Saturday 24 December 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

I have no receipt!

I bought a TV in April for P9,999 and the TV stopped working beginning of October.

I reported the issue on 10th October and sent them all the information, the serial number and bank statement proof of purchase. He told me at the time that their system that reprints invoices is not working and IT in South Africa are looking into it.

After several follow-ups, I went to see the Shop Manager on the 22nd October to escalate the issue and sent him the details. He promised to give me feedback but he did not bother. I called after a week, he told me the same story that the other guy had told me and that he is waiting for the IT team to assist.

I called him several times and never answered my calls until yesterday when he told me there nothing he can do without a receipt. He gave me an email address of someone in Namibia. I sent an email and got no response.

Richard, am frustrated, please help.

There are several issues here and more than one law that I think applies. Before I start it's worth saying that whenever possible we should keep receipts for the goods we buy, particularly the expensive ones like your TV. The problem is that this isn't always practical. Receipts get lost, are left in the washing or simply fade so that after a few months they're just a blank piece of paper. That's why we should always take a picture of any important receipts with our phone and then send it to a reliable friend or relative as a backup.

However, even without a receipt it's still possible to prove that you bought an item from a particular store. You had a bank statement proving you spent the right amount of money on that date. That should be enough for any reasonable person. In my view, the situation is simple. The store should be able very easily to prove you are their customer and then honour the warranty on the TV you spend a lot of money buying. Frankly I don't care that their system isn't working properly, that's their problem. Not yours. I wonder if they know that any system that contains personal data like your purchase history must, by law, be supported by "reasonable security safeguards"? That's what Section 14 of the Data Protection Act says. By coincidence Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act says that a supplier must offer "timely performance and completion" of services to a consumer.

I contacted the store and they gave me the same silly excuses. Let's hope they come up with a better solution very soon. And let's hope they understand the law sooner rather than later.

Are they legit?

Mr Richard do you know a company called Legit Notch FX they are in Bitcoin mining. Are they legit or just scammers?

Firstly, I'm very grateful that you asked before "investing" with a company like this. That's because it shows all the signs of being a scam. Firstly, while they have a web site which describes them as a "Trusted Forex and Cryptocurrency Broker", they give no clues about where they might be based. They give a phone number that appears to be in Delaware in the USA but their domain is registered to an address in Iceland. It was also only registered in January 2022. It doesn't add up.

Because they don't seem to offer their location it's also almost impossible to see if they're a registered company anywhere in the world. I suspect they're not. The biggest clue that this is a scam is actually their web site. Like many such crypto and forex trading sites they offer testimonials from what appear to be satisfied customers, including pictures of these customers. However, these testimonials are clearly fake because I found identical pictures with identical comments on several other scam crypto and forex sites.

The biggest lesson for all of us about cryptocurrencies is that it's an incredibly risky place to put our money. Only a few weeks ago, FTX, the third biggest cryptocurrency exchange in the world collapsed losing investors billions of dollars. In sworn evidence, John J Ray, the appointed liquidator of FTX said that:
"Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here".
That's not just true of FTX, it's a real risk even with the legitimate exchanges. There is no oversight, no effective regulation, no protection if things go wrong. Is that a risk you're prepared to take with your money?

Saturday 17 December 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

My phone isn't new!

Good day Sir. I need your help. My issue goes like this; I bought an iPhone 11 128GB end of June 2022 with a 1 year warranty. In the first week of getting my phone, it malfunctioned. The phone kept on freezing and the screen most of the time was unresponsive, also, it kept on closing an app while busy using it and open others and sometimes make calls on its own. I informed them and since I was outside GC, I eventually managed to change the phone I think 3 weeks after. They changed the phone for me to the one I'm currently using, but the problem still persisted and this time around with a faulty charging system as most times I struggle to charge the phone, other days I charge without a hassle. I have been going to their shop and they keep on doing whatever they knows best as 'fixing' the problem which never truly helps. I even took videos of when it was 'malfunctioning' as they did not buy my story because when we are at the shop, it was working fine, only once when i was at the shop it showed that I wasn't lying about freezing and closing of apps.

You once talked about checking if your phone is brand new or refurb, and with mine the model number start with N and battery health is around 84%. I only got to realise that last month, and its coverage has expired yet I was told that this is a brand new phone. I explained all this to them but it seems like they do not want to help me, right now they do not even respond to my texts and I have spend a lot of money going to their shop with no help.

I contacted the store and they weren't very helpful. Or understanding. The manager first told me that they ask their clients "to check the phones they are buying before they buy and if they are up to standard". He said "As far as I'm concerned we are supplied with brand new phones that we later on supply to clients." But how can a client actually do that? They can't "check" what will happen a week later. He also told me that clients "can't come back after 6 months and then make such claims". Sorry friend, but that's exactly what consumers CAN do. That's their right.

I tried my best to tell him that Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act says a supplier:
"who offers used goods shall 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".
It also says that a supplier that contravenes this section can face:
"a fine not exceeding P50 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both."
The simple fact is that a iPhone with a model number staring with 'N' can't be considered as new and it's illegal to sell something as new when it isn't. This store needs to understand that. I'm not giving up explaining it.

I need my money back!

I have a problem. I have paid P40 000 to this building supply company early this year. I have an account with them, every time when I'm in the process of building I deposit money in that account so that anytime I want materials it's easy for me to get it. Now last week we phoned them telling them that we have health problems we want the money back. They asked my wife to come in person to sign. When she left Palapye they said they will deposit money this week. Till today they haven't.

They are saying they want to bring back P10 000 every month. I told them that the doctor needs P46 000 paid at once. One other thing I explain to them that if I took materials from them I would understand, but now I have taken nothing from them.

Firstly, I'm sorry for the stress this must be causing you. Normally I would say this depends on the written agreement you have with this supplier. However, in this case they've already said they'll give you the money back so that first obstacle has already been passed.

But my concern is simple. Where has your money gone? You paid them P40,000 to cover any future costs you might incur with them. So where is it? I'm not an accountant or an attorney but surely your money should be resting in account somewhere, waiting for you to spend it? That they're suggesting paying you back in instalments is very worrying. My fear is that they've spent your money already.

I think we both need to contact this supplier and ask them politely to explain where your money has gone. And when you'll get it back.

Saturday 10 December 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will they fix my couch?

I bought a couch on instalment and before the end of 1 month the couch got broken and there were nails piercing as you sit on one of them. I reported through phone call and was told to go to the shop but I could not manage however I reported to the shop where I paid my first instalment.

They took them for fixing, but I went to the shop and told them that I no longer want to keep them as they are of poor quality and are unsafe. The store insist that I take them back. I stopped paying for them.

I was thinking of calling them to collect the rest of the chairs. They have collected the couch it's been more than a month.

I know this sounds unfair but you must immediately start paying your instalments again.

The reason is simple. The hire purchase agreement you signed says that if you're in arrears the store isn't required to honour the warranty and repair the faulty couch. They can just stop work and keep it. They can also repossess the chairs you still have. Why? What's often forgotten with hire purchase is that the goods don't belong to you, they still belong to the store. That's why it's called 'hire' purchase. The goods only become your property when you've paid the final instalments.

The biggest danger you face is that the store can repossess everything, including the chairs but that won't be the end of the matter. You'll still owe them the total hire purchase cost, minus the instalments you've already paid but you'll also owe them interest, penalty charges, debt collection fees and legal fees. You can end up owing them even more than you do now.

My advice is to pay the missing instalments as soon as possible and then tell them that they've failed to offer you "goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects" as required by Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Regulations. Let's see if that encourages them to give you what they promised?

A warning for Facebook users

Several readers have contacted us recently asking for advice about the scams they've seen on Facebook.

The main problem with the scams we see on Facebook is that the profiles running these scams often look like real people, perhaps even people we know. That's because they ARE the profiles of people we know. They could be family members, friends, workmates or strangers but these are their real profiles which have been taken over by scammers.

So how do they take over people's Facebook profiles? The truth is actually a lot simpler than people think. The accounts aren't "hacked", the hackers don't have amazing technological skills, it's much simpler. They get the login details and passwords simply by asking for them. And the victims hand them over without any protest.

What makes them do this? It's simple. Money.

I'll give you an example. A few days ago, a real Facebook profile tried to post this message in the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group:
"I will help 20 people with P700 who can complete the word that start with M and end with D."
I've seen before so knew what was happening but I contacted the poster asking if was true. They told me
"before we proceed on the giveaway to tell you that we are doing this giveaway for the people that are serious and really in the need of money hope you understand?"
They then asked for my name and basic details, including my email address and cell number and then said:
"you will receive a confirmation code now, send it to me immediately so we can verify your account for the giveaway".
That confirmation code is the code Facebook sends to someone when they've forgotten their password. While I'd been talking to them they'd tried to sign on to my Facebook profile and clicked on the button you use when you've forgotten the password. If they got that code they could have changed my Facebook password, take over my account, and then use it to run their scams.

Please don't fall for this. Do you really want to give away your Facebook identity to a scammer that all your friends and relatives will think is you?

Saturday 3 December 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

I need my money back!

Good day Richard. Kindly assist here. I engaged an interior designer for my house on 3 October. He promised the turnaround time would be 21 days. I kept following with no luck. I sent him a watsapp and email demanding my refund and alerted him that I would now be engaging a different designer because I was running out of time only for him to send sub standard work on 23 November which doesn't even include everything that was on the quote. I haven't responded to the drafts he has sent so far as it broke my heart and I already engaged another designer. Please advise on what I could do with him.

I had gone to the police but they couldn't assist me as they said its a civil matter not criminal.

Firstly, the police were right. This isn't a criminal matter, no crime has been committed, it's a matter between you and this failure.

Let's begin with the Consumer Protection Act. 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".
That's reasonable, isn't it? It means that a supplier must offer services reasonably quickly and if there are any delays, they should tell us. It's just good practice and being polite. That's not too much to ask.

Section 15 of the Act says a consumer:
"has the right to receive goods which are of good quality".
You deserve to get what you paid for. Again, that's not complicated, is it? It's just good business.

Part of the problem is that anyone can call themselves an "interior designer". Any of us could create a Facebook page and get some business cards printed. But that doesn't mean we're any good.

I think you should contact the guy and tell him very clearly that you cancelled the deal and demanded a refund after his promised turnaround time and long before he submitted the work. Also make it clear that what he submitted was not good enough. Give him enough detail that he can't argue with you.

They sold me a refurbished phone!

I purchased an iPhone 11 earlier this month, I was told it's a new phone. I asked if it was a second hand and they said no they are new phones. I believe I asked more than 2 times and the 2 ladies said it's a new phone. Even on my warranty card, they failed to state that as well .

A couple of days later it started giving me problems, that's when I noticed that it was a refurbished phone. I looked for their number on the warranty card. When I couldn't find it I decided to look in the receipt, that's where it's written that it's refurbished. I took it back and they gave me a different one. Now this new one has started giving me issues too. I want my money back so I can go buy a phone somewhere else. What steps can I take since I'm sure they won't want to refund me?

This is totally unacceptable..

Firstly, they sold you a refurbished phone as new. Section 13 of the Act says that a supplier:
"who offers used goods shall 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".
Do you think they know that the penalty for breaking this Section of the Act is a fine up to P50,000, 3 years in prison or both?

Secondly, their warranty card says that their warranty on the phone is only for 3 months. That's strange as Apple offer a 12-month warranty on their products. It's also nonsense because Section 15 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"
and Section 16 says that if they're not of good quality a consumer
"may return goods to a supplier … within six months".
I'll get in touch with them.

Update: The reader messaged me saying "The shop called me to come and collect my money. Thank you very very much."