Do you know your legal rights when shysters masquerading as businessmen lie to you? I am sure you are familiar with the scenario. You receive a text message to tell you that you are due for an eye test (you are indeed) or whatever and guess what, they have wonderful special called (whatever, winter, eye, etc.) and you qualify. There is also a cut-off date to ensure you feel pressurised to accept immediately (your eyes don’t mind a month or two in reality – this is just business as usual). Then you arrive at the eye specialist or whatever, the curse of false advertising is to be found everywhere, and you note two things. Firstly, the front desk staffers have no idea what the specials are and unable to explain to you what you read on the internet or the text you received. In fact, the “special” will not be applicable to you at all. Secondly, the price is never as advertised, it is always more but since you are there now when can you sit down and be abused? They use pretty girls or motherly women they know you will not punch on the nose as you should do and the shyster is hiding in his office.
I do understand the principles of business and what profit is as well as the need for such things. I have been in business for more than twenty years and had my fair share of shysters and others believing I should work for free. You find them everywhere you go, at braais (barbecues), meetings and even in public. You know the type. They ask legal questions expecting a truthful answer but no invoice for the time and knowledge gained over many years of study and experience. I know about many legal men who would deliberately give false advice or others stating with a suitable serious face that “yeah, that is interesting, you are in deep trouble mate, call my secretary and make an appointment Monday!” To be sure the secretary is never called and you are written off as a terrible person serving mammon only – they don’t know the millions you wrote off before they arrived and unless very pretty with a low cut dress, don’t even ask me (just joking). And then you have the reverse, my mom for instance will never accept any legal advice from me unless my elder brother agrees. It is rather funny and I am sure not meant to be insulting to me and in truth, I now refer all questions to him anyway even though in certain areas I am more knowledgeable in my own opinion (obviously, humbleness plays no role in law).
Be that as it may, when I last tested my eyes in 2012 I paid R600 flat rate. Today I was quoted for the same test and not even a frame R1198. That is correct, double the amount in three years and by the way, the special does not apply to me either. I had to laugh rather cynically as I walked away to their opposition. The average inflation rate since 2012 was about 5% according to statistics (which I believe to be false, just note the weak ZAR and fuel price but anyway). Let us double it to 10% just to be fair and you know what, we still are not even close to a 100% increase in price so how is it justified? What the hell? Do they think we are stupid or desperate or both? I also decided my own prices will now double, not that it is needed as I am mostly paid in USD and the weaker the rand the more I make anyway. High prices bring the type of exclusivity (another form of marketing bullsh-t) I like. It is a strange phenomenon in life, the higher the price, the better it is supposed to be. We talk about this in my bankster book, Your Worst Enemy and probably in others also.
We also discuss in that book your legal rights when it comes to false advertising. Traditionally the shysters covered themselves with the following legal argument and backed up in terms & conditions (T&C) no one reads – the font is too small, it is too boring and it is comprehensive crap designed to get you a new pair of reading glasses before your time. The shysters say the advertising is just an invitation to do business, right? And when you arrive and you agree to the price the contract comes into being - a new contract since the invitation is not a contract, no one agreed yet, right? And hence they can get away with murder and since you are here now, just be stupid and let me abuse you. That is how it worked until the relatively new Consumer Act came into law a few years ago. Now the law says if you lie like that you can be held responsible. Does it work like that in practise? Nope, of course not, the law is neutral, you will have to fight for your rights and most don’t. They walk away and the scaly shysters carry on, the racket will not stop by itself.
Now you can make life hard for them by reporting such behaviour on the internet (the consumer council etc.). It will be investigated and white washed most of the time but at least you may feel better. I reported a pizza place once and I was informed I was wrong. They can charge delivery fees even if they say they don’t (the legal reasons why escape me, when I asked for more particulars the emails stopped abruptly). And now I get every Friday a spam text from this very same pizza place about specials they have and still without a delivery charge which they do have. By the grace of God I sometimes see the funny side to it, it is costing them money to text me. I will not buy from them and that my friends are your biggest revenge. Stop buying from such shysters and go to the opposition. You can decide where your money goes to. It is about the only right you control and use it well, it is your money.
Don’t defame them, don’t rage on Facebook and whatever you do, don’t get racial and call them what you know is not correct in these days. Not when in this country or anywhere else for that matter. Just calmly tell all you mates at the next braai how you got done in. That is how you deal with false advertising on the cheap. That is where it hurts them, at the profit margin.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. During his police years, he was awarded the South African Police Medal for Combating Terrorism twice besides lesser awards. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a commercial law attorney for eight years. These days he is the owner of JKLS Africa and Associates, a specialist legal consultancy which specializes in reducing legal risk in sub Saharan Africa. He wrote several books on business, law, counter-terrorism and security issues. At times he is asked to participate on the Voice of America regarding legal forensic matters.