Sunday 31 March 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay them?

Hello sir. I want to understand something. I was owing a certain clothing store in Gaborone a certain amount of P3,000 but all of a sudden I was called by a certain man saying he is from a certain company sending me their account numbers saying I will be then paying to them the sum of P4,000. When I enquired asking I realised the clothing store have sold my credit/debt to that company but the thing is I'm forced to pay that P4,000. My worry is I have never made any agreement of P4,000 with that company. I don't even know myself what is the right way to go about this?

Unfortunately, there's very little you can do about this. If a company has a debtor who has owed money for a long time without making repayments, it's common practice for them to sell the debt to a debt collector. It's then up to the debt collector to collect as much as they can from the defaulting customer.

The good news is that debt collectors are often a little flexible about the amount they want from you. I spoke to one who even offers a discount to customers who come forward and cooperate. However, the bad news is that debt collectors don't ever give up. It's their job, it's how they make money and they are very good at it.

You also asked whether it's ok for them to collect the money when you never made any agreement with them? Yes, it is ok. If you look back to your original agreement with the clothing store you'll find that it says that they can pass your debt to debt collectors when they choose to do so.

I suggest you contact the debt collector as soon as possible and negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford and that they can accept. Please do it sooner rather than later.

Where's my phone?

Greetings Richard. Kindly advise me here. My younger sister bought an iPhone X 64 GB from a shop by laybye. When we went to clear the balance and collect the phone we found out that they sold the phone she laybyed and offered us to take iPhone X 256GB and told us to top up but we refused to top up so he gave us the latter phone.

After some weeks she found out that the phone has a software problem and it's not even connecting to wi-fi and she went back to the owner to tell him the phone problem and then he said that she will bring the phone for exchange when he receives new stock on Monday. The day arrived but he said stock didn't arrive and he said the next Monday. The next Monday it was the same story and when we spoke to him again he said stocked arrived but there was a different phone and no iPhone X.

I think it's time to say goodbye to this store. Clearly they're incapable of selling you a phone or perhaps even of running a business properly. Firstly they broke their contract with your sister by selling the phone they were meant to have put aside for her and for which she paid them in full. Then they gave her a faulty phone that couldn't do a basic thing like connect to WiFi.

And now they can't even deliver what she paid for. Obviously it's up to her but if I was in her position I would tell them it's over and that I want a complete refund.

I tried contacting the store but I don't think they're interested in responding but together I'm sure we'll get them to respond eventually. Then they can think about doing the right thing.

Update: I messaged the store and their response wasn't very helpful. They said:
"Which one you talking about
And who are you ?
I’m talked with customer
I’m not talking with 3rd person"
But then they did talk. They called me, shouted at me a bit, demanded to know why I was involved and suggested it was wrong of me to contact them.

Eventually they calmed down and promised that your sister will get her phone in 10-12 days.

They said that they told your sister that the phone was refurbished, and not new as your sister thought. I explained that the law is very simple about selling used items as new but they claimed not to know about this. I told them that Section 13 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act 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"
It goes on to say that a supplier that fails to do this:
"shall be liable … to a fine not exceeding P50 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both"
Maybe they won't do this again?

Sunday 24 March 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Have I been scammed?

Please I need your help there is this investment company called Enterprise Botswana. Firstly they asked me to invest P1500 into my trade account and in three days I will withdraw my profit. Then after that they said I should send P6200 due to the increasing in signals and my account should be upgraded. I sent that money to a bank account holder. After some hours when I tried to withdraw on my trading account they sent an email saying I should send P5400 for the USA Sort Code and also P4600 for the funds to be converted to my local currency before it can be credited to my account.

Now they are not communicating and I've been trying to get hold of them. Have you dealt with a similar case? Are there chances of me getting my money back?

Unfortunately, I don't have any good news for you. I think you know by now that you've been scammed.

The way they operated is typical of scammers. They start by offering you rapid and fantastic profits from a relatively small "investment", in your case P1,500. On their Facebook page you'll see many screenshots of payment notifications suggesting people have earned huge profits, some as much as P500,000. It's important to know that these are all fakes,, no such payments have ever been made.

The next step is what this is all about. The scammers then start demanding more and more money from you to get these fake profits. The problem is that the victim is so convinced that the enormous profits are real that they willingly pay over the smaller amounts to get the big prize.

Realistically, there's very little hope that you'll get your money back. I suspect the scammers have either withdrawn and spent the money or transferred it overseas. I contacted the bank that holds the account you mentioned and they're investigating but I suspect they'll find that the account belongs to another victim who handed control of it to the scammers. You also need to contact the Police. You've been the victim of a crime and you spoke to at least one person in Botswana who was involved. They need to be investigated.

They gave me a second-hand phone!

I bought cell phone last year in December. On Friday last week it woke up with a message on the screen that it's an unauthorized device and I must take it back to the seller or exchange it. It took me a long fight with them to understand me. Later on they said I should top up and get another phone so I did so. Then today I just realized that it's a second-hand phone with contacts inside. I didn't know they can sell second hand phone to me. What procedures should I take right now because they are so rude even if I go back to them with it they will tell me stories.

This store is wrong in so many different ways.

Firstly, they sold you a phone that was "unauthorized" and failed to address that problem properly. Instead of replacing the phone or refunding you they demanded that you spend even more money to get a phone that worked. Then they sold you a second-hand phone without being honest about it.

Of course there's nothing wrong with selling second-hand, refurbished or used phones. They just need to be honest about it and give us a choice. But in this case they seem not to care.

The correct procedure is quite simple. Take the phone back and tell them that the law, the Competition and Consumer Authority, Consumer Watchdog and readers of The Voice are now on their case.

Do they really want to argue with us all?

Saturday 16 March 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay?

I need your assistance. I found out at my bank today that I was blacklisted by a furniture store. I have returned the bed I bought with high purchase from them on the 14 October 2022 letting them know that I am out of employment at the time. They now say I owe the amount P6,609 though they say they sold the bed too. I talked to the accounts dept who informed me that I owe more than P8,000. They say though I returned the bed they were still charging which was not what I was informed. I was told to return the bed so that the debt would stop accumulating. Please assist me. I need to know if this is right or wrong.

Unfortunately, some of what you've been told is right and some is wrong. The bad news is that there is no good news. You almost certainly DO owe the company a lot of money.

One of the many horrible secrets about hire purchase is that the goods you receive and the money you owe are not connected. It's called 'hire purchase' because you are hiring the goods until you pay the final instalment. Only then have you purchased the goods. Until that time the goods still belong to the store.

What this means in practice is that if you fail to pay your instalments, the store can immediately repossess them (because they still own them and you don't) but you will still owe them the hire costs for the remainder of the period you agreed to. Some stores will sell the repossessed goods and deduct the money they get from your balance but others don't even do this. Either way, you'll still owe them a lot of money and that amount will only increase as they add interest and penalty fees.

The best thing to do is to speak to the store as soon as possible and try to negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford and that the store can accept.

And don't buy thing on hire purchase again. It's much better to save money and buy things for cash.

What should they do?

Good day Richard. I have a situation here, I bought a Tecno Pop 7 phone from a store in Game City about a month ago. After a system update the phone had a technical glitch, it went on Device Lock mode, I couldn't access anything. The instructions on the screen explicitly said I should return to the seller which I did. I went to check on them to get a status report or a replacement phone since I don't have a working phone at the moment.

I asked the owner of the store to replace my phone with another of the equivalent amount or to reimburse me with the amount I paid so that I buy a working phone, but he refused stating that according to the Consumer Protection Act, they are allowed 21 days to fix the phone but their warranty terms did not state this.

Richard, I need help with this matter urgently because I am greatly inconvenienced. I was not given a courtesy phone and I feel I am being taken for a ride. Please advise on the way forward.

Unfortunately the store is correct. The Consumer Protection Act does indeed say that the store has a right to attempt to repair a faulty item. In full, it says that the store can choose to repair it, replace it or to refund you. But it IS their choice which option they prefer.

However, it says nothing about a 21-day period, they're making that bit up. The Act suggests that there must be "timely performance and completion" of any services but it doesn't mention a particular time.

Something the store might not know, or perhaps chooses not to tell you is that if they repair the phone and then the same problem happens again within 3 months, they lose the option to repair it. Then they can only replace it or refund you.

Together, let's educate the store on what your rights really are and suggest they hurry up?

Saturday 2 March 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

I want my locks!

I went to a tile shop to buy locks for a normal steel door frame that they costed me P3,420. When I got home with the locks my carpenter realized that the locks are big for my door frames also the locks are for wooden door frames. But during the transaction the sales rep did not mention that the locks are for wooden door frame therefore I feel deceived because of no transparency. They also did not explain to me about the refund policy of 15%. 

Kindly look into this matter before lot of people fall into the trap. I even gave the shop chance to find locks that are suitable for my door frames they refused. My intention is to get the service not a refund.

Unfortunately I don't think I have any good news for you.

When we buy goods from a supplier we're entitled to goods that do the job and that are correctly sold. If they sell us something that's faulty we have a right to return the goods and the supplier can choose whether to offer us a repair, a replacement or a refund.

A supplier also isn't allowed to lie to us about what goods can do or if they're suitable for a particular purpose. They must be honest about that. But this is the tricky part. It's up to us as customers to ask if the goods we buy are suitable for our needs. For example, if we buy a laptop we need to ask the salespeople whether it's the right model for our needs. If we buy building materials we need to ask similar questions. If we buy door locks we need to ask them if they're the right locks for our doors.

My understanding from when we spoke on the phone is that you didn't ask them about this. You selected the locks, paid for them and took them home. It was only later, after your carpenter tried to install them, that you discovered they were the wrong type.

We need to ask this. Did the store do anything wrong? Did they mislead you in any way? Did they sell you faulty locks? I don't think so. The good news is that the store has said they can take them back, even though they don't have to, but the bad news is that they want to charge you a fee for reversing the transaction, restocking them and repackaging the ones your carpenter opened. I suspect 15% is a fair price for that.

Will they pay?

Please I need help I don't know even what to do. I recently bought a car from a garage in Mogoditshane with the promise that the car has no fault. I tested the car myself and since I have no mechanical knowledge I took the car. A few days later I realized the aircon is not working so I went to the aircon specialist because I thought it's a minor thing. I only realized that I was now spending a lot of money on the car because I needed to buy new parts.

I told the garage and the guy is telling he we will give me something when he gets money so I requested for proof that I will get refund for the amount I used to fix the car but he is refusing to do so.

Please advise on what I should do in a situation like this.

I think you're right to insist that the car dealer puts their offer to refund you in writing. However, it's no surprise that he's refusing to do so. I think the best thing you can do is to approach the Competition and Consumer Authority and lodge a complaint with them. They've had some success with car dealerships and they have the power to get this guy to answer their questions.

However, there's a really important lesson here. Some of us have enough skill to give a second-hand car a good test before buying it but most of us don't. That's why it's really important to get any second-hand vehicle, no matter how cheap it is, inspected by a mechanic before you hand over the money.