Saturday 28 January 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my plan?

I need help with the owner of a consultancy and locating him if possible. I paid for a service to get help with a business plan and so far paid a total pf P1,515. The total was supposed to be P1,900 and I paid half of it on the 4th of January, then he messaged on the 7th of January saying he needs an extra 375 because he wants to secure letters of intent and sub contracts.

On Friday on the day he said the documents were ready for collection but he said he needed P190 for printing and I asked why he keeps asking for money when I'm supposed to pay 50% deposit and I unfortunately bought the excuse of expenses.

He claimed he was done and we should meet at Masa for collection but never showed up after waiting for hours. He messaged me later in the evening saying we should meet Saturday and when I kept calling that day, he never answered his phone nor his messages. I said I would like a refund. I have realised that his so called consultancy is a scam and he has taken my money through false pretences.

The bad news is that I've dealt with this company before, a few times and the stories were all very similar. This company is paid money to deliver business services but they fail to do so. And then they go quiet.

The last time heard from this company they reacted badly to a post in the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group. They suggested that the money they owed an earlier customer would be paid only when I removed the post criticising them. This is always a bad move. Telling a customer that they will only get service when they stop complaining is not the way to build a successful company. In fact it's the best way to form a company that either fails or has Directors going to jail.

And now I hear about him again. This time he told me that the business plan "is ready for collection just that we failed to meet up with her due to our delayed appointments and meetings. We can surely meet her up on Monday or send it via email as well on Monday."

And then on the Monday he said: "we have emailed her business plan, please confirm if she has received it before we knock off."

There's only one problem. She didn't receive it. There's no sign it was ever sent. I think we should give him one last chance to send the plan before we escalate this.

A warning for Facebook users (again)

It's important that this message from 2022 is repeated. This problem isn't going away.

Many of the people running scams on Facebook look like real people, perhaps even people we know. That's because they ARE the profiles of people we know. It's family members, friends, workmates or strangers but these are their real profiles which have been taken over by scammers.

How do they take over people's Facebook profiles? It's 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? Money.

Late last year 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 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 code is the one Facebook sends to someone who has forgotten their password. If they get that code they could change your Facebook password, take over your 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?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I keep the packaging?

Hello Richard

I need your advice. I bought a chain saw in December 2022, it started at shop but when I got home and tried to start it failed. I went back to the shop and after a number of attempts it started. Unfortunately it couldn't start the following day and I decided to return it and demanded a refund.

The manager has a condition that I should bring the packaging to qualify for a refund. Unfortunately my dogs destroyed the packaging. The saw is currently at the shop. Please advise.

There are several issues here. Firstly, can you demand a refund? The answer is No, a customer doesn't normally have the right to demand a refund. What he have a right to demand is a solution. But often there are several possible solutions to a problem like this and they all begin with 'R'.

When a product is faulty, a consumer has a right to 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. But they can't take too long about it. Also, if a supplier decides to repair the 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.

Then there's the issue of the packaging. I'm sure we've all heard this before, a store demanding that we keep the box that the item comes in. But why? Is that reasonable? I don't think so.

This excuse is about the store wanting a simple life, it's not about customer service or our consumer rights. It's probably about the manufacturer making silly demands on the stores and them passing this on to us. I don't think it's reasonable for a store to demand we keep the packaging for the things we buy. I also think it's a way for the store to evade their obligations and to force us to waive our rights, both of which are forbidden by Section 23 of the Consumer Protection Act.

If you like I'll contact them for you.

Is it 5 years or 3 months?

I need to know something about guarantees.

My question is if I buy machine for Bosch and on the package is written 5 years guaranteed and I buy it and the shop say they only give 3 months at their shop? so can you help so that I can know? Knowledge is power.

I agree. Knowledge is one of the greatest powers. And you are about to be more powerful than this shop ever will be.

They're lying. Or perhaps they're ignorant. Probably both.

If you do a web search about Bosch guarantees and warranties you'll see that they offer guarantees that range from 1 year up to 5, depending on the item you buy. That's no surprise, Bosch is a hugely reputable German brand that has been operating for 137 years and I imagine has a great commitment to quality.

Unlike this store, who have a very different approach to quality. If they're offering only a 3-month guarantee they're trying to hide something and I'm sure we can guess what. This product is either second-hand, illegally acquired or a fake. Or, this is just the laziest, least respectful store in the country.

They're also ignorant about the Consumer Protection Act which says in Section 5 (j) that a supplier "shall not, in relation to the marketing of goods or services, by way of words or conduct falsely represent … the existence, exclusion or effect of any condition, warranty, guarantee, right or remedy". By placing a box on a shelf that says the item has a 5-year manufacturer's guarantee and then saying something else when you buy it, they're breaking the law.

Shall I tell them or will you?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What are my rights?

I bought a Levi's shirt on the 23rd of December at a store in Francistown. I went home and it was a bit big. I had to wait until after Christmas to return it, which was on the 27th.

I was told by the shop that they don't do refunds so I must look for something else in the shop. As there was no smaller size of the same shirt and they don't do refunds I looked around and I couldn't find anything I was interested in. I told them that means I had to leave with the same shirt and my heart was broken. Mr Harriman may I know what my rights are in regards to refunds if am not happy with items I bought? Their condition of no refund is written on the receipt that you only see after you pay.

A refund is one option but only when an item is faulty or was somehow mis-sold.

Let's start at the beginning. Section 15 (1) 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". Section 16 (2) 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".

Don't forget that most manufacturers offer a warranty better than this, most often for a year but anyone who says there's no warranty or for less than six months is trying to rip you off. We get at least six months.

However, this just refers to goods that are faulty. In your case your shirt wasn't faulty, it was just the wrong size. In this case I don't think the store MUST do anything. They sold you something in good faith and by offering to exchange it for something else they're doing you a favour.

The simple truth is that we don't have a right to change our minds after we've bought something. Some stores like this one will allow you to swap something and there are even stores that allow you to return things if you change your mind but that's not a right, it's just very good customer service.

Scam alerts

We had two messages in the last few days from the victims of very similar scams. One asked: "Is Bitsmart trade platform legit?" He later said told me that "I sent P500 through orange money to a Kenyan number. After 24 hours was sent a receipt indicating a profit of close to the equivalence of P10,000, while initially I was promised P5,000 for P500. On top of that was told to pay P1500 for me to withdraw, that made me realize that I was scammed."

Another reader asked: "I need your help. One of the Octratrade Botswana consultants is refusing to give me profit." He later explained that he had paid a total pf P6,500 into various local bank accounts and now was being told he can't get his so-called profits. It was the same story, the scammers take the "investment" and then promise that huge profits are available, you just can't get them.

The second victim gave me contact details for the person who had invited him to join the scam and I pretended to be a potential victim. It was the same story I've heard many times before. According to the scammer promoting Octatrade, they are "a Botswana trading platform" although they're certainly not a registered company here. They also make the usual promises of enormous profits. For instance, they say that "P1,500 earn P18,000" and "P10,000 earn P120,000". They even go as far as claiming that "P1,000,000 earn P10,000,000". Anyone with even a small amount of skepticism will see that this is a lie. If it was true don't you think the Bank of Botswana would be buying into it? But obviously this is just a scam. The bad news is that it wasn't obvious enough for these two victims.

I think we all need to make a New Years Resolution to be much more skeptical about anyone who makes a claim that we can earn this sort of money. We also need to spread the word to everyone we know, particularly those most likely to fall for it. It's the only way we'll beat them.