Saturday 25 November 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Both cars were bad. What can I do?

In September I found this Nissan March advertised on Facebook. I inboxed the owner. The price was 16k and I negotiated to 13.5k. I stay in Palapye and the car was in Mogoditshane. Before I paid I asked the owner if the car had any faults and his answer was "No faults". I asked my brother who is staying in Gabs to go and meet the guy so I can send the money and he can collect the car. I paid and he collected the car. He complained about the worn out tyres so I sent money for two tyres and petrol so that he can drop it here at Palapye for me.

The car arrived the following day, when checking it the doors were not locking, windscreen was cracked, left indicator was not working, boot was not closing, the lights were bypassed by a cable (both the front and the back), shocks, CVs, stabilizers were dead, sensor cable was dead. So I started buying all these things and fitted them.

I inboxed the owner and he said ok let me give you a Mazda 3 hatchback but with top up of 5k. I asked him about the faults and he said no faults. This time around I asked him to drop it here in Palapye because my brother was not around and he agreed. He requested 500 for petrol and I sent but after sending it took him 2 days to deliver the car. The car arrived 16th October at around midnight and he instead of him coming he sent someone. The guys arrived, handed the car and took that other one then left for Gabs, but before leaving he told me I should replace the bolt for the left back shock because on his way to Palapye they came out and the car was making a terrible noise on that shock and also the other front wheel was replaced with a very small spare wheel. So I refused to give him the agreed 5k instead I gave him 3k because I had to fix the shock and tyre.

In just a week I already found the car was giving me more problems, the oils were leaking, water bottles were broken, CVs were dead, door locks are damaged, handbrake not working, some front lights not working, the left back light broken, the car looks like it has had an accident before. So I replaced CVs, water bottle, gearbox oil, handbrake oil, bolts for shocks. I did this in just one week. The second week I inboxed him to come get his car, I don't want it anymore. His response was I stayed too long with the car. Last week I went to Gabs I called the guy, he did not answer, so I called the guy who delivered the car. He refused to give us the location of their garage in Mogoditshane. When we were just about to give up the guy answered and he said he was on his way to Zim and he will come back this coming week.

Yesterday I Inboxed the guy again, I asked him to give my money and get back his car or give me Toyota Vitz and the guy said I should bring the car so that he can sell it for me, but he can only sell it for 23k, but I've spent around 29k on his cars, I even bought new tyres for this car because the tyres were dead and the wires inside were visible. Help me please.

I'm really sorry to hear about this, honestly I am. But you need to forgive me for what I'm about to say. Obviously this car dealer is shady, we can all see that from what you've reported. However, you've made almost every possible mistake you could have made.

Firstly, on two occasions you paid for vehicles you hadn't test-driven or had inspected. Even an amateur would have spotted some of the obvious faults with both of these vehicles if they'd just taken a look before paying. I know you live far away from the dealer but you should have organised a friend or mechanic to take a look at the vehicle. Secondly, you accepted each vehicle and paid your own money to have the many faults fixed. You should have rejected the vehicles as soon as they arrived and demanded a complete refund instead of trying to fix them.

I think the best thing you can now do is approach the authorities. The Competition and Consumer Authority have had some success in the past dealing with shady car dealers so maybe they can perform come magic?

Saturday 18 November 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

How much can they charge me?

We hired certain lawyers in back in 2017 for a court case. We had paid all the money which was agreed. The was no written agreement. We verbally agreed on the amount.

Till today the matter is still before court so the lawyers have started billing us the money we didn't agree from the start (hidden costs). They have never called us to the table to enlighten us about the bill.. When we ask them they threaten they will take our bill to court and so forth. So in this matter how do I handle it? Please kindly help.

It's very important to understand that like every other profession, lawyers offer a range of different qualities. I've met some attorneys who are highly intelligent, educated and understand their area of the law in the greatest detail. They're also completely committed to their clients' welfare and offer only the very best advice and service.

Then there are others. I've met some who clearly have no real understanding of the law, some whose legal understanding is very poor indeed. I've also met some that are only in the job for the prestige. And the money.

I don't know the lawyers you engaged but they should know how important it is to have agreements in writing. Unless they don't want that for some reason? Also they need to learn to communicate better. They need to be constantly updating you on the progress your case is making and the costs they're incurring. I suggest you write or email the Managing Partner asking for a summary of the fees charged so far and what they anticipate charging you in future. Copy your message to the Law Society as well.

The lesson for the future is that legal agreements need to be in writing. And lawyers that don't insist on that are acting very suspiciously.

Where's my refund?

On 26th September I ordered a table from a company I discovered on Instagram. I made a deposit of P600 for it. The order was to take 9 days to complete. I was in contact with the owner of that establishment.

On 9th October I asked for progress and was told the delay is because we had Independence holidays so that week I should expect my table to be delivered on the weekend. Then I was told they experienced a lot of power cuts which slowed down the time for material turnover so I'll have the table Tuesday 17th, latest Wednesday 18th. On Thursday 19th I was then told the supplier was having a problem with their machinery so I am to be refunded.

So Tuesday 24th October I made a follow up on my refund and from then up until now I'm tossed to and fro about my money to the extent that I am getting different stories. I am asking that you help me get my refund because they have been giving me stories which are not consistent.

As I've said before, we all understand that businesses often have delays beyond their control. However, it is the job of suppliers to keep us informed when these delays happen. It's also the law. This supplier clearly either forgot about this or doesn't care. They should have told you when the delays first happened and then when the refund was delayed.

I contacted the supplier and he promised to refund you within a few days.

Update: The refund was paid.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

When will it be finished?

I need your advice. There is this interior company. I engaged him in 2021 to do my house interior in Letlhakane. He was to do everything inside the house, electrical works, plumbing, tiling, wardrobes, and kitchen. I had paid everything in full because I wanted to ease it on my side.

He started it well, but during the course of 2023, he started giving me bad service. The job was not done properly, and some not finished. I approached him and complained, and he will promise better service of which he didn't fulfil. I have been patient enough with him. To date, he is still promising to come and finish up, he comes up with stories every time. Where we are now, the ceiling is complete but left with painting and closeups, the lighting is complete, the floor tiling is 80% done but poorly, the wardrobes, TV stands, headboards, and kitchen sides are at 0%.

He said he is coming Friday after missing Wednesday but he didn't, he keeps promising like that. I told him if he doesn't honour his promises I am seeking help.

I agree 100%. You've been patient enough with him. Perhaps too patient. I'm sure we all understand that businesses sometimes have unexpected problems that cause delays but we pay contractors because they're experts and should know how to deal with these problems. At the very least we deserve what Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says we should get: "timely performance and completion" of the services we pay for and "timely notice of any unavoidable delay".

I contacted the supplier and explained your concerns. To their credit they responded very quickly, saying that they: "have an small issue with the our sub contractor who was supposed to have left yesterday" and that they "will surely close this as soon as we can". They asked that you "give us this month to complete the works".

Hopefully now they'll get things done?

Why won't they fix my bed?

Kindly assist me here. I purchased a bed from in May this year. Two weeks later the bed started having some funny noise. I immediately notified the store assistant who seemed to be responsible for complaints. He then told me that he would send a report to the manufacturer and he promised me that I would get a call from the manufacturer who unfortunately did not call. I then did a follow up again with the store. Fortunately this time around they called and asked me to send videos of the bed and the pictures of the bed of which I did. Ever since then I haven't heard from them but in a dire situation as this bed poses a threat to my health.

I think the staff in this store need a good night's sleep on a comfortable bed because clearly they're tired. Tired of customers, tired of complaints and tired of doing the right thing.

What they seem to have forgotten is that you didn't buy the bed from the manufacturer. You bought the bed from the store, the retailer. Section 16 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that when we buy something, "the producer or importer, the distributor and the retailer each warrant that the goods comply" with the obligation to sell goods of good quality. So the retailer can't say it's the manufacturer's responsibility to fix the problem. It's everybody's responsibility. In particular it's the retailer's responsibility.

I'll contact the store and remind them that they sold the bed and it's their job to come and collect it and fix it, replace it or refund you.

Monday 6 November 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where are my licenses?

I saw one post where you helped one lady with a consultant issue and I'm hoping you could help me also.

I gave one lady money amounting to P1,900 as a deposit for cleaning and supplies commercial licenses in November 2021. I never received any documents till today. I tried it all to get help from the police to different ministries with no help. Right now there's a cleaning license accumulating arrears in my company name at Gaborone city council. I can't close the file because they need the original license of which I don't have.

Yes, if you search you'll find that we've had many complaints about 'consultants' over the years. Almost always it's the same story. They take your money, promise to do the work and then there's a mixture of delays and silence.

There' s nothing wrong with using consultants. A good consultant either knows things we don't, or they just have enough experience to know how to get things done quickly and efficiently, particularly if it involves government bureaucracy. Anyone who's tried to get business permits and licences knows that it can be a time-consuming and confusing experience. That's why it's sometimes worth spending money to get an expert to do it for us.

But, like in all industries there's a range of skills, talent and reliability available. There are good consultants and there are bad consultants. I think I know which type you've got.

I contacted this consultant and they said they'll "check files" and come back to me.

The lesson? Before you engage a consultant, ask around. Ask your family, friends, neighbours, workmates, anyone with experience if they've used a consultant and would they recommend them. You might even find that these days you don't need one. If you do, maybe suggest a 50/50 payment plan. 50% up front, the balance on completion. That's always a great incentive to be reliable.

Do I need the packaging?

I bought a tv, I used it for a period of two weeks and it was working just fine. After two weeks it stopped working. I called the store and alerted them about same. They requested me to furnish them with the details of the tv which I did and they came collected the tv. Then when they had already collected it they said I should take a photo of the box all sides. By that time I had already disposed the box. Now even to date they have not assisted me with the replacing or repairing the same tv. They are saying they are waiting for a technician from the supplier and also they say the box should be availed for them to assist me so I humbly seek your assistance regarding the matter. What should I do in the matter?

What do readers think? Is it reasonable for a store that sells an item like a TV to demand that you keep the packaging it came in? Personally I don't think so. However, it IS a reasonable thing to do if you have some storage space. I recently bought a small Smart TV (it's amazing what bargains you can find if you shop around) and I have kept the box in case I need to move it. But that's because I had some space available.

But unless the TV has somehow been damaged, which I doubt because you said it worked ok for the first 2 weeks, it's up to the store to identify what the problem is. The box isn't relevant.

I contacted the store to see what they suggest. I think the first thing they should do is identify what's wrong with your TV before making unreasonable demands.

Saturday 28 October 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Does he owe them?

Good day Richard, my boyfriend needs your help.

He had a loan from and he got retrenched last year June. He went to their office in Kanye to ask them about his balance so that he could make the payment. They did print the balance for him and he paid it. After some months he received a call that he has an outstanding balance but he told the caller he paid. Recently he requested a loan at his bank and he was told that his name is with ITC. He checked and it says he owes P15,000. He was in shock knowing he paid but they said he was supposed to pay P4,000 settlement when he paid the loan for clearing the loan before the agreed time. Now the P4,000 has accumulated interest monthly and it's now P15,000 and there is nothing they can do. Does he have to pay?

What a mess. Your boyfriend seems like a sensible guy who has done his best to manage his debt situation when he lost his job. Clearly he deserves better than this.

The first thing he should do is demand that the lender check their records and find out what's gone wrong here. If they find that they've made a mistake and he doesn't owe them anything they need to correct his credit record immediately so his history is as clean as it should be. And then they need to apologise. Sincerely.

If it emerges that he does owe them some money they need to explain why it's taken them so long to tell him and then they need to agree a reasonable repayment plan.

The lesson here is that lenders can't always be relied on to get things right. That's why, when you settle a debt, make sure you get something in writing from the lender confirming that you've paid everything you owe and the debt is closed forever. Then take a picture of that letter and send to someone you trust as a backup.

I also contacted the lender and they said they're investigating. I'll let you know what they say.

Will it happen again?

Is it possible for an investigation to take a whole month when your salary just disappeared in your account the day the money was transferred to you but you didn't have any links to deduct from your account? A friend of mine has the same issue he asked me to ask for him on his behalf. He got paid and the same day all the money was gone before independence. Right now they saying the matter is still at Head Office and they are still investigating. He asked them how safe it is now to get paid again on the same account. He said they told him they have cut the links that might be linked to his account and they gave him a new card. Is it possible that the bank will give him his salary back?

No, I don't think it's acceptable for a bank to take an entire month to investigate something like this. Don't they understand that very few of us can cope without our salary? A month's salary is probably trivial to them but it means a lot to you and me.

I suspect that they've done all they can to prevent the same problem happening again this month but your friend is still entitled to know where their money went.

I contacted the bank and I'll let you know what they plan to do.

Saturday 21 October 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

It's too hard!

I bought a bed from a store at Airport Junction and I used it for 2 weeks but now the bed is too firm for me. I went to the shop and they told me I can top up with P2,000 plus for me to get the more comfortable bed I want? Is this fair?

Unfortunately for you I suspect it is fair.

As consumers we have a wide range of protections and perhaps the most important is that we don't need to accept faulty goods. If a product is faulty we can return it to the store within 6 months for one of the three Rs: a repair, a replacement or a refund. However, it's important to remember that the store can choose which of the three Rs they choose. It's up to them to decide. They are, for instance, entitled to repair something they sold you that's faulty. However, it's also important to know that if that repair fails within 3 months and the same problem occurs again, they lose that R. Now they only have two Rs: a replacement or a refund.

But your case is different. From what you've said, there's nothing actually faulty about the bed. It's just a matter of taste? Some people like really soft beds, others like them really firm and most of us are in between. The lesson here is to do whatever you can (within reason, don't get arrested for public indecency!) to test a mattress before you buy it.

I suspect in this case the best option is to see if you can upgrade the mattress to one that's more suitable for you.

Who should I pay?

I recently got Transunion feedback that I am owing a furniture store. I called their office for payment arrangements and I was told my file has been handed over to a certain debt collection company which I contacted. I was then told my account is now into them and any payment arrangement should be done to them not the furniture store. I went back to the store for a proof that I am now paying a certain company which I don't have any agreement with. I was requesting for either a letter or anything that I will use as a confirmation but they refused to give me any proof. Now my question is how can I trust that company with my money and after clearing the debt who is going to clear my name from Transunion?

I haven't yet visited their office, they were only communicating through phone calls and WhatsApp. Kindly advise, thank you.

You have my respect for being cautious. However, this seems legit to me. Firstly wasn't it the furniture store that told you that the debt was now with the debt collection company? You gave me the name of the debt collection company and they seem to check out ok. They are a registered company and are public about the work they do.

However, I also think you're right that the furniture store should have told you officially that they were transferring the debt to this company. You were right to be cautious and when debt is involved there needs to be some trust and responsibility by everyone involved.

As for your last question, I suspect the answer is that you now deal entirely with the debt collectors. Obviously I don't know the details of this arrangement but often a lender like a bank or furniture store will give up chasing a customer who owes them money and sell the debt to a debt collector, often for a fraction of the outstanding amount. But now it's the debt collector to whom you owe money. The full amount.

In this situation the best thing you can do is meet with the debt collection people and negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford and they will accept.

Saturday 14 October 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

How do we deal with these fraudsters?

I need to know how to deal with fraudsters who claim to trade forex for you and vanish into thin air with your money. And you can still see their number being in use...even still advertising. How do you deal with them and to stop them from victimising others?

I don't want to sound like a preacher but the bad news is that sin will always be with us. Some of our neighbours are less moral that you and me and will do their best to take our money. Thieves and con-artists have always existed and always will. The only weapons we have to fight against them are knowledge and the law.

Let's start with knowledge. These forex scammers rely on our ignorance of how forex works. They suggest that by trading foreign currencies online the average person like you and I can make fabulous profits. What they fail to mention is that the only people who make consistent profits from forex trading are huge multinational companies like banks and investment companies who have vast amounts of money to trade with, enormously skilled forex specialists and supercomputers that do all the work for them. Can you and I compete against that?

More commonly these days the scammers will claim that they're offering the ability to trade in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but that's just another way they try to exploit our lack of knowledge. Like forex, very few of us understand how cryptocurrencies work and it's silly for us to think we can profit from them.

Finally there are the self-styled "gurus" who claim to offer advice to others on how to trade. But ask yourself this question. If they are so skilled at making money from these tools, why don't they just do it themselves? Why are they sharing these "opportunities" with us? It's simple. Because they don't actually make money from trading, they make money from us. We are the product that makes them money. Remember that anyone who invites you to join their money-making scheme wants to make money FROM you, not WITH you.

And the law? The Consumer Protection Act can protect us but NBFIRA can also take an interest if someone is offering financial or investment advice. Even Bank of Botswana can intervene if they see an "illegal deposit-taking scheme". What we need is for them to take action when they see wrongdoing. We need to see some of these crooks in handcuffs and then in prison.

Can't they check their records for me?

I need help I made a lay bye in mid-June this year at a store in Selebi Phikwe and I failed to pay my remaining balance. Honestly I forgot about the lay bye. I just found out from my journal book that I have a lay bye with them. Today I went to the store to be told the only way I got use my money it's only when I produce a receipt which I might have misplaced. I requested them check on their records but the sales assistant refused.

No. This is not good enough. Ok, I accept that you forgot to make a payment. But we're all human, we make innocent mistakes sometimes. You're not a criminal for making a mistake. Secondly you might have lost your receipt. Again, that's a mistake but again, hardly a crime. Remember also that many receipts fade after a few months so you might only have a blank piece of paper by now. The trick is to take a photo of all important receipts and then send them to a friend or relative as a backup.

However, I agree with you. Can't they check their records to get all the necessary details? Surely it's not that complicated? Maybe we should contact them and introduce them to a new idea they seem not to have heard of before? It's called 'customer service'. It involves going out of your way to help a customer when they need it. It involves not being difficult and lazy. It involves being a good person who helps their neighbours, their customers when they need it.

I contacted the Country Manager for this chain of stores and he asked for more details. He's a reasonable guy and I'm sure he'll understand that you are a customer who deserves some courtesy and assistance. If the store staff still don't understand I'm sure readers of The Voice would volunteer to explain it to them. Do they really want that?

Saturday 7 October 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my refund?

I bought a couple of things from a furniture company including a bed frame. One of their workers offered to assist me to buy a mattress for the bed. Before sending him the money, I called their boss to confirm if I could trust his guys of which he said I could. I sent him P2,000 for mattress on the 31st of July and to this day, I am still waiting. I ended up buying a mattress elsewhere. I met up with them at their warehouse earlier this month and I was promised my money back month end but now the story has changed and I am told that I should just go ahead and report the issue.

This is very suspicious. Why would an employee offer to help you buy something "on the side" like this. Why would the employer encourage or support one of their employees doing a deal themselves rather than through the company? Why would a furniture company that sells bed frames not be able to sell you a mattress as well?

I'm not an attorney but I think it's the company we should be talking to, not their employee. From what you say they approved of this side deal while you were on their premises and while you were buying the bed frame from them.

I think the best thing for the store to do is sit down with both you and the employee and identify a solution to this mess. If not, then we might need to escalate this to involve law enforcement and a possible charge of obtaining by false pretence?

Update: I contacted the store and the manager proposed exactly what I was going to suggest to him, that he gets you and the employee together to sort this out. Let me know what happens?

Won't they cover me?

Mr Harriman, I am writing this on behalf of my wife. She insured her car but unfortunately on the 23 July 2023 the unfortunate happened whereby she bumped in a parked car which belongs to me. After all the necessary steps taken and the relevant documents required were provided the insurer declined to attend to the car she bumped into as a third party their reason being that since we are married they can't cover the other car. We have since taken the issue to NBFIRA, we now waiting for the verdict.

My point of contention here is about the other car which they have taken for maintenance. Sir it is now almost three months with any development whereas they have taken the car telling us that they have found all the parts needed to maintain it. After some times having taken the car without any feedback we inquired why the delay. To our utter disbelief we were told they are no parts and that they have ordered them. All these was from garage where our car is. The owner of the garage took us from pillar to post. All these times we were contacting in insurer about our displeasure and they always promise to intervene but to no avail. Now we are told to wait for another 3 months for the parts to arrive. Imagine half a year waiting to be assisted I feel hard done by. Can you please help Sir.

This is something I've not heard before. The insurance company claims that a wife's policy doesn't cover damage to her husband's car? I think this will depend on the small print in your insurance policy. If there's a clause that says that then it's simple. But I'd be surprised if there was. The first thing you should do is get your policy document and read it very carefully. I assume you have a copy? The NBFIRA Policyholder Protection Rules make it very clear that you should have received a copy of the policy and if you've lost it they must give you a replacement.

As for the garage and their delays, you should mention to them that Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a supplier must offer "timely performance and completion" of services you're paying for and "timely notice of any unavoidable delay" if they happen.

I think you deserve better from both of these companies and I'm happy to contact them both for you.

Saturday 30 September 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why the delay?

I need your help. I sent an email to my insurance company cancelling my policy on August 14th 2023. I made an enquiry on the cancelation on the 18th of September and the responsible people do not respond to my emails. I managed to get hold of a lady yesterday and she said the procedure is that when they receive the email they print and hand to a certain department. Just now I made a follow up and she was surprised that the department never called me. She checked my email and she just said it had no attachment. Something that I believe could have been communicated on the 16th of August when she read my email as per the read receipt that I received. How do I go about this because the service provider did not advise me accordingly on time and they are still deducting money on my account.

Firstly, I like the fact that you set up your email to them to include a read receipt. That way you could be certain if they received the email and that someone read it. Smart move!

I think we need to remind this insurance company who their customer is? Who's paying for the service? Who deserves some reasonable customer service? Yes, you admit that you forgot to attach a document to your email, but we've all done that. You've probably received an email with a missing attachment as well and I bet you replied immediately and told the sender what happened? It's what polite people do.

I'll get in touch with the company and see if they can't recognise that they owed you much better treatment than this. I also suggest that you write them another email (with a read receipt request) and demand that they backdate your cancellation to August. I think it's only polite and reasonable.

What can I do with this slow laptop?

I need help. I bought my daughter a HP Laptop at certain shop in Gaborone for P4,000. When we tested it it was slow. We end up taking it but the child suffered to use until we returned it. When we get there they wanted to give us another one it took time to be on so I decided I need money since it's doing the same thing. They are refusing to give money just because in their papers I signed I can't return it and if I do I have to get something else and there is nothing I need in the shop. I need money to go buy somewhere else. They said the laptop is new but I think it's not. How may I get my money back since my daughter needs a laptop for her course? Those are crooks they knew and admit the laptop is not working well but they don't want refund.

Please help I'm so frustrated by this issue.

Unfortunately I suspect this might be difficult. It's incredibly important, whenever you buy something technological, to do your research first, before you hand over your money. That applies to cellphones, cars and computers, anything that isn't understood by most of us. Every time we buy anything like this, if we're not an expert, we must get advice from someone who is.

When buying a computer it's really important to make sure the model you choose matches your requirements. Your friendly expert will ask you what you plan to do with the device, what you can afford to spend and they'll be able to point you in the direction of the right device.

I suspect you didn't have the chance to do this and you're paying the price for that. It doesn't help that this store seems unhelpful and untrustworthy. I also suspect that the laptop isn't new. Even the cheapest of modern laptops will allow the average user to do most things. This sounds like an older model.

I'll contact the store and see if they can explain themselves.

Saturday 23 September 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is this laptop legit?

I recently bought a laptop on the 23rd of August, then returned it on Friday so they could install windows since it wasn't activated. When I followed up the progress they came up with another issue claiming that the hard drive is damaged. For them to give me my laptop back I need to contribute P500 to install the hard drive. The matter was reported to CCA in Main Mall on the 31st and they promised to get back to me within this week but they haven't called. I really need the laptop for I have presentations to prepare for within the following week.

This is incredibly suspicious. Almost all new laptops come with Windows already installed and operational. The only thing you need to do when you start it for the first time is to enter your personal details to register it with Microsoft. The most suspicious thing you wrote is that your version of Windows "wasn't activated". I think that probably means that the version of Windows on the laptop you bought had been pirated. That's illegal.

The second issue is that the hard drive was damaged. Again, that suggests to me that the laptop isn't new. It's almost unheard of for a new laptop to have a failed hard disc. I think it's obvious that you've been sold a second-hand laptop with pirated software.

I contacted the owner of the store and they weren't very helpful. Firstly they suggested this wasn't a big issue. But it is. They were also very unhappy that you'd contacted us and suggested they would contact the Police and demand an investigation into us for asking questions. Clearly they have something to hide.

I suggest we continue to apply pressure on the Competition and Consumer Authority because they have the power to compel this store to do the right thing. And also perhaps face punishment for selling used goods as new and installing pirated software. I wonder if the Police might also be interested? But not in us, in the store.

Do I deserve rewards?

Hello Mr Harriman. Please I need to ask something privately regarding cellphone network providers in Botswana. I have been a loyal customer using one number since 1998 (26 years) and that was the time when they were basically new as well. Ever since from my first cell phone to this date buying airtime, buying and using their internet for years and years. Don't I get to be appreciated somehow or be recognised for being a loyal customer be given at least a t-shirt or something? Are service providers not supposed to give out appreciation freebies?

Unfortunately not. Like you, I've been with my cellphone network almost since the day they started. I'm slightly scared to calculate how much I've paid them in total. And what have they given me in return? Just what I paid for. I've paid them every month and they've given me the ability to make calls, send messages and connect to the internet. But that's all I can demand from them. What I paid for.

As for extras, for freebies and gifts, those are just luxuries. And here's a secret they want you to overlook. Freebies aren't free. We pay for them. Every time we buy airtime a small percentage of that payment pays for any special offers, discounts and freebies they give us. You don't think they're charities, do you? It's not their money they're spending on the gifts, it's ours.

It's not just cellphone network providers that do things like this. Think about so-called store 'loyalty cards' as well. These cards don't reward loyalty, they try to create it. The occasional discounts they offer us are just tricks to persuade us to keep shopping with them rather than their competitors. The prices they charge include the cost of any rewards they offer us. They're also there to track us, to analyse how we spend our money and then to target advertising to us. If you're happy with this that's fine, but remember it's a choice we make, whether we participate or not.

Above all, remember this. Very few things in life are truly free.

Saturday 16 September 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why can't I install apps?

Can you please assist me in this issue. I bought a Huawei Y70 phone in Maun for P3,000. After buying the phone I realized that it doesn't support other apps. I tried to download Showmax and Netflix but the phone was acting up. There is an error message saying the device does not support the app.

Upon realizing this issue I contacted the shop but the guy told me that he is able to install them but the issue is this phone is going to be a problem to me because they gave me 1 month warranty I wonder what will happen after one month if I want to install another app.

They are refusing to change the phone. So I was asking how best can the shop help me.

I think we need to teach this cellphone store some basic lessons about customer service and consumer rights, don't you?

Firstly, this is just rude. Maybe I'm old-fashioned but I think that if a store sells something that isn't working right, no matter what caused it, they owe the customer some courtesy and should try their best to help them fix the situation.

Perhaps more importantly I think suppliers should obey the law. As readers of The Voice will know by now, Section 16 (2) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a consumer:
"may return goods to a supplier in their merchantable or original state, within six months after the delivery of the goods, without penalty and at the supplier's risk and expense, if the goods fail to satisfy the requirements and standards (that the Act demands)"
It's not complicated. A cellphone should be able to make calls, send messages and load apps that are right for that type of phone. A quick Google search suggested that there's nothing that would prevent this model of phone loading these apps. However, I think it's the job of this store to help you fix this issue. If there's a reason why the apps can't be loaded they should have told you this before you spent your money. If it can run them they need to help you load them. Either way it's their job to help you.

I contacted the store but haven't had a reply yet. I won't give up.

Must I pay for a refund?

I'm not sure if this is the right platform but I need assistance on what to do with an electronics store in Airport Junction. I bought a phone there in May, an iPhone Pro Max 13, now the battery is already down to 92% which is unusual for a brand new phone.

I went to see them today and they said their warranty doesn't cover the battery and if I want a refund they will deduct 40% of the price paid, which is 6.6k.

So I told them that I'd just check in with you guys if that is the right way because honestly I believe I was sold a refurbished or second hand phone instead of a new one. Please advise.

I agree with you. Something here isn't right. You sent me a screenshot from the phone which shows that the Apple warranty has already expired which shouldn't be the case for a new phone bought in May. And then there's this nonsense about the battery not being covered by the warranty? That's not acceptable. Requiring you to pay to get a refund is also nonsense and I'm happy to tell them about Section 16 (2 ) of the Consumer Protection Act. I'll also tell them about Section 13 which forbids a supplier from selling used goods without being honest about it and Section 23 which says they can't force consumer to waive their rights, like the right to a working battery in their expensive cellphone.

Why is it that some cellphone stores are allowed to behave like these two? The bad news is it's because we allow it. We all need to be a lot more demanding.

Saturday 9 September 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get my money back?

How long does it take to get your money back from an investment policy that you have cancelled? Does it require the same agent you signed up with?

I opened it in Maun through an agent in April 2022 and was effective starting 1 May. Maturity date is on 30 April 2047. I paid P350 for 3 months and ended it because my employment contract had ended. The agent told me that they will freeze my account for a year in good faith that I will find a job and continue but I never did. In April I communicated with him and he told me that in 4 days I will get my money. He told me I should have given him my account number and wait for 10 days. When I ask he always tells me that he is not in the office and will get back to me.

I contacted the insurance company. They haven't replied yet but I think I know what they'll say.

The problem is that you signed a 25-year investment policy and asked to cancel it after just 1 year. I suspect that if you read the small print of the policy document you'll find that you can't do this and expect your money back. This is partly because the insurance company was expecting 25 years of premiums and you've cancelled that agreement. It's also partly because of what is sometimes called 'front-loading'. When you sign a long-term investment policy the agent who sold it doesn't want to wait for 25 years to get their commission. They want it now. What happens is that their commission is paid in the first year or two of the policy. That means that your early premiums don't go into the policy, they go to the agent. It's only after a few years that you actually start to save money and earn interest. That's the 'front-loading'.

Let's wait to see what the insurance company says but I'm not optimistic that you'll get any money back. Meanwhile the insurance company needs to get some better agents. This one seems to know or care very little.

Where's my refund?

Please assist in reaching out to a drilling company for my refund. The company started off well with a site visit to my farm and did the point confirmation for the borehole as promised. They were to send me the report after deposit and this never came. On request for this the director kept saying he will share this but it never came.

He later gave me a confirmation date for the drill appointment which was the 21st Aug and on the 20th I reached out to him in order to prepare for the drilling but he never responded. Fast forward he missed the drilling dates and to this day he only reads my Whatsapp and doesn't respond. He is a tough person to reach on voice call and he always has excuses like the truck had a break down and they are trying to rectify. His last comms to me was a letter stating he will attend to my drilling before the end of September and am wondering if he feels I should wait for him while there are other guys who can assist sooner.

I sent him a letter demanding my refund because I no longer want to work with his company so I can seek help elsewhere and still he reads my emails and Whatsapps with no response.

I think you've done everything right so far. And he's done everything wrong. I'm sure we all understand that companies sometimes have problems, things that delay them but that's no excuse for going silent. Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that consumers are entitled to "timely performance and completion" of services they've paid for. It goes on to say that we're also entitled to "timely notice of any unavoidable delay". It's really very simple. Suppliers should keep to their promises and let us know if they can't.

In your case the company are being rude. They can't just tell you that they've picked a new date, they need to be negotiating with you. They need to be asking politely if they can come on a later date. They should be the ones offering you a refund, not you asking for it. I contacted the company but so far all I get is blue ticks. I'll keep you informed.

Update: The owner of the drilling company says I can "expect to hear from my lawyers". I look forward to it.

Saturday 2 September 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay him?

On the 6th August around 9 am I parked by the shops and one guy came and parked behind me. When I wanted to go out there was no space and which resulted in me scratching his car below the plate number. The guy took me out of the scene while waiting for police because he was called by his friend who is a police officer. I was charged and paid the fine. Now the guy wants me to pay him money for insurance of even the damage of the car is not the one on his quotation.

Unfortunately I don't think I can give you any good news. This is what happens when the victim of a collision has insurance and the guilty party doesn't. The victim will have submitted an insurance claim and the insurance company will have paid the costs needed to repair the vehicle, except an amount they call the 'excess'. This is a relatively small amount the insured person pays towards the repair costs.

The bad news is that the guilty party isn't the one the insurance policy protects. That's just the policy holder, the one paying for it. Now the insurance company will want to get back the money they lost when they paid the repair costs and it's you they'll approach to get it from. The other bit of bad news is that the owner of the damaged vehicle is also entitled to demand their excess payment back from you.

However, it's only fair that the amounts they demand from you are reasonable and correct. I think you have a right to see the invoices from whatever repair shops they approached to make sure you're being charged a fair price for the repairs and not being exploited. If you like I can contact the insurance company for you.

Can I get anything back?

Kindly looking for help just recently bought a second hand car from a pawn shop in Maun. On Thursday afternoon then the following day which is Friday morning it started to show more problems mainly the engine and those problems were not mentioned and the guy knew about the problems. I was denied to test drive the car, they got me to pay P15k for car before leaving the yard.

I called them yesterday to asking for help but they say said they can't help me with anything. What I really wanted was for them to reduce the price of the car so that I can get the engine fixed or buy a second hand engine from the spare shops.

Please help me.

The first important point is that you can't trust these people. Anyone selling a car that doesn't allow you to test drive it has something to hide. It doesn't matter if it's an individual, a car dealer or a pawnshop, if they're too scared to let you inspect the vehicle they're keeping something from you. Something you need to know. The lesson is simple. Only ever buy a car you've test driven or which comes with a written, dated, signed guarantee that it's in working order.

The second important thing here is that these guys are regulated. I suggest that you contact both the Competition and Consumer Authority and NBFIRA, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority who oversee pawn shops and ask both bodies to take a look at this company. I think NBFIRA will be particularly interested because the company name you gave me doesn't appear on their current list of pawn shops.

These guys seem more and more shady. It's time they explained themselves.

Saturday 19 August 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my bed?

Greetings Mr Richard. I come to you with an issue which I believe you will help me.

I bought a bed from a store in Selebi Phikwe on 6 months instalment which I long finished but before I finished paying I reported a fault which I was promised to be given a new bed but I have not received any. Every time I go to the shop I'm promised that the bed will be by my house in less than a week but its never the case.

Kindly help me with this issue since its draining me. The manager no longer answers my calls and I'm always forced to knock off early or take leave to attend the issue without results.

I think you've done exactly the right thing so far. Within the repayment period you reported a fault with the product you were buying. That's an incredibly important thing to do. Many people fail to do that, they fail to report a problem as soon as it occurs. Then they often find that the warranty has expired and they're left without any rights.

The problem is that some stores decide to ignore a complaint within the warranty period and hope the customer will forget. As soon as the warranty expires they claim it's too late. Luckily you're one of the smarter consumers.

I messaged the store manager and his response was predictable. Blue ticks but no response. I then emailed the Country Manager who has a very good history dealing with consumer issues. I suspect he'll be much more responsive. My recommendation to the store manager is to listen to what the Country Manager says and learn some lessons from him. If you want to keep your job.

Where's my phone?

I really need your help regarding a cellphone store. I bought a Samsung A14 on the 19th July and on Friday 21st upon setting the phone up with my passwords, fingerprint and face id the phone started acting up, the password, fingerprint and face id would not work at times like at one moment it will work and the next moment it will not. I took the phone back to the shop because I really needed that phone for work and now my work was at stake. They said it was the sim card and they did what they know best and I took the phone since I was in a hurry and really needed it for work. When I complained they said it was sealed but they are the ones who opened the box and gave me the phone. So all these is the reason why I asked for a refund or a new phone, it wasn't even unlocking when I was at their shop. I even provided my passwords to them as they claimed I might have forgotten it or at least how about my face id and fingerprint, did I forget them too? They refused to help me and they kept the phone till now it's been 3 weeks. I asked for the manager, made several calls, texted them on WhatsApp several times but they are ignoring my messages. I even went there and I didn't get any help, they don't even bother to keep me updated but they are keeping the phone and my money since Sunday the 23rd of July.

I have a confession to make. Your comment "my face id and fingerprint, did I forget them too?" made me laugh out loud. How dim-witted are the people at this store?

I think this store needs an urgent lesson on the Consumer Protection Act, basic customer service and common sense. They've let you down completely and now they're making up stories and ignoring you?

It's simply not good enough. I contacted the owner of the store and he promised action. Let's hope.

Saturday 12 August 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my phone?

Hi Richard! I need help with getting my refund. I purchased my sister an iPhone XS on June 8th in Palapye. The phone started experiencing various problems a few days after the purchase. It would just shut off when in use but with a high battery percentage level, and after turning on, it would refuse to connect to WiFi. Additionally, the phone battery would die at 20%. After that, we returned it to the shop in Palapye so they could fix it. They then sent the phone to their main branch in Gaborone for repair, they had it for 2 weeks. My sister was extremely inconvenienced by this because she had nothing to use for weeks.

The same issues persisted after it had been repaired. Additionally, it returned with a battery life warning that wasn't present when it left for repair. The only thing that had changed is that battery would now die at 5% rather than 20%.

When we returned it to the Palapye shop, they advised us that a technician in Gaborone would need to fix it once more. On July 23, 2023, we took the phone to the store at Rail Park, we were told to return on July 24, since the technicians were not available. On the 24th, I informed the store manager that I no longer wanted the phone serviced. She then informed her boss, who informed her that he cannot issue a refund because the phone has a scratch. Their boss refused to meet with me so that he could completely explain why he is unable to issue a refund. He was not even in the store, instead, he was talking to his manager in the parking lot.

Enough is enough. I respect your patience but now it's time for action. As readers of The Voice will know, Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that consumers are entitled "to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects." Section 16 (2) goes on to say that a consumer can return goods that are faulty within 6 months and receive one of the three 'R's: a repair, a replacement or a refund. However, it's up to the store to decide which they offer. The store can decide to repair the faulty item instead of immediately offering you a replacement or a refund. Importantly for you, it says very clearly that if a supplier repairs a faulty item and the same problem happens again within the next 3 months, they lose the right to repair it again. At that stage they can only offer us a replacement or a refund. Maybe it's time to remind the store about this?

Where's my refund?

I went to a shop in Palapye on 24th July. I brought my shoe for resizing, what surprised me was that you pay before your shoes can be attended. I asked them why is it so they told me is the policy of the shop. Then I asked her, what if I'm not satisfied with your service, they said I will be refunded. I paid that P100 cash. I was told the service will take 5 days, so they will call me when they are done.

I waited for the whole week, no call. Then on Saturday 29th I went to the shop to check on the progress. I was surprised to be told that they are still waiting for the machine for resizing from Gaborone, something I wasn't told at first. As I was on my way to SA I decided to take my shoes and ask for refund. I was told I will be refunded, up to today there's no refund of P100. I called again today, to my surprise I'm told the refund takes a month to be done and its only done in Gabs.

I know we can't expect miracles from stores but there are certain things we have a right to expect. One thing is "timely performance and completion" of services we pay for. Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that. It's very simple, this store should have told you how long your shoe resizing should take. If there were delays then they should have told you that as well because the Act says they must give you "timely notice of any unavoidable delay".

I contacted the store. They were very apologetic and processed the refund immediately. I just wish that more stores reacted so quickly.

Saturday 5 August 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must we be interviewed?

(This message came from a lady who had recently lost her husband. After lengthy battles with her medical aid, her husband finally passed away a few months ago. Then she tried to obtain benefits from his pension scheme.)

With regards to insurance policies. Must a tax clearance for the deceased be submitted before the insurance is paid out to the family? After the insurance company had me running around for over 2 months with different documents all the time changing requirements. I eventually managed to submit and then they come back with this. Now they want to interview me and our daughter? She is in university overseas. She is also going to Europe in a couple of weeks so for her to come to Gabs is not going to happen until December. When my husband completed the forms he left 50% to each of us, why now must we prove that we need the money?

Firstly, I'm so sorry for your loss and for the struggles you and other bereaved relatives must endure after a tragic loss. I know insurance companies have procedures to follow but they often make a difficult situation even more difficult.

Yes, I believe that BURS insist that pension providers check whether someone owes tax before they pay out. That's the simple question. The second question is more complicated. Does the insurance company really need to interview you and your daughter before making the payments? I didn't know the answer to this but it struck me as surprising. So rather than guessing I asked a former colleague who's an expert. This is what he said:
"It's normal. The Retirement Funds Act allow members and pensioners to nominate Dependants as a guide to the Trustees. However, it also allows to Trustees to vary the content of any nomination form if there is any information that the Trustees come across that warrants that.

Members and dependants get upset when they hear that but it's actually designed to protect dependants. The examples I always give are when a young couple with 1 child nominate their child as the sole dependant and they go on to have other kids but forget to update the forms (which is very common). If both of them pass away, it would not be fair to leave out the other sibling dependants simply because the parents forgot to update their nomination forms.

Another example is where couple gets divorced and move on to start new families. If one of them passes away (the lady for instance) leaving small kids behind and forgets to update their form to remove the ex-husband, it would not be right to simply pay it over to the gent who will go on a holiday with his new wife and kids. These are very real (and actual) examples but more often than not, the benefits will be paid according to the nomination form that was completed.

Where no nomination form was completed the simplest thing is to get a family resolution certified by any Tribal Authority, District Commissioner etc, confirming who the dependants are."
Can he recover my money?

A few days ago I tried to trade through another person I met on Facebook. Initially I deposited P2,000 then P2,700 through Yellowcard. Later he changed the story to say the returns made after trading are too high, around P105,000 and needs around P9,000 to download software. I stopped trading.

Yesterday I discovered a page on Facebook called Yellow Card Recovery and they promised to follow up my issue cos I felt like the other guy wanted to scam me. I received email from the recovery page and he promised to recover my money. I was humbly asking if you can assist me to confirm if this is genuine. Thank you in advance.

I'm really sorry to tell you this but I suspect you know it already. You've been scammed and you're about to be scammed again. The first guy was obviously lying when he promised you P105,000 but this second guy who has offered to recover your original P4,700 is also lying to you. There is no way to recover money from scammers. They're criminals, no different to muggers in the street. Like muggers, they don't offer refunds.

Saturday 29 July 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

How much can she charge?

Hi Richard. There is this lady who runs a cash loan. I'm not sure if it's legally registered. Last year November a friend of mine asked if I can arrange for her to get a short loan so I connected them and they agreed. My friend borrowed P10,000 at 25% interest. My friend hasn't paid anything until today and the owner of the cash loan is harassing me with messages and calls. I connected them and I will keep on asking the lady to pay but is it necessary for her to keep on harassing me?

Also, is she supposed to keep on adding interest to this day. I mean was she not supposed to stop adding interest at 3 months? Somebody was telling me that's the procedure.

This is a mess. Firstly you're right, the lender should stop bothering you immediately. You didn't borrow the money, you owe her nothing. Her behaviour is harassment and if it goes on any longer I think you should tell her you'll be contacting the Police.

Secondly, I'm also suspicious about the lender. You sent me a screenshot of a WhatsApp conversation your friend had with the lender and it's shady. She operates from a Gmail address, charges enormous interest rates and doesn't seem to have an office. I doubt whether she's registered with NBFIRA but let's check with them.

The next problem is obvious. Your friend hasn't repaid the loan and clearly that's' no acceptable. She borrowed money and the lender, registered or not, deserves to get that amount back. The interest is a more complicated issue. Unfortunately you're wrong that interest can only be added for 3 months. There's no limit to how much interest can be added to a debt but there is a limit to how much can be charged when the debt is settled. The 'in duplum' rule says that when a debt is paid off in one payment, the interest can't be more than the capital amount that remains. However, can your friend afford to pay it all back in one payment?

I suggest that your friend first calls NBFIRA for advice, then tries to reach an agreement with the lender about what she should and can pay back.

Must she pay them?

I need your advice sir. My mom was involved in a traffic accident. Apparently the car she hit was insured. The damage were on the door, but not to a great extent. Now the insurance has sent her the expenses they incurred when fixing the car. It's P81,000. Their quotation indicates that both doors were replaced and not repaired. Since she has to pay for all those expenses, she requested to be given everything which was removed from the car. There isn't any definite answer on that from the insurance company.

This is yet another example of how useful insurance can be. It doesn't matter whether it's a vehicle insurance policy, home or life, the fact that the insurance company will cover the costs of an unfortunate event can be a huge benefit. However, in this case the only beneficiary is the owner of the other vehicle. They paid for an insurance policy that paid P81,000 to repair their car so they didn't have to.

The bad news is that when someone without insurance like your mother is involved in traffic collision that's their fault, they have to pay the bills. The other party's insurance company wants their money back and they'll come after the guilty party to get it. Most importantly, there's very little the uninsured guilty party to protect themselves. Obviously the insurance company can't inflate the repair costs but remember that they're only looking after their own interests and those of their client. Your interests are of no importance to them.

I suggest that your mother contacts the insurance company and asks for a full breakdown of the costs. Then, if the numbers add up, she needs to negotiate a payment plan that she can afford. Then she needs to find a reputable insurance broker to get a vehicle insurance policy in case this happens again.

Saturday 15 July 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They can't tell my children apart!

Hello Richard. I have an issue with my medical aid and I'm not sure if it's your jurisdiction to provide help.

I have twin boys who happen to be beneficiaries. They have similar first names and other different middle names. The system the way it's configured is that when they register a person they use the first 3 letters of their name as the ID.

Now since my boys have similar names they now have the first 3 letters looking the same. It's unfortunate that when they are not well It happens at the same time. When it's time to claim the system won't claim for the other twin because it's like they are making claiming for the same person twice. So the system automatically rejects the second claim. Unless you now claim under a different beneficiary with a different date of when they joined the medical aid.

I have taken it up with the medical aid in Francistown and they told me it's either I change the name of the other twin so that they can claim at the same time. I was against the idea because I believe they should make it happen that every beneficiary gets what they deserve without compromising their names.

They told me they have asked the service providers to process the claims manually which they can't do because they say the system rejects them. It's always a struggle to have the other twin claiming when they are not well.

This is incredible. It's insane. It's also incompetent.

Let's start with the Consumer Protection Act. Section 14 (1) of the Act says that when a supplier: 
"undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of a consumer, the consumer has a right to … performance of the services in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect".
In simple terms (so simple that even this medical aid can understand) it means they should be able to tell that you have two children, not one.

I contacted the company and asked them to investigate. I'm telling them here in The Voice that in return for a very large amount of money I'll give them some advice, based on many years experience of IT business systems, on how they can develop a better way of identifying all their members and dependents. It should take me about 15 seconds but clearly it's worth the investment. (Sorry Editor for the advertisement.)

Can I get my money back?

Good day. I would like to ask for some assistance and maybe help me understand something here. I did an account to start trading but because I don't have much experience I asked someone to manage it. This is my first time meeting him and I invested $20 into the account amounting to P277.13 at the time. He didn't lay down any terms and conditions but only that ''Risk free target is triple invested amount'' of which I believe it means guaranteed less risks if not zero risk. And after 42 hours of not communicating he says he lost all the money. Besides the profit he had said we would share 50/50 he lost even my investment. Please help me here. Even on his profile you will see the account management business. Am I wrong to want at the very least a proper feedback and my $20?

Unfortunately I don't think I can offer you any good news. You've been scammed. Nobody can guarantee profits in any scheme and certainly not with forex trading. Anyone who guarantees you can triple your money from forex trading is lying to you. Or they know nothing about forex trading. Either way they can't be trusted with your money.

I think the first thing you should do is accept that you lost your money. Luckily you only lost a small amount compared to the amount this guy probably wanted to take from you. The second thing you should do is speak to NBFIRA and get their advice. I don't think they'll get your money back but they might be able to stop him scamming other people.

Saturday 8 July 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can't they refund me?

Good morning Mr Richard. May you kindly advise me here. I bought a coat (size 36) through laybye at a store at Fields Mall. I collected the coat on the 24th June but I realised it's too big for me when I wear it. On the 30th June I went to ask for exchange at the same shop. When I got there I could not find a smaller size (size 34). The manager called other Gaborone stores but they didn't have the size 34 as well, then I asked them if I can get something else for the same price I bought the coat (P499). They told me the coat is now on special at P349 so I can only get something at P349 not P499 that I paid. While I was still there waiting for the manager to make some enquiries then the story changed that I can't get anything different because it was on laybye so I can only get the same coat but different size. I asked them where am I going to get size 34 because he called other stores they don't have that size. They said in that case there is nothing they can do because exchange of that coat is going to mess up their books so I'm here with the coat that doesn't fit me. Please help.

Hi. This is complicated.

As readers of The Voice will know Section 16 (2) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a consumer can return an item to a store for a replacement, refund or repair but ONLY if the item they bought is either faulty or if it was mis-sold somehow. It's really important to understand that as consumers we don't have a right to demand a replacement or refund (or a repair but that's not relevant here) if the item we bought was in good condition and the store did nothing wrong. If we made a mistake, we pay the price.

Of course some stores might be considerate and allow you to return something but that's just good customer service, not a right we have. It's why we need to be extremely careful before buying something. I think the best solution is to approach the store, be as nice and friendly as possible and see if they can't be a bit more understanding? I'll also contact the owner and see if they're prepared to be a little bit kinder.

Did they abuse her rights?

On the 15th June, my 6 year old niece took sweets from a store in Mochudi while she was with another child. The security noticed and detained her. When her mother was called to the shop, she could not get the child as the manager said she was charging her 5 times the value of the sweets. She had to leave her crying helpless child who was at that time put at the manager's office as she had no money with her. My brother accompanied her to the shop and after a while the child was released after they blatantly refused to be charged over. Also the shop manager at first wanted to call the police but later changed their mind. Also after paying, they were not given the sweets and the receipt which I view as theft.

My complaints are here. The child was traumatised. The store only gave us the receipt on the 29th June after we consulted the Social Work department of the local council. The store manager says it store policy to charge people caught stealing 5 times more but he cannot show it to us written in black and white.

I want to get justice for my niece who cries every time we go to the shop. She wants nothing to do with the shop, manager and security. Please advice how tackle this issue and get justice for my traumatised niece, looking at her age.

Yet another complicated situation. Firstly, I entirely agree that your niece was very badly treated by the store and I can understand how she must be traumatized. However, the store were, I believe, entitled to detain her until a responsible adult was able to attend. I'm not an attorney but I know that the Penal Code says that someone "under the age of eight years is not criminally responsible for any act or omission" but that doesn't mean she can just be let go. You admit that she stole something and that can't be overlooked.

I think both you and the store got a couple of things wrong. You and your niece had no rights to those sweets, she'd earlier tried to steal them. It's not the store that's guilty of theft. And the store has no right to impose a fine on someone who steals things. Only a court can impose a fine.

I think you and your family need to have a serious conversation with your niece. And the store needs to stop thinking they are the Police, social services and the courts combined.

Saturday 1 July 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Are young women safe?

Hi Richard, I want to raise the issue of men abusing women at bars. Last night I saw a man who had a few weeks ago been removed by bouncers for groping a girl and getting violent at the bar I was in, groping and sexually assaulting at least 3 girls yet again. As well as that there were several other men acting similarly. There were no obvious cctv cameras nor security on the dance floor so evidence is hard to get but girls don't feel safe going there anymore. Wondering if maybe management could put safety nets in place to prevent this in the future or at least give victims the evidence they need to lay charges against sexual predators.

Thank you for raising such an important issue. I think we all know that a small proportion of our young men are out of control and are mistreating our young women. While there are plenty of men of all ages who behave decently and respectfully, and there are some very good men have made a public stand against the abuse of women, we still have a long way to go.

I think we also know that bars and clubs are a great place for this dangerous minority of men to abuse women, to exploit those who've had a drink and who might not be with friends likely to stand up for them. Some might say that this isn't a consumer issue but I disagree. It doesn't matter whether it's a supermarket, a bank, a government office, a bar or a nightclub, we all deserve to be safe when we're spending our money.

I believe that the owners and managers of a bar that don't put in place strict controls on the behaviour of their male clients aren't innocent bystanders, they're part of the problem.

I'll contact the bar you mentioned and ask what they're prepared to do to improve the safety of their customers.

Update. I heard very quickly from the management of the bar that they're taking the matter very seriously and will be investigating. Well done to them.

Where's my kitchen?

Hey Sir, I bought a kitchen scheme from a store at the Station., I asked them to deliver the kitchen scheme in Francistown. They delivered the kitchen that was on display, the drawers were not opening, there were scratches all over and they left one handle not fixed. Upon seeing this I informed Gaborone where I was assisted. That was March when I bought it and April I reported all this, they said they will give me a new kitchen.

The whole of May they didn't communicate. I am the only one after them. It was on high purchase. I went to them last week to cancel the purchase and the sales person opted for me to take different a kitchen scheme which he said Francistown will deliver in a good condition. I decided to cancel the one I took and took the one he proposed. Even up to now the store in Gaborone is not willing to help me change the damaged kitchen to a new one. Please intervene.

This is crazy. Does this store have any understanding of customer service or consumer rights? Clearly not.

Firstly, they sold you a display kitchen, not a new one. Section 13 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says very clearly that "used goods" must be clearly identified when they're sold. If they didn't make it clear that the display kitchen was the one you were buying, then they can face a fine of up to P50,000, prison for 3 years, or both.

Secondly they breached Section 14 (1) (c) of the Act which says you're entitled to
"goods that free of defects and are of a quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect".
Clearly that wasn't what you received.

Then they took their time fixing this mess and that's unacceptable. We all understand that mistakes happen, but when they happen we're entitled to have them corrected quickly.

I emailed them a few days ago but got no response so now I've contacted their Head Office in South Africa. Maybe they can apply some pressure on their store? Or do they want this story all over Facebook?

Saturday 24 June 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my iPhone?

I bought an IPhone 7 Plus 128gb on the 2nd June. After 3 days it started giving me problems, I went back to the shop, at first they opted to observe it so I left to pick it the next day. I come back for it the next day, when I took it I realized it still had the same problem even though they said its okay. I then refused to take it and they gave me a new phone. After a few days same thing happened with the new phone. Went back to the shop. This time around I wanted my money back. They refused said their shop policy states that they do no refund which is written in their warranty card. My expectation was because the device is new it will work well. That's when he told me that these phones are refurbished they are not new which he never said to me initially. We argued for quite long time and they offered to give me a Samsung, Redmi or Tecno. I refused coz I want an iPhone.

They gave another iPhone 7 Plus. I took it and already it's giving me problems. I am so frustrated right now those people are refusing to give me my money back but their phones are giving me problems. Is it okay for them to be treating me like this?? If at all I signed a warranty card with such conditions. Is it fair for me to be going back to the store with the same problem but different phones?

I really need you to help me. I don't have the energy to go there I'm so frustrated right now.

You've been very patient. In fact, I think you've been too patient. The time has come for the store to give you what you deserve, either a phone that works or a refund. I think they also need to learn a lesson about honesty. There is nothing wrong with selling refurbished phones, they just need to tell customers about it.

I messaged the owner of the store and he responded very quickly. Just 29 minutes after my first message he promised the matter would be fixed. Fingers crossed.

Where's my laptop?

What's the best channel to use to lay a complaint against a tech store? I gave them my laptop for repairs in March and up to date am being given stories after stories. I honestly feel bullied and not taken seriously. First it was a problem with a board that they had to source outside. A month later it was failure to boot the laptop. Last month the story changed to a dead battery. The store manager always promises to come back to me. It never happens until I call the store in person. I have lost so much in terms of my work and school stuff coz they say I can't bring a hard drive to copy some of my works. I don't even trust anything about them anymore. The technician has been rude and it is very unfair that am forced to speak to him all the time. It was on its 11th month but unfortunately I'd lost the receipt and they said they can't retrieve the information. What would you advise?

My advice is very simple. Do not accept such poor treatment from this store. The situation is actually very simple. You bought a laptop, it failed repeatedly during the warranty period and you deserve what the Consumer Protection Act guarantees you, either a repair, a replacement or a refund. And you deserve it quickly.

The store also needs to sort out this silliness about the receipt. Yes, obviously they need to prove that you really bought the laptop from them but they have records, don't they? They know the serial number of the laptop and that should be enough to prove what you're saying.

I contacted the store manager and I was told that their system "needs the date of purchase that is when it opens up and lets you verify with the amount, serial number and name of customer if it was captured in the system." That's crazy. I don't care how badly their systems have been designed and it shouldn't be used as a weapon against you. Luckily the manager also told me that they "will send it to our IT department to try and search with the serial number".

We both need to keep the pressure up on this store to get you what you deserve.

Saturday 17 June 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Was I scammed?

I started trading business online in 2019 with a company called Investotrade which is assumably based in USA. I used about BWP 100,000. After 2 months I was told that I can request for withdrawal and I did. I was then told that $100,000 withdrawal will require me to pay tax fee of 10% before I can get my profits. Since then because I had no money I couldn't get my profits.

As I was looking and searching for assistance from different people that I meet in the social media, I met some people who promised to assist me to recover my money back. I have been in contact with this people and have even been charged a couple of times and now I am broke. I have so far paid about P10,000. I am now told to pay $103 as the last charge then my money will be deposited in my bank account.

There is yet another company that I met which started trading with recently but heish I have paid more than I expected. I have paid for signals and activation codes so many times but nothing is coming forth.

I'm not sure where to begin. The terrible news for you is that you've been scammed. Three times.

Firstly, Investotrade was a scam. You know this now but the clues were there all along. Investing P100,000 and being told that you very quickly had earned US$100,000 is unbelievable. $100,000 is currently about P1.3 million. They were saying that your money had increased more than 13 times in a very short time and that's unbelievable. I suspect you know that now. The second clue is that they demanded a huge fee to withdraw the profits they claimed you had made. But the withdrawal fee of 10% was more than your initial "investment"? Again, unbelievable.

The second scam was a surprisingly common one. Many scam victims later fall victim again to fake companies claiming they can recover your losses from previous scams. But guess what? It's the same people, the very same scammers. Knowing that they could persuade you to give them your money persuaded them that you were likely to be desperate and willing to fall victim to other scams.

Finally, you thought it was possible to make money from forex trading? Yet again, you were scammed. And again the news is bad. The third scammers? I checked them and they're the same people as the second scammers. The same as the first scammers. One set of scammers, three scams, one victim.

The tragic news is very simple. Scammers never offer refunds. It's time to accept that you were mugged. Not in a street but online. Same crime, different place.

Will the debt go away?

Kindly assist me here with a personal dilemma. Some years back I got two loans from two banks whilst employed in the mining sector. A year later company was liquidated, we were retrenched and 85% of our packages went towards like and as was the contract. I also wrote to the banks. Years later I am still unemployed, I sell some clothes under a business to make a living. I wanted to get a bank loan only to realize I am blacklisted with CRB, the amount is substantial. I wanted to start a business enough to repay the loans. So I wanted to find out what my options are, does CRB also last forever? I am told I can only be removed on clearance which in my current situation I have no hope for. I liquidated myself and returned a vehicle I got under loan when retrenched and cleared minor education loans as well. Kindly assist me.

I wish I had good news for you but I can't offer that. You might have heard the saying that there are two things you can never avoid: death and taxes. In fact there are three. Death, tax and debt. Debt never goes away. Some people will tell you that debt is 'prescribed' after a few years but that just means the courts won't hear a debt case after a few years. It says nothing about your credit record. That can last for ever or until you pay off the debt. Even then it stays online for another 2 years. The reason is simple. It's probably true and other possible lenders need to see your recent financial history to judge if you're a safe bet or not.

If it's useful I can put you in touch with a reputable debt counsellor who won't be able to make your debts go away but they might be able to help simplify them for you.

Saturday 10 June 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What price is right?

Good evening Richard. I need help. I went to a store in Lobatse. I wanted a kettle and the assistant showed me where they are and I picked one. The price by the kettle was P180.00. When I was by the till I realised after paying that I paid P295.00. I then alerted the teller, telling her that the kettle is P180.00 not P295.00. The other assistant ran and told the manager and they both went there and changed the price tag, but I had already noticed what they were doing.

I told them I have to get that kettle for the price I saw and they refused and gave me another kettle and told me that it was the one for that amount. I had to wait for almost an hour to be assisted. They refused to give me the kettle with the price I saw. Instead they gave me a different one and said that was the one worth that price I saw. They gave me the kettle I didn't want. 

I think this situation is very simple. The store offered the kettle for P180 and that's the price you should pay. You know who agrees with me about this? The law.

Section 11 of the Consumer Protection Act describes some very simple rules about how prices should be displayed. Firstly, it says that goods can't be displayed without their price. That's simple. It then goes on to say something just as important, that the price must be displayed in Pula. That might seem obvious but you'll probably have seen prices shown in Rand or without any details of the currency, just a number. In the past that's been a common way for South African chains to charge us the Rand price in Pula. I think the law means there must be a 'P' to make sure we're being charged the right amount.

However, the best part comes next. Section 11 (3) of the Act says that a supplier "shall not charge a consumer more than the price indicated or displayed for goods or services." Simple as that. Clearly this store hasn't read that Section or perhaps did read it and doesn't understand it. But that's no excuse.

I'll contact the store and remind them how simple the law is.

Why can't they cancel it?

Good day Richard, I hope you can help me. I have a funeral policy which I cancelled on 7th March via email. I was told it would be terminated within 30 days so when they deducted money for same policy from my March salary I was not surprised since the 30 days had not elapsed. But then they deducted again in April. I sent an email requesting that they rectify the error but I was not responded to. I sent another one and it was still not responded to. I called the office on Friday last week but was advised to call on Monday and given a name to assist me but nobody is picking the phone. So I tried to send them messages on Facebook to which I was told to give my details and someone will get back to me but nobody did. I texted again to remind them that nobody had gotten back to me yet but that message was ignored. Yesterday I sent another Facebook text this time I threatened that if I was not assisted by end of day today, I would take my issue to Consumer Watchdog. So then somebody responded that they had escalated the issue and they would get back to me but still nothing. So if you would help me I would really be grateful.

So far you've done everything any human could have done, using every possible means to contact them and cancel your policy. I don't know what else you could have done.

However, despite all of your efforts, this company doesn't seem to treat you seriously. I wonder if they know that Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a consumer has a right to services that are delivered "in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect"? We are also entitled to "timely performance and completion of those services".

In other words, I think you have a right to reasonably quick responses to requests for things like cancellations. I understand, like you, that they can't happen immediately but you cancelled this policy three months ago. That's not timely and it's not reasonable. I'll let them know.