ECR Consumerwatch

EAST COAST RADIO  |  Podcast , ±8 min episodes every 1 week  |  Broadcast schedule  | 
Wendy Knowler is arguably South Africa’s most experienced consumer journalist. She’s helped more consumers over her 20 year career in consumer journalism than she could count. But while known as a champion of consumer rights, Wendy is also known and respected by corporates for her fair, accurate and balanced reporting. Want to be a more sussed consumer or corporate? Listen to Wendy's episodes here.

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Are funeral policy increases killing your budget? Wendy Knowler advises

Hollard said it had to implement a second premium increase as result of mortality experience exceeding expected experience across our entire funeral portfolio, over a period of more than a year.

It affects the insurer’s direct book of business - that’s policies taken out over the phone and policies sold under the Kaizer Chiefs brand, but excludes any business sourced from partners such as Edgars and Jet.

Phumi’s policy document reads:

“Hollard may increase the benefit premiums from time to time by giving you 30 (thirty) days’ written notice of such increase.”

“Unfortunately,” Hollard said, “the combined effect of the re-rating and the increase have resulted in a substantial overall increase. We realise that policyholders may be facing financial challenges in these tough times, and fully understand if anyone wishes to decrease cover in order to lower premiums.

Take a listen as Wendy Knolwer thoroughly explains the importance of checking you funeral policy documents:

Scammers using Capitec bank accounts as so-called business accounts

Fraudster pay so-called money mules to open bank accounts, and when the victims’ money lands in that new account, they transfer it to the fraudster, thereby ensuring that the fraudster remains untraceable.
“Capitec does not currently offer business accounts, therefore people should not believe a business that states it has one,” the bank said.
"Should consumers fall victim to fraud – or even if they don’t fall victim to the attempt – it is important to contact the bank to report the incident.”
Capitec’s 24-hour call centre on 0860 10 20 43.
It’s the same story with African Bank - the bank only has personal accounts, not business ones.

Take a listen to how to avoid this scam.

Flights suspended and Mango communications is vrot, says Consumerwatch’s WENDY KNOWLER

It’s not been a great week for Mango Airlines and its ticket-holding passengers are feeling the pain - again.
On Monday the SAA subsidiary announced that it was going to go into business rescue and the next morning hundreds of would-be passengers were left stranded at Joburg’s OR Tambo and Cape Town international airports.
In the case of the flight departing from Cape Town at 10:15, bound for Durban, Mango only notified the queuing passengers shortly before 9, via SMS, that the flight had been suspended.
That was more than an hour after Mango had expected them to be at the airport! Totally unforgivable.
As is not posting a few Mango personnel at the airport to deal with distraught passengers.
One Durban family of five is only flying back to Durban this afternoon, having been unable to book seats on other flights on Tuesday or Wednesday.
LISTEN here for the full story…

Is there an unreasonable increase on the prices of goods after the looting in KZN?

It is called price gouging and if you can prove it if, here’s what to do

As the people of this province know all too well, last week’s extraordinary looting of not only supermarkets but their distribution centres, too, led to chronic food shortages, and in some cases, crazy prices.
I had people emailing me about tomatoes selling for R200 a pocket, toilet paper R180 for a six-pack, bread loaves selling for twice the normal price and more.
Without till receipts as proof of current prices versus previous prices there can be no investigation, and that’s what the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs will require if you lodge a price gouging complaint.
“Where wrongdoing is found we will not hesitate to take action which may include fines against those businesses,” said MEC Ravi Pillay.

“This cannot be a time for profit-making. Excessive profiteers are warned that the law provides for severe punishment. We will also publish offenders with the consequence of reputational risk.”

The National COnsumer Commission has also expressed its outrage at such allegations, because the Consumer Protection Act makes it a prohibited conduct for a supplier to increase their prices unconscionably, in a way "that does not correlate to an equivalent expense in the cost of providing that service or product".
A supplier who contravenes these regulations can face a fine of up to R1million or up to 10% of a firm’s annual turnover, or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months.
Take a listen to what is considered "wrongdoing" in this instance.

How to - Insurance after looting

If you have car and household contents insurance cover, then a tiny part of your monthly premium is paid every month by your insurer to Sasria, a government-owned insurer providing cover against risks such as civil commotion, public disorder, strikes, riots and terrorism.
The good news is while Sasria’s (the South African Special Risks Insurance Association) policy wording states that looting in itself is not considered to be a Sasria event, Sasria accepts that it falls under civil commotion so all related losses are covered.
More good news is that Sasria MD Cedric Masondo says they have enough capital to cover what he currently estimates to be claims of between R3.5billion to R7billion.
About 85% of all commercial properties and government buildings in South Africa have Sasria cover, along with all privately mortgaged properties, and all insured cars. The two thirds of cars on our roads which aren’t insured, don’t have this civil commotion cover.
But there’s something you need to check about your household contents cover. Take a listen…

Critical online shopping advice by Wendy Knowler

Seeing is believing - but seeing on a computer screen can be tricky

When buying goods on line you always run the risk of being unpleasantly surprised when they are delivered.
Going by photos and descriptions can never come close to being able to see and interact with a product physically.
That’s why you get a “cooling off” period in terms of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act when you buy something online.
That means you have a week, from date of delivery, to change your mind and send it back (at your expense, if the company chooses not to absorb that cost) for a refund.
It doesn’t have to be defective in any way, and legally you don’t have to provide a reason - you just say, within 7 days, that you don’t want it.
You don’t have that “out” when you buy something in a shop. Only if it breaks in some way, within 6 months of purchase, through no fault of yours, do you have the right to return it for a refund - or replacement or repair; your choice.
Tessa bought a few items from Weylandts Umhlanga recently - including a table, which was discounted in price to around R10 000 due to scratches.
She was happy with all the items when they were delivered to her, except for the table - it was smaller than she’d thought it would be.
Turns out the table wasn’t in the store the day she’d bought it - the store assistant showed it to her online.
ssentially an online one.

Take a listen to this lesson learnt

Get your full refund back as events are cancelled in alert level 4 lockdown

One hotel said it’s closing for two weeks and no, the family couldn’t get a refund of their deposit because they don’t have the money. Just like that. Now the crucial issue is that while last week someone cancelling a hotel booking or a wedding because of COVID-19 fears was entirely a voluntary decision, this week, if it’s a booking for an event in these two weeks, it's not.
And that means those who paid deposits for events that now cannot legally take place are legally entitled to a FULL refund - the CPA’s “reasonable cancelation penalty” no longer applies.
Ideally, as we keep saying, the consumer should consider accepting a postponement, but in the case of many wedding cancellations, the couple, exhausted from all the on-off uncertainty, and the impossibility of knowing whether guests, especially those travelling from overseas, will be able to attend, have given up on the idea of a wedding and have just had very small private marriage ceremonies.

So a postponement is not appropriate.

So what about “Force Majeure” - uncontrollable events such as war, political unrest, strikes, acts of God, national lockdowns?

Can companies play that card to avoid paying refunds for events that now can’t happen because of government restriction?
LISTEN here to find out…

Edgars accounts' chaos: A 'how to' checklist for the closure procedure

Never say die - those accounts that defy closure

In last week’s Consumerwatch we talked about the many Edgars account holders who’ve been battling for quite some time to close their accounts - in some cases those accounts suddenly came to life again last year with amounts for club membership, and service fees, when the account holders thought the account had been closed quite some time ago.
The account chaos is the result of a whole lot of dramatic change for the 92-year-old iconic South African retailer, behind the scenes.
Edgars has been sold by Edcon, which is currently in business rescue, to the Durban-based Retailability group, and its accounts management has been outsourced to RCS. As if that wasn’t enough fragmentation, Hollard underwrites the insurance policies which Edgars has sold many of its account holders, their monthly premiums being paid via their monthly accounts. All in all, for many accountholders, settling the amount owing in order to close their accounts seems like an impossible task.
That’s mainly because those extra monthly charges, which get added to their account whether they buy goods or not - service fee, club fee, insurance premiums - keep being added for as many months as it takes for the company to process their cancellation request. Many just don’t have the time or the energy to get to the closed account stage, and for many, especially the elderly, the stress and aggravation is dramatically affecting their quality of life.

The issues include:

Account was closed in store or via email, but not actioned

Club fee memberships not being cancelled, despite requests

Long delays in responding to account closure requests, with the result that the “value adds” keep on being added to their accounts”

Being sent “from pillar to post” in trying to get closure

So at the end of last week’s show, after recounting a particular bad case of an elderly woman who had been handed over to debt collectors for an Edgars account she closed at a store.

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