ECR Consumerwatch

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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10
JUN

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.
03
JUN

Edgars accountholders are among SA’s most frustrated consumers right now, says Wendy Knowler

The hardest goodbye
I continue to get a steady stream of complaints from Edgars customers, most about battling to close their accounts, and some about battling to stop the extra charges or interest being applied to their “six months’ interest free” accounts.
The Edgars accounts story is such a sad, complicated one, the bottom line being that for many, 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, so I hear from quite a few sons and daughters of accountholders, or mothers of people too busy in their jobs for the time they need to devote to closing their accounts or settling a dispute.
A quick recap - Edgars has been sold by Edcon, currently in business rescue, to the Durban-based Retailabilty group, and its accounts management has been outsourced to RCS.
And Hollard underwrites the insurance policies which Edgars has sold many of its account holders, their monthly premiums being paid via their monthly accounts.
Sayon Pather wrote to me about this 79-year-old mother’s Edgars’ drama.
“She has always maintained an impeccable financial track record,” he began.
“At this stage in her life she should not have to deal with the stressful harassment proffered by Edgars, and now the debt collectors they have handed her over to, for R511,11, which in fact she should not owe.
“My mother's Edgars account was made paid-up in full and the account closed in January 2020. This was confirmed by the cashier and witnessed by family.
20
MAY

Easier cash deposits and all about car jamming.

Got quite a bit of cash to deposit? You’ll pay less in fees if you do it at the supermarket, says Consumerwatch’s Wendy Knowler.

That’s provided you’re depositing larger amounts - R1200 or more. For smaller amounts, your bank’s ATM deposit fee will probably be less than the supermarket’s standard R19,95 fee.

The Shoprite group has followed Pick n Pay in making it possible for customers to deposit cash directly into their own bank accounts at till points of its Shoprite, Checkers and USave stores.
All you need is your card and the cash, plus a transaction fee of R19,95 - the identical amount Pick n Pay charges for the service at its grocery, clothing and Boxer stores.
It’s a safer, more convenient cash deposit option than using a bank ATM - especially for those who get paid in cash and live in rural areas where ATMs are relatively scarce.
Shoprite caps its till-deposit amount at R3000, while PnP allows customers to deposit up to R5000 cash, still for that flat fee of R19,95.
I asked Pick n Pay how shoppers had responded to the service offering and what their average deposit amount is.
“Customers are absolutely loving it,” I was told. “We have seen a jump of 159% in the number of deposits from level 5 lockdown to level 1.”
The average deposit amount in the last financial year was R1600, so clearly most have cottoned on to the fee issue.

You pressed the lock button on your remote, but is your car really locked?
Are you in the habit of locking your car by pressing a button on your remote while walking away from your car parked in at a shopping mall?

Criminals use signal-blocking technology to effectively blocks a vehicle from locking properly - as you press that button on your remote, so they press their’s and the result is your car isn’t locked and they can help themselves to what you have stashed in your boot - often a laptop.
It’s not a new scam, but it’s still very prevalent.
13
MAY

Bank notification SMS: How to know when it's a scam

Could those SMS bank notifications be false security?

The Ombudsman for Banking Services of SA released its 2020 annual report yesterday, revealing that fraud cases dominated the five top complaints categories: current accounts, internet banking, personal loans, credit cards and ATMs.
Current account cases increased by a dramatic 7% from 2019, with complaints relating to fraud, bank fees and charges and banks not giving notice of account closures account for 80% of current account complaints.
The report features 15 case studies and they make for very compelling reading indeed.
“These cases are more relatable and engaging than a list of statistics,” Steyn said. “It’s in the telling of the stories that we succeed in our consumer awareness efforts and in changing banking practices, from time to time.”
Several case studies had the same theme - the bank’s failure to tell their customer about a very real risk of fraud.
In one of them, a bank customer complained to her bank that she wasn’t receiving SMS notifications regarding credit card payments.
She was told there had been a technical issue, but that her SMS notification system was operating again. Cool, she thought, all sorted.
When fraudulent transactions totalling R200 000 went through on her account, without her being notified, the bank told her that because her account had been accessed via her banking app, no SMS notifications were sent to her. That’s because she had failed to register specifically for banking app notifications.
Can you believe it??
The OBS said it was a reasonable assumption that the notifications applied to all notifications on her account - it was unreasonable for the bank to expect customers to explicitly request notifications on their banking app.
And so it was that the bank accepted responsibility for that R200 000.
Pity the bank isn’t named, but the story serves as a strong warning to make sure that your bank sends you SMS notifications about all activity on your account no matter what
06
MAY

"Minimum card swipe is a lie", Wendy Knowler explains why

Don’t let a retailer charge you extra for card payments, or dictate how much you must spend, says Wendy Knowler in this week’s Consumerwatch.

IT’S ILLEGAL!

Wendy also shares:
What your car colour choice tells your insurer about you
Did you know that the colour of your car has an impact on your insurance premium?
29
APR

Which industries are exploiting you right now? Wendy Knowler shares this classified information.

Overzealous regular sanitising of workplaces and schools is totally unwarranted. You get the coronavirus from breathing, not touching, says top health body, as Consumerwatch’s Wendy Knowler revealed in this week’s show
Forget what you were told at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic - you are actually very, very unlikely to contract the coronavirus from touching surfaces. The US’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has this month confirmed what scientists have been saying for many months - the chance of getting the virus from surfaces is around 1 in 10 000 contacts.
So you don’t need to be wiping down your groceries when you get back from the supermarket, and if you’re a school or business you don’t need to spend a fortune on routine professional sanitising or fogging or electrospraying… that’s only necessary if you’ve had a Covid-positive in the past 24 hours.Wash your hands, wear your mask and VENTILATE.. that’s how you slash your chances of getting Covid. So what will it take for the sanitisation industry to stop exploiting consumers’ fears?

Is hailing an Uber costing you extra in bank fees?
Capitec bank is getting a hammering on social media for the international credit card processing fee it introduced last month.
That’s because it doesn’t only apply when you’re shopping overseas - every time a Capitec customer hails an Uber or Bolt, or buys something on iTunes or from Netflix - in fact any purchase from any company they get charged a R3 processing fee.“Definitely not cool, Capitec,” said Ceeces Travel on Twitter. “This is literally for every Uber or Bolt online payment, it’s insane..”
Capitec responded: “This is a fee (R3) charged for international purchases both successful and unsuccessful transactions, whether it was initiated cross-border from outside SA or locally from within SA. “This includes your Bolt and Uber rides and Netflix payments.”

So what are the other banks doing?
15
APR

Buying a bed? Don’t be caught napping, says Wendy Knowler

Do your homework - on the bed and the retailer - before you commit. Never has it been more important to do your research on a company before doing business with it. Check how they handle complaints on HelloPeter, on Twitter, if they have an account, and do a general Google search for complaints. Had Cookie done that before buying a bed from The Bed King in Chatsworth, she may well have decided to choose another bed retailer. If she’d Googled the store name she would have found a Public Service Announcement posted by The Bed King of Cape Town, warning: "If you are in KwaZulu-Natal and looking to find a Bed King in Durban, then please note that the following stores are not authorized Bed King Dealers & they are using our trademark name illegally: Bed King Springfield, Bed King Phoenix, Bed King Tongaat or Bed King Verulam, Bed King Pietermaritzburg, Bed King Chatsworth We’ve received messages from unhappy customers mistaking us for them. We’d just like to provide clarity to our customers that we are in no way associated with the above-mentioned stores. Please be aware that any items sold at any one of these unauthorized Bed King Durban and Bed King Pietermaritzburg stores are NOT covered by our product warranty or Bed King returns policy." Take a listen to that squeaky bed and find out what happened when Wendy tried to engage with the company, here.
07
APR

Paying your utility bill at a supermarket? Best you check the numbers says Wendy Knowler

I often warn people to check, check and check again when making payments via EFT or at an ATM.

Choose the wrong beneficiary or transpose an account number and your money will end up as an unintentional gift in someone’s account.
That someone may well choose not to give it back, and the bank can’t compel them to, leaving lengthy, costly legal action as your only option.

Just last night I got an email from a woman who transferred R60 000 to what she thought was a friend’s Standard Bank account from her FNB account. “Now the recipient is refusing to reverse the funds and the bank cannot help,” she wrote. It’s a story I hear so often.

But Joseph Slater alerted me to another problem area: like many others, he pays his utility account at his local retailer, and in such cases it’s the till operator you rely on to key in the right numbers.

But what if they don’t?

That’s what happened to Joseph nine months ago - his R980 went into the wrong municipal account nine months ago, and he’s and he only got his money back this week - after I took up the case.

For the full story and key advice if you pay your utility at your local supermarket, listen now.
31
MAR

Wendy Knowler explains what could go wrong when selling your car on consignment

In early December, Keryn Harrison gave her 2008 Mini Cooper S to KZN Cars in Pinetown to sell on consignment - it was agreed she would be paid R75,000.

In late January, the dealership told her she’d be paid that day.

That never happened. By early March, the dealership verbally offered to pay her back in monthly R25,000 installments, but when Keryn accepted via email and repeatedly asked for an acknowledgment, she was met with silence.

Finally, this week, after she approached Consumerwatch for help, she received a payment of R25,000.

Sound familiar? Take a listen to hear what advice Wendy has to offer.

229 episodes

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