Mmegi Online :: Survey unveils massive raw deal at credit stores
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Last Updated
Sunday 09 December 2018, 22:38 pm.
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Survey unveils massive raw deal at credit stores

A survey carried out by voluntary consumer rights body, the Consumer Watchdog, has uncovered startling evidence of how credit stores are breaking the law and short-changing consumers by withholding important information.
By Staff Writer Mon 10 Dec 2018, 07:25 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Survey unveils massive raw deal at credit stores








From a sample survey of just over 100 people interviewed during peak shopping hours at two major shopping centres in Gaborone, it was discovered that stores are far from open about what consumers get themselves into, and if they later complain either about the product or the agreement, they are treated unfairly.

Three quarters of the people questioned had bought on credit at some point in their lives, with common items such as furniture, clothing, and electronics and 'white goods' such as refrigerators, cookers and washing machines topping the list.

According to the Consumer Watchdog, all that consumers ever consistently get from credit stores is the amount they are required to pay each month.

"Although almost all consumers said they had been told what they are required to pay each month, that was about all. Less than 50 percent were told what the interest rate was going to be, details of administration charges, contact terms or what they could do if they ever experienced problems making the payments," says Richard Harriman of Consumer Watchdog.

Although Harriman was quick to point out that the sample survey of just over 100 people was small and may not be a true reflection of the entire population, he said the statistics unearthed should be a wake-up call to both consumers and credit stores.

"It is also quite possible that consumers who had bad experiences were more likely to cooperate.  But still, there is need for massive concern on the way credit stores have kept consumers in the dark," Harriman says.

A statistic that is more disturbing is that 58 percent of the people interviewed claimed they had not been told what their total repayment would be, while 10 percent claimed to have never received a copy of the contract they had signed. Harriman was damning about this: " This is disgraceful. It is grossly illegal. The Control of Goods Regulations state very clearly that when something is offered for sale on credit, the total amount to be paid must be disclosed.

"The law says the total repayment

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must be displayed in characters of a similar size and that the amount must be disclosed when the product is 'offered for sale', not later after you have signed the agreement. To our knowledge, only Ellerines and Beares do this.  All the other stores are ignoring the law."

Harriman says the Consumer Watchdog wrote to all the stores that were breaking the law explaining what the law required of them, but none of them have responded.

The survey, which was conducted early this month, also revealed that consumers themselves were partly to blame as they were ignorant about their rights, and most of them never shop around before buying an item on credit.

Only 43 percent of those interviewed said they shop around and compare prices before they buy, while - more significantly - more than three quarters had no idea about what their rights were or what they could do if they felt their rights had been abused.

"It is just reckless not to compare prices as we know of stores that charge as much as 10 times greater than their competitors," says Harriman . It is on this basis that he believes stores were exploiting consumers' ignorance.

He criticised responsible authorities for sleeping on the job when the nation is full of uniformed consumers. "People should not have to rely on voluntary organisations to get information on consumer rights when there is a body explicitly set up by Government to deal with such issues," he says.

"It is a disgrace to find that less than 20 percent of the people we interviewed said they had a good knowledge of consumer laws while almost half said they had never heard of them."

Forty-four percent of the sample also claimed that they were forced to complain about the product they had bought, almost half of the complaints related to the goods being faulty on delivery, while another 20 percent reported that the goods were simply of inadequate quality.

Of those that complained, 65 percent said the process was difficult or very difficult.

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