Saturday 7 December 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What are my rights?

I would like to make a formal enquiry regarding some goods I purchased on credit. My question is that if the goods get repossessed am I still liable to pay for them? I have asked the store where I purchased them for the contract that we signed when I purchased the goods but I have been told that I will not be furnished with a copy of the contract.

I'd also like to find out if it is legal for them to personally come to my place of employment to collect payment? I have recently moved employers and I hadn't had a chance to update my details however it has been 2 times they have come to my new place of employment. As you can imagine, this was very embarrassing. I made the deal to purchase those goods at the store, not my place of employment.

I would like to find a suitable way of relinquishing the goods if I have to but I'd just like to know what my rights are as a consumer.

Your first question is a simple one. Are you entitled to a replacement copy of the contract you signed? Yes, I think you are. If you were given a copy when you first signed it, then it’s only courteous for the store to offer you a copy. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. If they didn’t give you a copy at the time then yes, you are certainly entitled to a copy with no fuss or argument. If you like I’ll contact the store\s head office and encourage them to be more reasonable.

Next question. Are they entitled to come to your workplace and hassle you and your colleagues? No, I don’t think they are. Section 6 of the new 2018 Consumer Protection Act says that a supplier “shall not use force, coercion, undue influence, pressure, duress, harassment, unfair tactics or any other similar conduct against the consumer, in connection with … the negotiation, conclusion, execution or enforcement of an agreement to supply any goods or services”.

There are some strong words included in that section, things like “force” but I also think that terms like “harassment”, “pressure” and “coercion” apply to this situation. The store is certainly entitled to collect the money you owe them, there’s no doubt about that, but the new Act is very clear that they have to be reasonable when doing this. I’ll also contact them about this and explain that things have changed.

Finally, it’s important that you understand that relinquishing the goods is perhaps the worst thing you could do. The store will auction them for a small fraction of the money you still owe them, and once they add interest, penalties and legal fees, you’ll still owe at least as much as you do now, possibly a lot more.

I suggest that you contact the store and see if you can negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford.

Can they change the date?

I need your advise. I have a loan and the bank used to deduct the monthly instalment as and when my salary was paid. Even when it was way earlier than the date I agreed to on the debit order form. I did not mind until about 3 months ago when I changed jobs. Then they decided to deduct the instalment on the 27th of every month. My new job only paid after the 27th of every month. Due to this, I experienced hefty bank charges of about approximately P500 for 3 months until I went to the bank to enquire. Only then I was told they had decided to deduct on the 27th and I was requested to sign another debit order form.

Is it possible to demand a refund on the bank charges, because I did not consent to the date of the 27th and it greatly inconvenienced me.

This is probably going to be complicated. I know how frustrating it is when a bank decides, without consulting us to change an agreement like this. It’s really not good enough. However, I think the time to object to the bank doing this was when they first did it. Of course, they really should have asked you for permission to change the date but that was the time to contact them and tell them that it wasn’t what you agreed.

As you said, this only became an issue when you changed jobs and the date became a problem. Regrettably, I don’t think the bank can be blamed for this. They had been deducting on the 27th for some time and I imagine they thought this was ok with you. It wasn’t their fault that your circumstances changed.

Nevertheless, I still think it’s worth raising the issue with the bank and getting a commitment from them that the date will be one that works for you, rather than just for them.

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