Saturday 29 April 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They took my inheritance!

I desperately need help. Where can I seek help in a case where the bank is holding my inheritance from my father's death benefits. They are saying they took it because that's my current balance and hence they are using it to clear my loan.

I'm not in arrears. Apparently when relocating you automatically need to settle the loan with either pension or any lump sum that goes into the account.

I did not agree with them on that. No form of writing was done whatsoever. I am currently based overseas and have been servicing my loan. I also communicated with the bank upon relocation and made an arrangement on how il service their loan. Now they are holding my money yet I have hospital bills to pay.

Like many situations with banks, insurance companies and any other supplier that deals with financial issues, this will all depend what's in writing.

Yes, it seems unreasonable that the bank has done this, particularly considering that the money was an inheritance and you have medical bills to pay but I'm sure that somewhere in the loan agreement you signed there's a clause saying that if the bank has a good reason, they can move money between your accounts. They can use an account in credit to match another account that's in debt. However, this should normally only happen when there's been a problem, like if you've defaulted. But you haven't and this is where we need to check the small print.

When a bank customer moves to another country banks often get anxious. Can they be sure that the customer will continue to pay their loan instalments? More importantly to them, what will happen if the customer defaults? How will they enforce a judgment on someone in a faraway country? It's good that you told them you were moving but I think they need to be reassured you pose no threat to them. You urgently need to speak to them, explain what's happening and give them an assurance that you're no risk to them. Then they might be more reasonable.

Scam warning (yet again)

Many people have asked recently whether a scheme they've been invited to join is legit or not.

Here's a simple guide to help you decide. Firstly, ask the person who invited you to join, why they did so? Did they do it because they're just a kind and charitable person? If they say Yes, then it's a scam.

Next, ask them if the scheme is a registered company somewhere. Hopefully they'll tell you that it's registered in Botswana and approved by NBFIRA but maybe they'll say it's registered and approved in another country. If so, ask for proof. Then check if it's true. If you don't know how to check, ask us.

Ask them how money is generated by the scheme. People marketing a legitimate investment scheme will talk about share or commodity prices, dividends or the income a company can expect from selling products and services. People marketing a scam will be less specific. They'll talk about cryptocurrency or forex trading, Bitcoin mining or just say it's a motshelo or 'gifting' scheme. If you ask them how money is generated they'll just talk about 'where' the money comes from, not 'how'. Because they have no answers.

Those promoting a genuine investment will welcome questions. They'll want you to get complete answers to every question you have. However, scammers will very quickly become defensive and ask you why you're asking so many questions. "Just trust me", they'll say. Anyone who says this is trying to scam you.

Above all, scammers will make incredible claims about how much money you can make from their scheme. They'll tell you that small 'investments' you can earn a great deal of money. Anyone who says this is a scammer. They'll also often ask you to invest more and more money, encouraging you to 'upgrade' to a higher level with promises of even greater profits. That's a sure sign of a scam.

A common trick they'll try is to show you bank payment messages. Many of these are faked, that's very easy to do, but a few will be genuine because they do sometimes pay the victims a little money to make the scam seem legit. It's not, it's a criminal enterprise and the law makes it just as illegal to join a scam as it does to promote one.

Finally, remember this simple truth. Anyone who invites you to join their money-making scheme wants to make money from you, not with you.

Saturday 22 April 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What can I do with this car?

Please I need your help. We bought a second hand car last month for P26,000 from a workshop in Mogoditshane and the guy promised us that everything is fine with the car but later it started to give us problems. At first he denied but he ended up accepting that yes the car has a problem but he told us we have to fix it and nothing can be done. So far we have spent something like P3,000 to fix the car
so we are losing money everyday trying to fix this car.

We failed to change the blue book because we discovered that the car is flagged by the Police. Sir we need your help to get our money back please.

Is there anything good about this car? Not only was it sold to you falsely when the seller told you it was in good condition but the guy has no intention of fixing the situation. And then it seems the car is flagged by the Police for offences either committed by the seller or the people he bought it from. This is a complete mess.

You need to take action quickly. Firstly, I think you should tell the seller in very simple terms that you reject the sale given the deception you experienced. I know you've already spent money on fixing some of the problems but we have no idea what else might be wrong with the vehicle. I don't think you should take the risk that some other fault might be discovered.

I suggest you write the seller a letter giving him maybe 7 days to refund the purchase price AND the P3,000 you spent fixing the vehicle. Make it clear to him that he deceived you and hid the fact that the car had a history with the police.

There are several lessons here that I think everyone who wants to buy a car should learn. Firstly, we should always get a second-hand car inspected by an expert before we buy it. Most of us know a mechanic who would check out a car for us in return for a few drinks or breakfast. If we don't I'm sure the last mechanic who serviced your previous car or your Mum's car would take a look in return for a few beers. Secondly, please always insist that anyone selling you a car puts in writing that the car is in working order. Then you have something to use against them if things go wrong.

Is this harassment?

I need your advice. I received an automated text from my bank to pay my outstanding loan bill. Then I got a call from someone at some attorneys, who I believe is collecting on behalf of the bank. I acknowledged my debt and stated I will organise myself and get on with it.

What I have a problem with is how they call every day. More than 5 times they will call asking if I have paid. I find this annoying, more so I did tell them I don't have the money now, but will pay soon as I can.

Secondly, who determines how much I should pay? The gentleman asked me, and I told him I can afford P1,000 since I'm unemployed now, but he says it's not enough, and if I don't settle the P26,000 in less than 6 months, they will send Sheriffs after me.

I just want to know how to handle this without getting myself into more trouble?

Firstly let me say I respect you for acknowledging the debt. So many people do their best to avoid their responsibilities but you are doing the honest, responsible, grown-up thing.

I have a problem with how this attorney operates. And so does the law. Section 6 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a supplier, such as your bank and the attorneys representing them may not use:
"force, coercion, undue influence, pressure, duress, harassment, unfair tactics or any other similar conduct against a consumer" (in the) "execution or enforcement of an agreement to supply any goods or services". 
Clearly calling you five times a day is harassment. It's also coercion, pressure and duress. It's not acceptable. Yes, of course they're entitled to remind you, encourage you and legally require you settle your debt but the law says they have to be decent about it. I'll contact the bank and see if they can better control their dogs, sorry, I meant attorneys.

The best thing you can do is to get some debt counselling to see if you can sort out your finances. I'll send you the details of someone I trust.

Saturday 15 April 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must he pay?

Hello Richard, I have a question pertaining to insurance companies. About a year ago, my dad was involved in an accident on a gravel road. Our car was badly ruined, the whole front was bad. And the land cruiser involved had just a minor scratch on door. The police were called to the scene and it was concluded that my dad was at fault.

Dad agreed to pay the P1,000 charge, however no statement or whatever formal writing was made other than the receipt we got. The police officer advised that we don't make any fuss about the whole thing since it will mean expense and a waste of time. My dad and the other guy agreed that each of them will fix their own car. The other guy even said that his car is ensured so the insurance will cover it. Still no writing was made.

Now it's been a whole year and my father is receiving calls from someone saying he's calling from the insurance company following the accident. They're even texting my father saying he should deposit around P70,000.

Mind you these are just calls and messages from some numbers that we can't call back. There is still nothing formal or any sort of writing sent. I wanted to ask if it's really true that an insurance company can demand money from a third party that they don't have any contract with? Is this legit?

My dad is old and we're having a hard time having to research about the insurance. Please help.

I'm very sorry to hear about this and the stress this must be causing you and your father.

Unfortunately, this is exactly how these things work. When there's been an accident it's the responsibility of the guilty party to pay the bills. Your father was charged by the police so he's the guilty one. He must pay the repair bills.

If your father had a vehicle insurance policy then we'd have good news. The insurance company would pay the bills for him, minus any "excess" included in the policy but it looks like he didn't have insurance. Yes, the other guy had insurance which covered his repair costs but it doesn't change the fact that it's your father's job to pay the bills. The other guy's insurance company is entitled to recover their losses from your Dad.

The only advice I can give is that your father needs to talk to the insurance company and see if he can arrange a payment plan that he can afford and they'll accept.

This is a very good example of why vehicle insurance should be compulsory. It saves people like your Dad from a life-changing, crippling debt.

They won't take it back!

I bought a phone for someone and paid P3,200 for it on the 28th February and received it on 3rd March but they refused to take it, requesting for money instead. I contacted the dealer who sold me the phone and he told me to return so that he can sell it and give me my refund. I returned the phone on the same day (3rd March). Now the guy is telling me that he hasn't sold the phone because the person I bought it for had unboxed it so he won't refund me.

So I was wondering what to do on this matter?

Unfortunately I don't think there's much you can do. The store sold you a phone that was in good working order and was exactly what you requested. They've done nothing wrong. They were under no obligation to take the phone back and sell it again, that was just good will. The problem is that the phone is no longer "new" because the box was opened and if they wanted to sell it again they would need to disclose that it was second-hand and sell it at a reduced price.

I suspect that the best thing you can do is sell the phone yourself. You won't get the full amount you spent but something will be better than nothing.

Friday 7 April 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

My policy was cancelled!

I was hoping to get your assistance on a matter I'm currently facing.

Last year May the company I work for went through retrenchments and restructuring which resulted in salaries being reduced by 50% and also not being paid on time. As a result I have not been able to meet many debit orders on the last day of the month but as soon as I do get paid I make sure to make payments towards them, and have been doing that since. Earlier this year I was involved in a car accident and went through the whole police process. I alerted my insurance broker about the issue and they relayed the message to the insurer. I had missed 3 months worth of instalments due to inconsistent payments but as soon as the accident happened I borrowed funds to cover the arrears. My broker let me know that my insurer cancelled my policy, even though I had been depositing money whenever we got paid, and no one let me know of the cancellation. I then shared with them the notice of retrenchments and restructuring from work but they ended up saying that their hands are tied and they cannot help me.

Is this an issue you may be able to help me with?

Firstly I'm very sorry about the stress you've been though over the last year. Times have been very tough for us all but you've had a very hard time.

I'm happy to contact the insurance company on your behalf but I suspect they'll only give me bad news. Technically the insurance company was correct to cancel your policy because you were behind with your payments and even though you tried to catch up with the payments it seems like the policy had long been cancelled.

However, I still think the insurance company let you down. They should have been talking to you throughout this period and warning you that the policy would be cancelled. They should have been doing this directly to you but also to your broker if they couldn't get hold of you.

I'm interested in how you paid the money you borrowed to cover the arrears. Did you pay them to the broker or to the insurance company? Either way, you deserve those payments back.

I'll let you know what the insurance company says.

I'm left with nothing!

I have 2 months without earning a salary due to mistakes done by my bank. I do plenty of calls every day and what I get is empty promises that they will amend the issue. I am financially suffering because of that.

In December 2022 I applied for loan and it got credited to my account on December 31 same year. The deductions for the loan started on February and it was P10,339 and this resulted in net pay to be P0. I called to ask what led to this and they told me the money has not yet appeared on their system and advised me to call again after the 5th of March.

I did exactly that on the 6th at that time they said the reasons for this is because the loan term was indicated to be 5 years while it was supposed to be 6 years. They connected me with the manager who promised to check what could have transpired and then called back saying that she took my issue to the Branch Manager. I am going through hell because of this.

There are so many things wrong here. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly there's the loan agreement you signed. I know the bank made a mistake in calculating the repayments over 5 years instead of 6 years but I don't think that would have made such a huge difference to the monthly payments. Even if they had calculated it correctly, you still would be left with only a tiny portion of your salary each month. I think this was what our South African cousins call reckless lending and perhaps even reckless borrowing by you. Can you really afford this loan even if it's over 6 years?

I contacted the bank and they promised to fix the problem as soon as possible. Meanwhile, I think you need to take a very close look at your debt situation and ask yourself if it's survivable?

Saturday 1 April 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will they pay for the funeral?

I have a life cover policy with my bank. My grandmother died on 15th March and I have submitted all documents that they needed from me on the 16 March and to-date nothing is happening. I have to pay mortuary for a coffin.

The insurance is saying I can't claim but I joined in June 2021. When I joined the bank the employee said for parents I can add two and I said I don't have a father but my mother and grandmother and she included both as parents, I have been paying my premiums, I amended the policy after getting married to include my wife and still they said nothing, I have been comfortable knowing I have a policy, My current situation is my grandmother is lying in the mortuary and I don't have any thebe to bury her. I am hopeless.

Lastly when I called them they said it's either they refund the premiums that I have been contributing for my grandmother of which I didn't agree too. I am the breadwinner and everybody is looking upon me. I am really depressed. They say I must write a letter to them and I told them it's them who are supposed to write to me why they can't pay the claim.

Now they said that she is not my biological mother even though I have been paying premiums for her for years. I guess if the personnel who helped me join made a mistake they could have picked it long back. I have been comfortable knowing that I have a funeral cover. My question is why do they have to pick that now when it's due to claim. My believe is the have hired qualified and competent personnel who could have picked this, I am so depressed.

Firstly, on behalf of every reader of The Voice, please accept our condolences on the loss of your grandmother and the stress you are experiencing.

Just to make matters worse, I think you've been badly let down by your bank and the insurance company behind the scenes that offer this insurance policy. I've seen a copy of the insurance agreement and it's very clear that it only covers parents, not grandparents. But did they explain that to you clearly? Clearly not. When you made it clear to them that you wanted your grandmother covered, did they politely decline? Clearly not. When you paid for your grandmother to be covered, did they politely reject the payments? Clearly not.

I contacted both the bank and the insurance company and their reaction was the same. I don't think they care. All they're prepared to do is refund you the premiums you've paid for your grandmother which will be a very small amount. I think you've been badly let down.

They paid the wrong people!

I am having an issue with a claim from my medical aid provider. On the 25th of January I had a medical procedure that I had to pay upfront for. On the 30th of January I logged a claim for P8,194.83. On 13th February I received an SMS that stated that my claim had been paid out. On the 17th of February after having not received anything in my account I called their helpline to find that they had paid the clinic instead of me.

I have been following up on this since then. Every week I call and it is the same story as last time, we are working on it. I am hoping you can help me get my money back.

Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says various things, all of them simple and easy to understand. It 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". In other words, don't take too long to do things.

It also says that consumers are entitled to "performance of the services in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect". In other words, don't be incompetent. Together these rules mean that a supplier like your medical aid shouldn't make too many mistakes and if they do make a mistake, they need to fix it quickly.

I'll contact them and see if they understand this.

Update: The medical got in touch and explained that there had been a confusion about the two payments. As often happens with private hospitals the payments to doctors are separate from payments to the hospitals they operate from. They contacted the reader and explained this as well.