Saturday, 21 April 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay the excess?

I have a situation here, I have a car insurance policy which was recommended by my bank as I am paying the car through a bank car loan. About 2 months ago the car was involved in an accident, we took quotations and submitted to the insurance company which they approved.

The repair place told us to bring the car for fixing but yesterday they called saying the car is ready and we have to pay P5,000 excess as the insurance did not cover that. We were shocked as we were not told this before.

My husband who has been handling the case went to the insurance company and they told him that the premium that I chose I have to pay the excess fee, I know you always blame us for not reading contracts but the one I signed doesn't have that clause all it has is that I'm in group 6 and doesn't further clarify the group 6. Please help me out what do I do in this situation?

Unfortunately this is how vehicle insurance works. I know that the vehicle insurance policies I've had (and I've had many of them) have always included an "excess" clause. This is an amount that the customer has to pay before the insurance company pays. In most cases with a vehicle insurance policy it will be a few thousand although the exact amount varies between insurance companies and between policies. The reason they exist is to prevent customers from making trivial claims. With some insurance companies they'll give you the chance to pay a higher premium in return for a lower excess.

I know you sent me the insurance documents you have but they didn't include the actual policy document, just the latest renewal note from your bank. I suggest you get a copy of the policy document from the insurance company and I'm sure it will mention the excess amount.

Meanwhile, I've contacted the insurance company to double check and to find out how one of their customers could have been allowed to sign a policy without having been thoroughly educated on how it worked. And here's a plea to the insurance industry. Please make your policies easier to understand and do more to educate us all on how insurance works. We know insurance is incredibly useful so why aren't you helping consumers to understand how it can protect us all?

How can they blacklist me?

I have concerns regarding my consumer profile. I tried to apply for a credit account at a store recently and I was told the system has declined my request. They suspected I might be blacklisted, therefore I assured them that all my accounts are in good order. The assistant advised me to get a copy of my profile from the Post Office and check if there is any service provider that has done that, although previously I had an issue with another store and my banks due to areas but that was settled last year and everything is up to date.

I went to the Post Office to do just that and surprisingly my profile shows that there is no information submitted by any company under my name, my record is clean. Therefore I would like an assistance upon this issue about the next step to take because I am afraid this is going to tarnish my name upon any future relations I would like to indulge in with any company or service provider.

Please assist me to clear my name, your assistance will be highly appreciated.

I'm sorry to hear about this. It's a story I've heard before. Remember that credit reference bureaux hold both positive and negative information on people. The irony is that if you have no record at all, a potential lender has no information on which to base a decision and rather than seeing you as a person with no bad history, they see you as a complete unknown and sometimes won't take the risk.

It might be worth taking a copy of your TransUnion record back to the store and showing them that you're a good bet? I'll also talk to them and see if they can't be a little bit more flexible!

Friday, 13 April 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Do I have a case?

I need advice on whether I have a case or not? I bought a TV at last year March 17. By November it started developing faults with some lines across the screen and at times only half of it comes on when switched on. I called the store on the 3rd December to enquire on repairs and I was told I could not bring it in as technicians were going for holidays. I was told to come in January. I couldn't return it in January through March and only managed to see them on the 27th March. Now they say they can't help me since the warranty expired on the 17th March. I was asked to personally take the TV for repairs and bear all costs. My complaint is was it fair for them to refuse to take in my TV at a time when I was ready to bring it in and now refuse to help me? Shouldn't they at least meet me halfway on repair costs? Thanks in advance.

Did the store staff have too much to drink over the Christmas holiday?

No, I do NOT think they should meet you halfway. They should pay for everything.

I know you took too long in returning the TV, that was unfortunate, but that's not the important issue here. The thing that matters is that you told them about the fault in December, well within the warranty period. The fact that they then weren't sufficiently competent to have technicians available is what matters. I'm not saying that technicians can't go on holiday over Christmas but from as early as the 3rd December? That's just ridiculous. You had a right to expect that the store would have the resources available to attend to your problem within a reasonable period and with what Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations refers to as "reasonable care and skill".

We'll get in touch with the store and see if they can understand this.

Is this loan legitimate?

Is it possible for you to verify the existence of company known as Liberty Financial Services code 2193 registration no 1999/063355/23?

I suspect that you're dealing with scammers. Let me guess. You received an unsolicited email from them or you saw an advertisement from them on Facebook? Did they tell you that you were eligible for "a loan of R10,000 to R10 million" at only 3% interest each year? If they emailed you, did the email come from a Gmail address?

The reason I'm making these guesses is that we've heard of this scam many times before.

The first clever thing about this scam is they're using the name "Liberty" and you probably know that there are various legitimate, trustworthy companies with that name. They're hoping you'll confuse the fake Liberty with the real ones.

The other clever part of it is that they're using the registration details of a genuine South African lender called Loancare Chain but that's just a cover story. They have no connection with the legitimate company at all. The truth is that no lender offers loans to total strangers who haven't approached them first. Real lenders don't offer enormous loans at only 3% interest per year.

In fact this is just the beginning of an advance fee scam. Sooner or later they'll require some form of payment from you in order to get the fictitious loan they say they're offering you. That's what the scam is all about, that "advance fee" that you pay them. if you do fall for it and pay them they'll just string you along with more and more demands for more money. This won't stop until you either wise up or run out of money.

I suggest that you delete any emails or messages you've had from them and ignore any that arrive in future.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where is my P800?

I paid P800 for my ACCA P3 classes last year in March at a tutoring place in the Main Mall. The tutor later told me that there were no P3 classes yet and I was the only student. Therefore I ended up not going at all and my employer took me to BAC instead. The tutor agreed that he will refund me but when I call he'll tell me he forgot or he lost my number or he doesn't have money yet. Kindly help me since it looks like this cycle will not stop.

I think this has gone on long enough. The receipt you showed me made it clear that he'd received your money for a class that he didn't deliver and he knew he had to refund you your money. What this supposed accountant seems to forget is that Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that when a deal is cancelled, as yours so clearly has been, the service provider must refund any payments made "promptly". I don't think that "promptly" means "a year later". I don't even think it means "three months later". I think that "promptly" means "within a few days, perhaps a week at most".

I contacted the guy and asked him when he was planning to give you your money back but unfortunately he wasn't happy to hear from me. When I mentioned that he might feature in The Voice he SMSed me saying "Well do it in that way. I will personally apply for a court case against u.... U think i am a thief. Well."

I'll be looking forward to the case.

He later told me: "Do what u want am not a thief . I have an office y didnt not summon me or call me to consumer office . I dont run away. I want to talk to her is only peeson i can tell when i refund her . I dont know u".

Later still he told me that he'd lost your number and "I want to talk to her is only peeson i can tell when i refund her . I dont know u". However he then became a bit more reasonable, saying "By the way if u have number of that tell i give after 3 weeks. I went thru several losses by my farm".

Roughly translated into English he means that he'll pay you in three weeks but can we trust him? I think you should write him a letter saying that he has 14 days to refund you or you'll take legal action against him to recover your money. If he fails to do so then you should go straight to the Small Claims Court for an order against him. You might also want to check with the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants to see if he's really the Chartered Accountant he claims to be. I suspect he isn't!

Is World Ventures legit?

Mr Richard. I need your input, is World Ventures legit?

I get asked this question at least once a month and this is the answer I always give.

World Ventures is a pyramid scheme. The authorities in Norway announced a few years ago that they were certain that World Ventures is a pyramid scheme because 95% of all the money paid out to recruits was for the recruitment of other people, not from actually selling things. That's a pyramid scheme.

Like other schemes World Ventures are required by some countries to publish income statements that show what their distributors actually earn from their business. With World Ventures the latest figures from the USA show that three-quarters of all people who join make absolutely nothing from the business. Of the rest, almost all of the money was earned by the few people at the top of the pyramid. You want details? More than two thirds (actually 68.7%) of all the income went to the 3.7% at the top. And let's make it clear, the earnings made by the people at the tops came directly from those at the bottom of the pyramid. That's gross exploitation.

Taking every American recruit into account, the median earnings were a meagre $33, just P330 per year and those figures were income, not profit. They excluded all the costs associated with running the "business" like transport, phone and internet bills. With the exception of those few people at the top, everyone else loses money with World Ventures.

Do you want someone building a pyramid for an exploitative leader? There's a word for that role.

Friday, 30 March 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What is Carcoin?

Could you kindly investigate and give me your thoughts on Carcoin? I have been invited to some presentations at the Avani hotel and it seems this "investment scheme/cryptocurrency" is picking up pace in Botswana. I did some research of my own and it seems one first has to invest $200. What are your thoughts?

My thoughts are very simple. I think it's a scam. And I'm not wrong.

They describe themselves as a "car sharing community" and say that there is "no need to buy any car" and that they "are always there at your service". They then go on to explain that they are basically a taxi firm that "is available in every city we operate in". But they don't say which cities that might be, so I think it's safe to say that this isn't true. They even claim to be developing an app that you can use to call for a ride but this isn't going to available, they say, until December 2019. So far so suspicious. Clearly they are pretending to be something like Uber, the taxi company that operates in various cities around the world, even as close as Joburg. I've used Uber there and it's a truly remarkable way to get around. But Carcoin isn't Uber.

Soon things become a lot clearer. They start hinting that they are using blockchain technologies, the same technology used by Bitcoin. There's nothing inherently suspicious about that, the blockchain concept is certainly going to play a role in business in the future but there's no evidence this is true in the case of Carcoin. They also suggest that you can buy Carcoins, suggesting that they have their own cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. Again, there is no evidence to believe this.

I think I know what's going on here. Carcoin are exploiting the ideas behind Bitcoin and Uber to get our money from us. The clue is on their web site when they say that if you want to buy Carcoins you can do so using Bitcoin. So you give them your genuine Bitcoin cryptocurrency and they give you their fake Carcoins in return. All you'll be doing is giving your money away and getting nothing in return.

Finally, the so-called CEO of Carcoin has a history of connection with dodgy schemes so I think it's reasonable to assume that Carcoin is no more than a Ponzi scheme. Simple as that.

What is Randbuilders?

I was invited to join Randbuilders recently. Do you know about it?

You're not the first person to ask that recently. Randbuilders seem to have decided to bring their money-making scheme from South Africa to Botswana! Aren't we lucky?

Actually we're not. They describe themselves as "a Multi Level Marketing Business which enables Participants to learn to master the business of network marketing while creating an additional income stream for themselves" but they're nothing more than a pyramid scheme. The difference between a Multi Level Marketing scheme and a pyramid scheme is the former has products to sell. If you think of MLMs like Amway and Herbalife, while you won't make any money from joining their pyramid-structured business, at least there are some products to buy. With a pyramid scheme there are no products and Randbuilders is a very good example of that.

The only reference to products I could find on their web site said that when you join the scheme "you purchase master resale right to promote your own business". That's just silly. You pay to join their scheme and then you get the right to advertise your own business? Something you can do for free anyway?

The only thing that Randbuilders wants is multiple levels of recruitment and the flow of money up the pyramid they're trying to build. And they need victims to do that. Do you really want to be one of their victims?

Guess what else I discovered about Randbuilders? The person who registered Randbuilder's domain name in December last year was also an active recruiter for MMM Global, the collapsed Russian Ponzi scheme and is connected to a wide range of other schemes. Yes, you CAN judge someone by their history of involvement in scams!

Saturday, 24 March 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why won't they fix it?

I need help. I bought a fridge and microwave from a store in Molepolole. The fridge has been repaired twice and today it still has problems. I have long reported this to the stock clerk but she didn't help. I went to the manager and he promised to send a technician to check it out but he never came. Months and months passed and still I got no help. When I went back to the shop to see him, I saw a new manager and reported to him and he promised he would get a technician but there is still no sign of a technician. I went back to the shop end of January 2018 and told the manager that am giving him the whole of February to get a technician but even today there is still no technician. I paid for a replacement, insurance including repairs and I have paid all the money. So what do I do?

What do you do? I think you should stop being so patient.

I'm not sure whether you bought these items for cash or on hire purchase but I don't think that should make any difference. Either way you paid, or are paying for a fridge that works, not one that doesn't. You've been very patient and spoken to people at various levels but nothing has worked so far. It's time to escalate. It's time to adopt the Official Consumer Watchdog Three Step Complaints Procedure.

I recommend that you use this procedure any time you don't get results. Ignore a store's complaints procedure and adopt this one instead. Remember that there's no law that says you have to obey someone else complaints procedure. Also remember that complaints procedures are ALWAYS written for the store's convenience, not for yours.

The first step is to complain to the person who offended you. If that doesn't work, go to the second step which is to complain to the most important person in the building. Their title will include the word "Manager". If that doesn't fix the problem for you then go directly to the third step which is to complain to the most important person in the entire organization. Their title will be Managing Director or Chief Executive O
fficer. If anyone tells you that you can't do this, just ignore them.

However, in your case we'll do this for you. We'll contact the Managing Director of the company. That should do the trick!

He didn't finish the job!

Hi Richard. I have a problem. I deployed a guy to do my kitchen and ceiling and he did the job. I am away from home and he called to say he's done so I paid him everything. When I went to inspect I found out that part of the kitchen and the sink were not fitted. I called him and he told me that they were stolen but there was no breaking in of any sort in the house. I asked him why he didn't tell me he said my phone was not available. He promised he will replace everything on the 20th February. He didn't honor his promise, he didn't call up until today. So I need your help as to what I should do now since I've paid him all the money for the whole job he did.

I suspect you don't need me to lecture you on what you should have done in this situation but forgive me for doing so anyway. Whenever you engage someone to do a job like this you must agree a payment schedule before they start the work. I understand that often small businesses need some money up front to buy the goods and I also know that they need a commitment from their customer but you should normally agree to withhold some of the money until the job has been completed. Personally, I would be uncomfortable paying more than 50% to any builder before they started work. If I was feeling generous I might agree to then paying the remaining 50% in two equal, staged payments but ensuring that the last one was only paid when I'd inspected the work. An alternative is to buy the materials yourself and then just pay the builder for their work.

However, in your case it's too late. I think you should write him a letter demanding a copy of the police report he filed when he found that the goods had been stolen. And if he didn't… then we can assume he's making that bit up, can't we? Tell him in the letter that he has 7 days or you'll report HIM to the police for stealing the goods. Make him sweat a bit!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

The beer has expired!

There is a bar in Mochudi next to the Engen filling station that is it selling expired Black Label beer. The words on the bottle say the beer Best before 09 Feb 18. I asked the cashiers why they sell the expired product and they told me the owner doesn't want them to remove it from the stock.

Please assist us.

Actually, the bar isn't doing anything illegal. That's because the bottle has a "Best before" date, not an "Expiry" date but you're not the first person who has confused the two different dates and what they mean.

The most important date you might see is the "Expiry date", sometimes shown as the "Use By" date. Any store that sells something after these dates is going to be in big trouble with the authorities because that's illegal, contrary to the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods Regulations. No store wants to do that.

However, what you saw was something different. The juice you bought showed a "Best Before" date. These dates are less strictly controlled because they're just advisory, informing the customer when the goods will be in their best condition. There's no suggestion that goods consumed after this date are harmful or dangerous. However, I still think it's a bad practice even if it's not actually illegal for a store to sell an item after the Best Before date. Who wants to drink beer that is no longer in the best condition?

I think you should speak to the bar owner and politely suggest that he or she needs to find a better way to manage their stock so that their customers don't have to drink old beer. I suspect there's no shortage of bars in Mochudi and you and your friends can easily choose a bar where they sell best quality beer rather than the old stuff. The bar owner needs to know that!

Enerprise corned meats
Source: Wikipedia

Readers of The Voice will probably have seen reports of the dreadful outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa. It looks like the outbreak which was traced to a Tiger Brands production plant in Polokwane caused at least 180 deaths and nearly a thousand other people severe food poisoning. Tragically it seems that many of the deaths were young children which is a common thing with listeriosis which often hits hardest amongst children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

The good news for us is that there's no suggestion that there have been any cases in Botswana but that's probably because we were lucky. Our Ministry of Health and Wellness quickly instructed all stores to remove the affected products (processed meat products such as polony, russians and viennas) from shelves. Consumers were also warned not to consume any of these products from the affected companies and if they had any, to return them to the stores for a full refund.

Meanwhile, just in case any store has missed it, or if there are some that don't care, please be vigilant. Until further notice please don't eat any prepared meat products from Tiger Brands, Enterprise Food or Rainbow Chicken. But you need to take a step further. Don't eat ANY polony, russions or viennas unless you can be certain they didn't come from these suppliers. That means any places where you can't see the original packaging and in particular it means street food vendors. For now, hotdogs are off the menu, ok?

However, there are some enormously important lessons we all need to learn from this tragedy. Firstly, we need to learn a lot more about food hygiene and safety. The scary fact is that one of the most dangerous stages in the route food takes from farm to table is the consumer. Yes, you and me, we're often the source of food poisoning, either because we don't refrigerate risky products adequately or because we don't know how to safely prepare the food we eat and that we give to the people who matter most to us.

And there's a final lesson, one that might make me very unpopular. We must take a critical look at the food we eat. Have you ever taken a moment to discover how products like polony are made? If you're feeling brave, search the web or YouTube for "mechanically separated meat". You might never eat it again.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why can't I get a refund?

Hi. I kindly plead with you to assist me getting back my money from my insurance company. I had a policy with them which I terminated last month so they are saying they can't refund me my money back but they have never handled any claim for me.

Can you please help?

I'm sorry but I suspect I won't be able to help. That's because this is how insurance works. When you open a policy with an insurance company, whether it's to cover your funeral, your life, your vehicle or your household contents what you're actually doing is paying the insurance company to take on the risk of these things being damaged instead of you having that risk. During the life of that policy, if something terrible happens then the insurance company pays to put it right instead of you. If someone passes away, if you have a car accident, if there's a break-in at your house or even if you die, the insurance company will cover the costs so you don't have to.

We're often asked by consumer the question you're asking. But what if I never had to claim? Doesn't that mean I should get my money back? No, because you got something during the lifetime of your policy. You got the absence of risk. The insurance gave you cover during that period. Ask yourself this. If you owned a house and rented it to a tenant for a year but at the end of the year they told you that they'd never actually moved in, would you refund them the rent they'd paid during the year? No, you wouldn't and it's the same with the insurance company. It wouldn't be your fault that the tenant didn't move in and it's not the fault of the insurance company that you were lucky not to need to claim. Would you rather there'd been a disaster?

Is this award genuine?

I received an email saying that my company has been awarded the Gold prize Century International Quality ERA Award from a company called Business Initiative Directions. Do you think this is genuine?

Here it comes again! Every year we're asked the same question by many people like yourself regarding these awards and the story is always the same. Many people had received surprise emails from BID over the last few years, announcing that they'd won an award and inviting them to collect it at gala dinners in exotic places such as Paris, New York and Geneva. This year it's supposed to be in Frankfurt in Germany. In all cases it's not made clear how these winners had been selected and what qualified Business Initiative Directions to award anything to anyone.

So my feeling is that this award scheme is deceptive. I believe that it's no more than a money-making scheme by the organisers.

Last year when I looked into the scheme BID was charging companies €4,200 (about P50,000) to receive the award and that doesn't include the travel costs associated with flying to last year's venue in Geneva, Switzerland. That amount only covered attendance at a gala dinner, a hotel room the winners had to share with colleagues, some certificates, a trophy and some photographs of people accepting these dubious awards. I did the maths and I suspect that BID makes a huge amount of money, last year probably about P30,000 from every "award" they give away and I believe that's what the whole thing is about. Making money.

The bad news is that every year companies fall for this silliness and spend large amounts of money on "awards" that are little more than hugely expensive pieces of paper, awarded effectively at random. Is that really what an award should be?

I can think of many better ways to spend the P75,000 that it would probably cost to receive this so-called award. If you genuinely believe that your company is doing a good job, is a great employer and treats its customer wonderfully then spend just a fraction of the money you'd spend on this bogus award on a huge party to say thanks to your staff and your customers. That would do so much more good than wasting your money with BID. Don't forget to send me an invitation to the party!