Consumer watch-outs of the week

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In this weekly segment of bite-sized chunks of useful information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarises news you can use:

The cost of being a revolver

What makes you a revolver? That’s what your bank calls you if you only pay the minimum amount due on your credit card every month.

Not only will you get charged a whack of interest over time, but your credit record won’t look so rosy, thanks to that payment habit.

Each credit bureau calculates a credit score — a three-digit number — for each credit active consumer using a complex formula that evaluates how you pay your bills, how much debt you carry and how all of that compares to other credit active consumers. In effect it reveals – in a single number — what your credit report says about your management of your existing credit.

These are the most important factors which affect that score:

  • Account payment history: how you manage your accounts and whether you pay the entire instalment amount on time.
  • Too much debt: how much you owe and how much of your available credit you are using. If you are spending to your credit limit, and paying only the minimum amount owing every month, that counts against you because they assume you are hanging on by your fingertips.
  • Negative information: publicly available information in your credit record, such as bankruptcies and judgments, indicating you did not honour a particular debt obligation.
  • Length of credit history: how long each of your accounts has been open.
  • Account application and enquiry activity: In other words, how many account applications you submitted within a short period of time, and how many new accounts you opened. Too many credit applications will count against you.

Check your credit reports — and your credit score — regularly. You are entitled to one free check a year from each bureau. Look for anything that does not seem right and dispute any inaccuracies with the bureau concerned.

When your single order repeats, and repeats…

I often hear from businesses which have given in to a sales pitch for printer/toner cartridges, only to be told later they agreed to not one but 10 orders, and if they resist, they are threatened with legal action until they relent and pay up.

“Liz” was recently caught by one of these unscrupulous operators. Sadly there are many of them.

“I don’t want to pay this woman as I have been scammed enough,” she said in an e-mail. “But I also don’t want my business to be sued.

“Could you please help me. I went onto HelloPeter and saw many people complaining about the same issue. Is there a way I can fight them and make them leave me alone?”

Yes, there is.

The Consumer Protection Act’s (CPA) Section 21 provides consumers with handy protection in this regard. It states, among other things, that if “a supplier delivers any further goods to a consumer, other than in terms of a different agreement or transaction, those further goods are unsolicited goods”.

The same applies to the delivery of “a larger quantity of goods than the consumer agreed to buy”.

The person who has received such unsolicited goods can either keep them without paying for them, or send them back at the expense of the supplier.

I told Liz to demand proof, in the form of a call recording, that she was told, and agreed to, 10 cartridge orders instead of just the one, failing which there is no contract. And to tell that woman that if she continues to send her unsolicited products, she will regard them as donations unless they uplift them with “20 business days”, as the CPA specifies.

If that doesn’t do the trick, I’ll wade in. Enough!

Who pays for your repeat prescription for chronic medication?

In many cases, it’s the medical aid member, either out of their own pocket or from their medical savings account, which is ultimately the same thing. Such doctor’s visits – specifically to get a repeat prescription — must be paid by the medical scheme’s fund, that is out of “risk”, says Mark Hyman, CEO and founder of MediCheck.

“It boils down to incorrect coding,” Hyman says.

“If the doctor fails to use the correct code for a consultation to issue a repeat prescription, the cost of the consultation will not be covered by the fund.

“Patients must make sure they enter the right code.”

CONTACT WENDY: E-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za; Twitter: @wendyknowler; Facebook: wendyknowlerconsumer

By Wendy Knowler

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