Saturday 25 March 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They lost my bags!

I boarded a bus from Kasane to Gaborone on March 14th. My bag was loaded in the bus storage without a tag. I inquired about the tag and was told they are running out of tags but our luggage is safe. My bag was missing when I arrived. The conductor traced it and established that the bag was taken by someone in Francistown. In fact it was stolen because this person is said to be moving around stealing bags from buses. The conductor said that they are still investigating to see if they can recover the bag.

I am writing to seek advice from you because I have been inconvenienced.

I think you've been more than just inconvenienced. I think you're being mistreated and abused.

Clearly the bus company have been negligent by not caring for your property adequately. Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that when a company offers services (such as transporting you and your luggage from Kasane to Gaborone) they must do so "in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect". I think it's reasonable to expect a bus company to take reasonable care of our belongings and I think it's reasonable for them to have luggage tags if that helps them do this.

If their claim that someone stole your belongings is correct, then where is your copy of the police report? Where are the updates from the police investigation? Or is it possible they haven't even reported the theft?

And if they already knew that there's someone stealing bags from buses why aren't they focussing more on security? Why are they being so careless?

Unfortunately, when we spoke you told me that you didn't have any household insurance policies that might have covered the cost of replacing your lost belongings. But where is the bus company's insurance policy? Have they mentioned that? Is it possible that they don't have insurance? If not, why not?

I've contacted the bus company. Let's see how they're prepared to fix this. 

Update: The bus company responded saying that they "just got the phone number of the suspect we're planning a trip to francistown to report the matter since the bag was stolen there". Let's see what happens next?

The insurance policy won't cover me!

Can you please help me here. I bought a television last year around June. Around December while I was at work two unknown men came to my house and told my son that his mom told them to come and collect the TV for repair.

I reported it to Broadhurst police and they provided me with a police report and I submitted it to the store. After that they gave me a letter telling me that their insurance doesn't cover that kind of theft. So I have to continue paying the instalments. Is this fair?

No, it's certainly not fair. But it is the way these things work.

When you buy things on hire purchase the deal usually includes an insurance policy that covers you against the theft or destruction of the goods you're buying. However, there are several problems with these policies.

Firstly, they're incredibly expensive, often several times more expensive than a normal household insurance policy you could get for yourself from an insurance company. It's always better to get your own policy and then use that to cover any goods you buy from the store. The store is required to allow you to do this.

Secondly, there are restrictions hidden in the small print of the policy that it seems they forgot, or chose not to tell you about. One of them is that the insurance against theft usually says that it only covers theft when there's a break-in, when there's been forceable entry. It doesn't cover the sort of con that you experienced.

And then there's the final problem, the final insult. You do still need to continue paying the instalments, even though you don't have the television any longer. That's because it's what it says in the agreement you signed.

Saturday 18 March 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They can't fix my phone!

Last year on the 20th of September I bought a phone from a store at Rail Park Mall. After 5 days I took it back as it was giving me problems. Upon returning it they say it's a software problem and they took it and told me to wait 45 minutes for it which I did and took it home but it still gave me problems.

This year on the 27th of January I took it back again and they told me to come back after 3 working days. I did and was told to come after two more days as it was not ready. I went back on Saturday and they told me something about IMEI which I didn't understand. They told me they would call me back which they never did. I had to call them almost every day and was told one lie after the other until this past Sunday I called them again and spoke to the guy who is the technician and he said I should give him a few days. He said they ordered a new software and he'll call me back. That hasn't happened until today.

It's still under warranty and I have all the receipts with me.

I'm beginning to lose patience with cellphone stores. Almost every day we hear from another customer with a story very similar to yours. They spend often large amounts of money on phones that almost immediately fail. I know that all technology brands have occasional failures but this is happening way too often.

I suspect what you do, that some of these stores are importing refurbished and second-hand phones and selling them as new. That's illegal, contrary to Section 13 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act which says that a supplier who:
"offers used goods shall inform a consumer that the goods sold are used goods by … placing a label on the goods that indicates that such goods are used goods (and) placing a notice on the invoice issued to a consumer". 
Do these suppliers not know that the penalty for not doing this is "a fine not exceeding P50 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both"? 

I'm locked out of Facebook!

My Facebook account was hacked and thieves are using it talking to my friends as if its me. My friend's Facebook account was hacked so I thought I'm talking to my friend, I gave out all my details, they managed to create a new password and logged me out.

Now they are giving away a WhatsApp phone number so that people can make Orange money and send them money. They are updating Facebook status using my Facebook account, as soon as my friends reply they ask them to send P1,000 to that orange money number.

I don't have access any more, they changed the password, deleted my email address and phone numbers which were linked to the Facebook account, so I can't reset the password because there is no how the reset code can be sent.

Who can help me trace the number?

I'm sorry, I don't have any good news to give you. What you've experienced is a very common thing these days. People voluntarily give away their Facebook ID and password and before long their account has been hijacked like yours. The scammers who do this can then pretend to be you and contact all your friends trying to scam them.

Why do people do this? Why do they hand over their details? They do so most often because they've been offered money. If you're on Facebook you'll have seen posts offering prizes for answering the silliest of questions. When you answer the question, hoping to win the prize, the scammer demands access to your Facebook profile to "validate" your prize. They then try to sign on to your Facebook account, clicking the button for when you've forgotten your password. When Facebook send you the OTP code, the scammers will ask for it and then they're in. They'll immediately change the password and you're locked out. Forever.

Just think what a scammer can learn about you from your Facebook profile. It's not only your posts they can see, it's also all of your private messages, the images you've shared and exchanged, and who knows what else. Would you be comfortable with a total stranger having access to all of this?

Unfortunately, the only practical solution is to create another Facebook profile. And to be much more careful in future.

Saturday 11 March 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should I cancel the deal?

About 2 months ago I entered into a hire purchase agreement with one furniture store. My financial position since the time I entered into this agreement has changed and I decided to cancel the agreement to lessen my financial burden. I understand as per the hire purchase act I can validly terminate the hire purchase agreement provided I return the goods to the seller.

Now the issue is the seller has not been cooperative in helping me terminate. I asked about the fees and penalties for early termination and she insists I have to pay half of the total amount that was due to be paid at the end of the contract. The value of the goods was P11,798. The total contract price on hire purchase is P21,557. I paid the initial deposit of P,1180, then two months instalments of P899, total of P2,978.

She said I have to pay P10,778.

The hire purchase agreement does not provide for early termination and I'm not sure where I can get an accurate estimate of how much I should pay to terminate. Please assist.

You probably know already what I think about hire purchase. It's a terrible way to buy things. Why? It's expensive and hugely risky. Even if everything goes right and you pay every instalment you'll probably pay twice the cash value of the items you're buying. The small print of the agreement contains something the store will probably forget to tell you, that the goods you're buying don't even belong to you, they belong to the store until you make the final payment. That's why it's called 'hire' purchase. Until that last payment you're hiring the goods.

They'll probably also neglect to tell you that you can't change your mind and walk away from the deal. You certainly can't sell the goods because remember they don't belong to you yet? In your case the numbers they've quoted to allow you to settle are extreme. You're only 2 months into the repayment period of 2 years and they want you to pay 60% of the total contract amount. And don't forget that those amounts are AFTER they have taken your goods back. You'll be paying for something you'll never see again.

My concern is that if you're already in financial difficulty, which is the best choice for you? Either you find almost P11,000 or you keep paying P899 every month for the next 22 months. I suspect the P899 each month might be more affordable. At least you'll eventually own something instead of paying for nothing.

Who opened the policy in my name?

Hello, I am asking for your help. I recently realized that an insurance company has made deductions from my account. Upon requesting them what the deductions were for since I don't have any policies registered with them, I was informed that their agent has opened some policies with my details without my consent.

I called them after receiving my online payslip I was told to call sales to hear about the policy but the number didn't go through so I called again after a few hours and I was told that my policies were opened in November but I didn't sign any document or fill any document to join any policy.

They said my complaint was sent to the relevant office and they will call me. They said it will depend on how many cases they have.

They are currently asking me to cancel the policies which I have no idea of. My view is that I did not sign any contract with them so I can't cancel anything I have no idea of. Please help me as I consider this fraud.

This is completely unacceptable. Instead of asking you to wait for them to deal with other cases, they should be addressing your situation immediately and urgently. A crime has been committed and the insurance company needs to take this matter seriously.

If this agent falsely opened a policy for you then the insurance company need to involve both NBFIRA and the Police.

Update: the consumer was refunded everything and the insurance company told him that the agent had been fired. Is that good enough?

Saturday 4 March 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should they compensate me?

Good day Richard. I need some assistance. In January 2022 I bought a couch on credit. It was a 1 year account. The 1st month the instalment was not taken as they had my account number incorrect. On the last month which was December 2022 the stop order also failed.

They contacted me and I made an arrangement with them to pay P2,000 out of the P3,800 that was remaining in January and the remaining P1,800 in February. However after paying the P2,000 as agreed they still took a stop order of P1,900 from my account. As a result my other stop orders failed and my account went into negative.

I queried it with them to point out they had inconvenienced me however they are offering no resolution.
If possible I will like them to pay the bank charges for the failed stop orders.

I think you're being perfectly reasonable. This company, who clearly can't organise something as simple as a stop order for a year, massively inconvenienced you. They started by not being able to get your account number correct and then for some other silly reason neglected to take your final payment. By January of this year you should have been finished with them and enjoying the couch that finally belongs to you. Instead they decided to make your life difficult and expensive.

They owe you the costs of this inconvenience. I'll contact them about this and remind them of their responsibilities. Let's hope they have a conscience.

Where's her fridge?

Mr. Harriman, I'm kindly requesting for your assistance. My mom, a 67 year old bought a business fridge in February 2022 to use in a tuckshop. Last year the fridge just switched off while still on warranty. She informed the shop and they took months to come and inspect and take action. Finally they did take the fridge this year January and the warranty is ending in February. They have been saying they are repairing the fridge as they were not in a position to replace. At the moment they are saying the warranty is almost finished so they may not do anything.

As we speak my old mother has lost supplying her business with cold beverages and this is what used to sustain her. All this is happening at Maun and my mom lives in a village 100km away. She spends a lot of money calling and traveling to do inquiries which are futile. Kindly advise on what steps we can do as I feel this issue is stressing my mom and it's been contributing to the rise on her blood pressure.

Yes, we can all understand why this would increase your Mum's blood pressure. It raised mine as well when I read your message. How dare they treat her like this?

The facts are simple. Any faults that emerge during the warranty period must be addressed in one of three ways. The store can either replace the fridge, repair it or refund your Mum, but it's important to understand that they can choose which option they prefer. They can choose to repair the fridge if they think that's the best option. However, they can't take too long doing this. Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that when:
"a supplier undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of a consumer, the consumer has a right to … timely performance and completion of those services (and) timely notice of any unavoidable delay".
"Timely" is the word they should try to understand. Is it too difficult for them?

And then there's this idea that the end of the warranty period is approaching and they no longer need to help your Mum. They can STOP that right now and NEVER say those words to her again. The fault occurred during the warranty period and that's all that matters. If they want to make up unlawful and silly rules that satisfy their needs instead of your Mum's they might learn some very unpleasant lessons when consumers hear about this.

Do they really want to be seen as an organisation that ignores the law and common decency?