Consumers who were ripped off finally get their money back

Stock Market College (SMC) has finally refunded the consumers who said the company had ripped them off.

Stock Market College (SMC) has finally refunded the consumers who said the company had ripped them off.

Two weeks ago Consumer Line reported that SMC said it sold computer software to help people learn how to trade on the stock exchange. But SMC does not deliver the software or train customers.

The product, worth less than R200, was sold for R10000 plus a subscription fee, which varies from R145 to R200 for three years.

Bukula Skhosana got his R10 000 back last week after Consumer Line intervened.

"I would like to inform you that I have received the refund from Zelda and Joe Ndlovu. Thank you very much for your effort and assistance," he said.

Skhosana bought software from SMC in June, but cancelled the order within five days. He asked for a refund, but was told he had cancelled after the cooling-off period had lapsed.

Cynthia Monakale said she declined the offer, but SMC debited her account for R7 500.

SMC's Zelda van Pletsen said Monakale was a client because she had registered.

Van Pletsen has paid back Monakale in two instalments.

"Thank you. I received the outstanding amount that SMC owed me," Monakale said.

l How the scam works - a salesman approaches consumers and offers to make a presentation. The customer is assured that the contract can be cancelled "at any time".

Consumers are offered three-year contracts. The payment is usually debited from bank accounts. Often, and unknown to consumers, banks deduct the full amount and clients pay monthly instalments, with interest, through their credit cards.

Alternatively, appointments are made with consumers to explain the software package. Contracts are sent later.

People are told contracts can be cancelled within six months, but cancellation costs are not divulged.

l Breakdown of the R10 000 - SMC receives R2 622 for packaging. The consultant's commission is R2500. The balance is for phone bills and office expenses.

This is why Van Pletsen gave Monakale only R2622 and referred Consumer Line to Ndlovu, who had to refund Monakale.

l What you get - a textbook, More Charting for Profit by Tean Tempkim, worth R80. It is available at PDSnet in Bruma Lake, Johannesburg. A CD worth less than R7 and a mouse and pad worth less than R10.

Consumers are told to download information from the company website. This information is free from Standard Bank and Dynamic Wealth securities.

l In December 2004 Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mphahlwa declared certain business practices of speculative software as unfair business practice in terms of section 12(6) of the Consumer Affairs (Unfair Business Practices) Act 71 of 1988.

Consumer Line has received more complaints against SMC. These were referred to the department.