Industry sources claim that some outlets sell second hand cell phones from East Asian countries.
Asked to comment on this issue, the director of the department of trade and consumer affairs, John Matsheng, confirmed that they have received some complaints from consumers.
From 2005 to 2008 they have received 101 complaints, he disclosed. So far this year, they have received 24 complaints. Cell phones which were bought as new are often loaded with information such as contact numbers, music and pictures.
They have difficulty in recharging and they cut calls. The phones are prone to power failure.
He said some of these complaints are due to improper use of the cell phones by owners. Sometimes the cell phones are attacked by virus through computer down loads and file transfers.
Asked what action is taken against dealers who sell old cell phones purporting they are new, Matsheng said that according to regulation 13 of the Consumer Protection Act: –
“Where a supplier offers commodity to a consumer which fails to meet minimum standards of specification, or the commodity sold is not of merchantable quality or representation is made that the commodity is new when it has in fact deteriorated or has been altered, reconditioned used or it is a second hand then that trader would have contravened the consumer protection and liable for prosecution and that consumers affected by this will be compensated”.
Matsheng said they monitor false business practices through the Consumer Protection Act No 21 which mandates his office to ensure that all companies sell quality products that are of merchantable quality fit for use and meets minimum standards and specification.
This, he further said, is not limited to cell phones but to all goods and services to ensure that they are safe and sound.
They conduct spot checks routinely to ensure that compliance is adhered to. During such investigations, technical expertise is always sought from stakeholders depending on the product or service that is queried.
In the case of cell phone queries, technical expertise is sought from recognised stakeholders such as the Botswana Bureau of Standards and the Botswana Telecommunications Authority.
Matsheng urged consumers to always buy cell phones that are in packages. The serial number of those packages should correspond with the one on the package provided. There should also be the year of manufacture of the phone and the service care provided by the supplier for example its warranty, repair, facilities and parts availability against the model.
Their annual plan focuses on conducting investigations into motor vehicles, food and cell phones because they have the highest frequency of complaints.