thought we were ladies from the same village. Now I need answers as to why exactly are they demanding some more money when I already paid.

I contacted NBFIRA and they told me that it's an illegal scheme and my interest shouldn't exceed the money borrowed. I need a second opinion from you Sir.

My second opinion is exactly the same as the first opinion you received from NBFIRA. This a very shady motshelo scheme. Firstly, the numbers are staggering. You borrowed P4,300 and you've paid back at least twice that amount. And now they want you to back almost double again? That's not acceptable. 

I think you should go back to NBFIRA and this time, don't just ask for their opinion, instead you should submit a formal complaint and ask them to investigate and get this scheme to behave itself. NBFIRA have the power and I know they have the capacity and will-power to use it.

Saturday 5 November 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay?

I desperately need your assistance. In 2020 my aunt bought a sleigh bed at a furniture store with the sales representative's idea that she opens an account with my initials and when she has a letter from her workplace she'll transfer everything to her names which she never did. I was given forms to fill in under my names.

Unfortunately along the way she failed to settle her debt, now I'm the one who has been blacklisted even though I was just a there to assist until she able to sign the account in her names.

Just recently I tried to buy a TV by hire purchase and my application was declined because apparently I have been blacklisted. That is when I tried to explain my situation to them and they told me that their hands are tied.

I'm only 26. I'm starting my own life and now I can't buy anything through higher purchase. I desperately need you to help me solve this issue.

I wish I could offer you some good news. But I can't. There isn't any.

I think you now know that you made a serious mistake in signing the forms in your name on behalf of your aunt, don't you?

I'm not an attorney but I suspect the legal issue here is very simple. Your aunt doesn't exist. Her promises don't exist. Her plan to switch the contract into her name doesn't exist. Only you, the store and the written agreement exist.

There's a principle in law that says that when an agreement is put in writing that writing is all that matters. "She promised", "she said", "but we agreed", "the salesperson thought", none of that matters. Only what's in writing matters. The agreement is between the furniture store and you.

Morally, it's obviously up to your aunt to find a way out of this situation but if she has no money there's little she can do. Perhaps the extended family can help? The only practical suggestion I can offer is that you keep talking to the store and assure them that you're doing your best to pay back the debts that are in your name. I'm sorry I can't offer better news.

Where's my refund?

On the 1st March I bought a used MacBook Pro from a store in Main Mall with 3 months warranty. I took it back on the 2nd March the following because it had fault, they fixed it and when I got it back I discovered another problem. I took it back again on the 12th March and they fixed it but it took something like two months to get fixed. I used it and then in July again it had a problem. I took it to them and told them I need a refund. In August I wrote them a letter asking for refund but the keep on promising me with empty promises and they never communicate. I can go to their shop and don't find the owners and leave the message but they never communicate. A week ago they promised me that they will pay me last week Friday but they didn't. I sent them WhatsApp messages and they responded saying they will send me money before end of yesterday because they are waiting for a payment somewhere but they didn't and they didn't even communicate even up to now.

You've been incredibly patient and I really admire your persistence. Many stores who let down their customers rely on people giving up after waiting for too long. You haven't given up and I respect that. I also like that eventually you put something in writing demanding a solution.

I'm sure you understand that the MacBook Pro you bought was used so we can't expect it to be in brand new condition but we can and should expect it to work reasonably well considering its age.

The good news is that the guy has offered you a refund. The bad news is that I dealt with the same company late last year with a slightly different situation. The company bought used equipment from someone who never got paid. They told me that even then the company was in financial difficulties. Seems like nothing has changed.

I've contacted them again and asked for an update.

Update: They responded, promising to pay half within a week and the rest as soon as they have some money.