Saturday 23 December 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will they finish the building?

I was building a house with this company and the guys have just disappeared. I don't know where but I paid them all the money they charged because it was a turnkey program. I paid them a total of P220,000 in cash but they left my house at the roofing stage and it's not done yet but now it's raining. I don't think they will ever come to me because they told me they will start my house on the 5th so on the 6th I called them and they told me another story that their carpenter is not around so the hoping to start on the 16th. So this Sunday we were supposed to meet but they didn't show up again and since yesterday they are not taking my calls again. I'm so depressed.

I don't blame you for being depressed. You've spent a huge amount of money, almost a quarter of a million Pula and you've also wasted time and effort on all the phone calls. And let's not forget all the emotional energy and disappointment. Shady suppliers like this guy forget about that. Either that or they don't care.

I think the time has come to get firmer with this guy. I messaged him a few weeks ago when you first contacted me and I was hopeful. The owner of the company told me:
"Good morning Mr Richard. For now we can give you the executive time but we are organizing with our team to go and finish up will keep you posted".
They promised to contact you.

I'm not 100% sure what their message meant but it seemed like a promise that they would continue the job. But they lied. Since then they've gone completely quiet on both of us. So it's time to get tough. I suggest you complain about them to the Competition and Consumer Authority and also threaten the builder with legal action. I've also contacted them saying that we will identify the company if they don't start cooperating. It's not something we normally do but these people took a vast amount of your money from you. You need something in return.

Must I do this?

Apparently my ex boyfriend who we dated many years ago made me his one of the beneficiaries of his life insurance policy. He later got married and he passed on this year in March. Now someone called me on behalf of the insurance company saying I should go to and write an affidavit to withdraw from the policy by confirming that I had moved on and I have nothing to do with the late ex-boyfriend..

They told me I have nothing to do with the benefits and it's just the procedure. They need me to go to the police to make the affidavit with a certified copy of my ID which then I send to them so that they may close the case.

How legit is this?

It's legit. I checked out the company you mentioned and they exist and they seem to be genuine. They trace beneficiaries of insurance policies like this and check if they're still the right people.

BUT, this is where things go wrong. You're a good person who accepts that you have no claim on your ex-boyfriend's estate. You and he moved on and he had new commitments. Yes, he forgot to update his insurance policy beneficiaries but that's a mistake many people make. I respect that you're not trying to exploit this situation for your own benefit.

However, I think this company has forgotten what their job is. Why are they making your life difficult when you've done nothing wrong? Why are they demanding you spend your valuable time swearing affidavits and copying you ID? Isn't that their job? Aren't they the ones being paid to do all the hard work? They should be making life easier for you as well as their client.

And there's a lesson for all of us here. Make sure you keep your insurance, pension and medical aid providers up-to-date with who you want protected.

Sunday 17 December 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

How long should insurance claims take?

Two emails recently came to us. The first said:
"On 19th January 2022 I got injured at a store by their employee while I was buying food. The wrapper fell on my right toe and I got an injury. The lady was trying to wrap the food, it happened that the wrapper fell on my toe. The supervisor has the whole information, he was the supervisor when it happened."
The second said:
"On the 5 July I bought samp and chewed a stone that broke my 2 teeth."
These two people went to different stores but they were part of the same chain. Both victims complained to the store management and were asked for documents including medical and dental bills. The stores then passed over the details to the same insurance broker to process their claims for compensation. That's when more problems started. Delays. LONG delays. The first victim has now been waiting for nearly two years and the second for 5 months. Is this good enough? I don't think so. It was the job of the insurance broker to help these victims by processing their claims as quickly as possible.

The lesson here is if an accident happens in a store, speak to the management as soon as possible. Gather as much evidence as you can, take as many pictures and keep copies of all medical and dental bills and also your costs for transport to and from the clinic or hospital. Then keep up the pressure.

Also, be very careful what you sign. The victim who damaged his teeth was paid only for his dental bills and he was forced to sign a document agreeing he would never claim anything else from them, despite a statement from his dentist saying that he will never be able to eat properly again. He deserved a lot more but it's too late now.

Scam warning (Yes, again)

That scheme you've been invited to join. Is it 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 you know it's a scam.

Next, ask them if the scheme is a registered company. Hopefully they'll tell you that it's registered somewhere but 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 they'll say it's a motshelo or 'gifting' scheme. If you ask them how profits are generated they'll do their best not to answer. 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. These are almost always faked 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 9 December 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should they refund me?

Hi Richard. I need your help. I bought a dress on the 19th of November, and in buying the dress, I told the lady assisting me that I am buying for my mom and would like to make a video call so she sees. She agrees and I end buying the dress. My mom got back yesterday, she fits the dress and it doesn't fit. Today I take back the dress hoping for an exchange or refund. I am told if I exchange there is a 30% penalty fee, but there is no refund. Their explanation is I could have changed the same day. That was not communicated initially. The receipt as well has no clause of that. In trying to get an explanation, the lady rudely tells me that it does not matter, its their boutique rules whether I was told or not. I have tried to reason that at least if this was communicated when I was buying the dress because no one literally said anything. How is that blamed on us. Kindly assist.

I'm sorry to hear about this. However, I'm not sure there's much you can do.

As you know, consumers have a right to return faulty items within 6 months for a repair, replacement or a refund. However, in this situation, the dress isn't actually faulty, it's just the wrong size? The problem for you here is that the store has done nothing wrong as I can see it.

It's unfortunate but your mother really should have tried the dress on before you paid for it. A video connection isn't a good enough substitute. Looking back, it also would have been better if you'd asked the store if you could exchange the dress later if it didn't fit.

Given the circumstances, I think it's reasonable for the store to charge you a fee for returning the dress. 30% seems high to me so it might be worth trying to negotiate but prepare yourself for having to pay them something.

Must I pay for the broken door?

My son accidentally shattered the glass door to a store and they say I am to replace the door. What's the law saying on this one? They are saying they don't have the insurance policy. Can you help me out?

There's a general rule that I'm sure we all agree on. If you break something belonging to someone else, you pay for it. If I came to your home and broke something valuable clearly it's my responsibility to replace it or pay for it to be repaired. We can all agree about that.

But this situation is slightly different. Any reputable store will have an insurance policy that covers losses like this. Like most insurance policies there might be an "excess" amount that the policyholder pays before the insurance company pays out but it's worth finding out how much it is. But the store staff told you there's no insurance policy? Can that really be true?

I contacted the Head Office and their story was different. They told me that the staff asked the children's grandmother, who was with the children, "to stop running around the store to avoid getting injured or bumping into fixtures". After one of the children ran into the door and broke it, the manager "requested for details from the grandmother so that she could log an incident for the Insurance claim".

They said that these details were refused and the staff were told that it's like "when a customer breaks a bottle of mayonnaise and that they are never requested to pay."

So there IS an insurance policy. I think you need to contact the store and help them complete an insurance claim before the insurance company says it's too late to claim and you need to pay for everything yourself.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They took all my money!

I work as a nurse in a Government hospital and sometime in September I met an insurance agent based in Palapye. The agent took me through all her policies and we agreed to a P300 savings policy. Fast forward this month end I received my payslip and it was on 0 net. Some deductions made were a P1000 from one insurance company and P2000 from another.

I further investigated on the matter and more skeletons tumbled that there had been countless unauthorised policies opened under my name which I never agreed to.

I took the matter up thru CID in Francistown CPS for investigation on the matter. I then went to the 2 insurance companies for cancellation of the policies on which it was discovered that there were more policies opened and bounced because there was not enough money to cover for them. Upon cancellation I was told there is a 3 months waiting period. Why am I being punished for an internal fraud and forgery case? Those policies were not opened with my consent and information written is all wrong and my signatures have been forged in all these.

Kindly help on this matter and both insurance companies should be held liable because I am asking myself how big companies like them can process claim without verifying documents UNLESS this is how the agents and brokers have been swindling customers and also the companies at the expense of commission.

This is horrible. I'm incredibly sorry for the stress and hardship this must be causing you. Clearly the person presenting themselves to you as an insurance agent is a criminal and they must take the blame for your situation. They need to spend time behind bars. However, I believe very strongly that the two insurance companies also must take their share of responsibility. They didn't commit the crime, but they should have realised something was wrong when they were asked to set up multiple policies in your name. It was THEIR job to double check everything before they took all of your income.

I contacted both companies and one of them responded very quickly promising to investigate. Let's see if the other can be as helpful. 

Update: One of the insurance companies has refunded this victim of a crime, the other is taking longer. The CID in Francistown has identified the criminals who did this and is taking action against them.

What can I do about this car?

I bought a second hand Mazda Demio from a dealer in Mogoditshane. The car gave me sleepless nights, first it was gear box problem, it was not changing well as it was sometimes sticking in 1st gear. It has AT light on dashboard which comes and goes off, it lost the fan belt. When I bought it I asked why its temperature is staying at one place and I was told its not working as it does not have a temperature switch. I asked them if it is not risky to drive it in that condition, they told me it is doing best in that condition as the fan is always running direct and it won't overheat. In less than a month after buying it, it has overheated. Now I wanted to be refunded or given another car but they are reluctant and saying I should repair it myself. My suspicion is that I'm being cheated and suspect unfair business practice.

I agree with you. I think you've been cheated. I'm not a mechanic or an engineer, not even an amateur but I am quite good at spotting someone who's talking nonsense. And this car dealer was talking nonsense when they told you your car wouldn't overheat. The lesson from this situation is that we must always have a second-hand car inspected thoroughly before making any payment. Almost everyone knows someone who they can trust to help them inspect a car. Even if we don't, offer some cash and a six-pack to a friendly mechanic you or your friends trust and ask them to guide you.

I think you should approach the Competition and Consumer Authority. They have a good record of dealing with shady car dealers and I suspect that even just a phone call from them to this dealer might scare them into doing the right thing.