Saturday 25 May 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my phone?

So I bought this iPhone 14 at The Fields Mall on 13th April. The problem is that it kept on showing some red lines. Even when I played some videos or tried to capture some photos it would at times turn red. I went back on the 28th to complain. They took it and said its the wallpaper, after changing it still it was showing the red lines. They took it and promised it would be fine the following day.

When I called on Monday 29th they said they were still attending to it. Tuesday 30th I called again telling them that I will be travelling to Serowe on the 1st May and that I should find it ready or else they should give me refund. They promised that it would be ready. I got there Wednesday around 12pm they said I should wait for 30 mins they are getting it from the technician at Block 3. I insisted on getting refund because I don't trust the quality of their phones they refused. I even left the store after an hour. I couldn't wait any longer because I was traveling with other people. The manager told me he can't give me refund.

I think this is quite simple. They claimed that the red lines on the phone were just the wallpaper? This store can't be trusted to give you advice. And now they're delaying fixing the screen? It looks like they can't be trusted to fix a phone.

I'll get in touch with them and see if they can try a little harder.

Update: They gave the reader a new phone.

He can't afford to pay!

Last June my father, who gets only govt pension as his source of income and does not have 3rd party insurance bumped a Mercedes and he acknowledged fault for that. The lady stated she will submit with her insurance and my father asked her to keep him updated which never happened. Then January 2024 my father received a letter of demand for P50,214 from the insurance company. We requested for proof of payment and it showed they had paid their client directly an amount of P45,214 and the extra 5k was admin fees. After numerous engagements and follow ups they agreed to reduce the debt by 15% down to P42,682. He indicated that he can commit to P200 per month but where he comes across larger sums he will pay and he should have paid in 3 years.

They stated that my father can attach some of his assets to pay his debt. We requested for another meeting to understand why they are asking for assets to be sold when my father has not refused to pay and has even said he will clear the debts in 36 months. This lady then started making threats that if we fail to reach an agreement they will engage their lawyers and whatever asset they find they will attach and have it sold.

Now we are shocked because we are not refusing to pay and all follow ups were from our end because we wanted this over and done with. Our shock now, when the debt acknowledgement comes with an annual interest of 18% which was not discussed during any of these meetings.

We seek further understanding on whether such a debt accumulates interest or are they taking my father for a ride.

I'm really sorry for your father's situation. However, I can't see an easy solution. The insurance company is entitled to claim their losses from your father because he was the one that caused the damage to their client's car. However, I can understand why they aren't prepared to accept his offer to pay just P200 per month. That will take almost 18 years to pay off the debt. His suggestion that he can also offer larger sums when he finds them isn't really very reassuring. Your father really needs to talk some more to the insurance company and see if there any assets he can sell because this debt isn't going away.

This is a very good example of why all drivers should have third-party insurance. It's remarkably cheap compared to the price of a car and can save people like your father from enormous bills like this.

Saturday 18 May 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay?

Hello Richard, please can you assist here. This morning my builder bought goods worth P7,000 from a hardware store in Palapye, only to realize they have bought something which I didn't want since there was a communication breakdown. Within an hour I asked them to go and back and ask for a refund bearing in mind we haven't even got the goods and they haven't even left the store yet.

A guy at the store said he can't refund and then said he would charge 5% for a refund and then this rose to 15%. Apparently they are saying they need my ID, what for? Can you assist in this matter?

The first question to ask is who made the mistake here. Clearly if a store makes a mistake it's up to them to cover any costs involved in reversing the transaction. This might include any bank charges they incurred if the purchaser swiped when they paid for the goods. However, from what you say it doesn't seem that the store made a mistake.

The question is who, between you and the builder, made the mistake? You said there was a communication breakdown but I think it's worth a conversation to figure out how the miscommunication happened. Then you can decide who should cover any costs that the store needs.

I'm also happy to contact the store to discuss exactly how much they should charge to reverse the transaction. It needs to be reasonable. I'll also ask them why they need you ID. I can see why they want to double-check that they're refunding the right person but let's check that first.

Where's my refund?

There's this other lady I asked her to design a two piece for me in December. She did that and upon delivery the sizes were too big for me even though she had taken my measurements.

We agreed that she will do another set for me but even today I'm still waiting. When I approach her she always tells me she's working on it since now. I ended up asking her to refund me because she's failing to deliver even now since December last year.

She's not someone who's willing to pay me because she will not even say anything until I text her.

This really is quite a simple situation. Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act says that consumers are entitled to expect services to be delivered:
"in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect". 
An outfit you order should be the correct size. That's not complicated.

The Act continues, saying that when a supplier fails to deliver services to this standard, they must either "remedy any defect in the quality of the services" or "refund the consumer".

In your case you gave her both options, allowing her to remake the outfit but clearly that didn't happen. That's when you correctly demanded a refund.

I contacted the lady and, to be fair, she responded well. She told me that:
"I told her Il refund her, I'm still broke right now". 
When I asked her when you can expect a refund, she said:
"I told her month end but this month was hectic like the past ones. But I'm working on it. It will have to be end of this month."
So let's see. If she repays you at the end of the month we can all be happy. If not, we'll need to think of other ways for you to get your money back.

Saturday 11 May 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my builder?

Please help me follow up with this builder. In 2022 I gave him 3 jobs, roofing for my farm house, landscaping design and doing a staircase and decking for the house. The roofing has been completed but with some gaps to completely close the house. ⁠I gave him a supply and fit job to do a deck, staircase and exterior door to access the outside space. He did some work in December 2022 and disappeared.

After extensive follow-up he came back in July 2023 and a bit of work on the staircase and the door and then disappeared again. After several follow ups he requested me to purchase further materials, which I did (I have now spent more than the contracted amount) but he has still not completed the work. Last week, he agreed he should finish the house. He requested for some more material but has not done the work as promised. I gave him a deposit to do a landscape design and never even got a draft. Richard, please help me follow up so he can complete my work.

I know for a fact that there are some excellent builders. I also know for a fact that there are others who are unreliable, incompetent and even a few who are dangerous.

Let's be charitable and assume this one is just one of the unreliable ones. However, unreliability is no excuse. It doesn't matter what difficulties he was having, he had an obligation to keep you updated and then to do the work you've paid him for. It's not complicated, is it?

I contacted the guy and he responded very quickly. He promised that he'll visit you and complete the work within the next couple of days. Please let me know what happens?

How can I spot a scam?

We all remember Ecoplexus from last year. Some of us remember Eurextrade from more than 10 years ago. Both of these scams took tens of millions from their victims. This year we had the Miracle Farm scam which luckily quickly collapsed. All involved scammers recruiting people we know to steal money from us. That's part of the tragedy of these scams, they make normally good people into criminals. The bad news for the people who "knowingly join" these scams is that Section 9 of the Consumer Protection Act says that they are as guilty as those who promote them.

Unfortunately, the scammers haven't gone away. They are still actively recruiting people into newer scams. So how can you tell if something is a scam? Here are some ways to help you decide.

Firstly, ask the person who invited you to join, why they did so? Did they do it because they're a kind person who wanted to share their "opportunity" with you? If they say Yes, then you know it's a scam.

Next, ask them if the scheme is a registered company. If they say it is, ask for proof. Then check if it's true. If you don't know how to check, ask us.

Ask them how their scheme creates profits. People marketing a real 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 can't do that. 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 won't be able to answer you.

People promoting a genuine investment will welcome questions but scammers will very be 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. They'll tell you that small 'investments' can earn huge profits. They'll also ask you to invest more and more money, encouraging you to 'upgrade' to higher levels with promises of even greater profits. That's a sure sign of a scam.

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 4 May 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my refund?

Hi Richard please help your sister out. I bought a bed from a furniture store. I used it for three months and the base broke. I went back to report the issue. The assistant manager showed us the letter where they say they should replace the bed. The letter was in October last year and I did complain before. Richard I spent the whole year sleeping on the floor and my records shows I was paying them nicely. Last week I went to Gaborone head office to complain more. They took a week again to come back to me. They told me that they want to give me another bed and my reply to them is I don't want anything from their shop. I want them to refund me so I can go buy somewhere else. It looks like they won't refund me.

Almost every day I wonder how some companies survive. So many of them seem to have absolutely no understanding how to deal with customers when things go wrong. They also seem to have no understanding of the laws that protect consumers.

Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Act says that consumers are entitled to receive "goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects". In other words, the things we buy should do what they're meant to do. A bed should be suitable for sleeping in and shouldn't break.

However, sometimes things go wrong and Section 16 of the Act deals with this. It says that if goods are faulty we can return them to the store:
"within six months after the delivery of the goods".
It then says that the store can then choose to:
"repair or replace the defective goods or refund the consumer the amount already paid".
Although the Act doesn't say how quickly a store must do this, I'm sure we all agree that 6 months is too long. Your bed should have been replaced or repaired within days, not half a year. I'll contact the store and see if they can move a little faster than this.

Can I get a refund too?

Please help me on this issue. I bought a couch last September for P7,000. Then in December 2023 I realized that it had torn stitches. I called the shop to tell them and they came to see it and said the person who fixes such is on a holiday so they'll come and fetch it in January 2024. January passed but they never came. I went back to them on the 5th March and met with the manager and they said I should bring it to the shop. I refused till the manager ruled that they will collect it. They collected it on 6th March then on 7th the driver called and said the supplier insisted I should come collect the couch and wash it before they fix it. Then I said No I didn't buy the item from a supplier but from them and coming to recollect it will be a cost on me. On 8th April I did a follow up and they said they've long asked me to come collect it and wash it. I don't know why they can't at least return my money because I bought it cash not even on high purchase. I talked to the manager and he says he will give me feedback during the day and on the 12th April I called again then they said the manager is busy. Please help me Sir.

How can this be so complicated? As far as I can see, the situation is very simple. They sold you a couch that started to fall apart and they should have fixed that quickly. Their accusation that the couch was dirty is a distraction. Their job was to sell you a couch that was usable and to fix it if it wasn't.

However, there's good news. I contacted the Country Manager for the chain of furniture stores and his response to his colleagues was very simple. He told them that "This is poor customer service" and demanded immediate action.

Please let me know when they contact you.