Friday, 23 August 2013

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I bought a bed and couch on credit in May 2010. I made regular monthly payments until April 2011 when I went on maternity leave. I was not able to pay for three months while on maternity leave. When I came back from leave, they never listened to me, but rather took the bed and the couch from me.

They have now blacklisted my name at ITC and they say I must pay them the outstanding balance. That is when they can clear my name.

Please help me because I don't understand why I must pay for the items that I do not have in my possession.

I’m afraid that how store credit works. It’s one of the reasons why I think it’s such a hateful way to buy things.

When you buy something on credit you commit to paying a lot more than the cash price of the item you buy. Furniture with a cash price of P5,000 will normally cost around P10,000 to buy on credit over two years. That is how the store make money, that extra P5,000 they get. It’s why stores push you to buy that way rather than for cash.

If you default on your repayments halfway through the repayment period, like you did, you’ve repaid about half the total amount but the half remains outstanding. You still owe the store P5,000. Yes, they’ll come and repossess the furniture but remember that it was only originally on sale for P5,000. A year ago the furniture probably only cost the store P2,500 to make and it’s now a year old and is now second-hand. If they sell it at an internal auction they might get only P1,000 for it. That leaves P4,000 you still owe them. Add on top the penalty and administration fees you agreed to when you signed the credit agreement (trust me it’ll be in the small print) and you might easily still owe the store more than the value of the goods you bought all that time ago. And they’ve listed you as a bad payer with a credit reference agency.

Please understand that I’m not defending the store or their credit agreement. I despise store credit schemes and urge people NEVER to enter one if they can possibly avoid it. But that’s how they work. That’s how stores make their money.

Meanwhile if what you say is true they did seem a little hasty. They should have waited a little longer than just three months before coming round and seizing your goods, particularly if they knew you were on maternity leave.

I’ll get in touch with the store and see if they can show some flexibility.

Update: The store management came back to us and it seems that the story isn't complete. Our reader has, to put it politely, a poor repayment history so they're not feeling very flexible. While I still feel the same about store credit, people nevertheless must stick to their agreements wherever possible.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I bought a laptop (HP630) from a store last August and in June this year I returned it because it was giving me problems. It has been with them for 2 months now and my school work is suffering. They say they can't give me a new one because it would be a loss for them but the warranty expires in September. I’m hopeless, please help!!?

I understand that it can take a little while to diagnose and fix a problem with a laptop. I do understand. But it should take just a couple of days, not a couple of months. What’s more, HP, one of the most popular manufacturers of personal computers in the world, has two authorised warranty repair centers in Botswana. These both employ a number of highly-trained experts who can fix these things quickly and easily. So there’s no real excuse for this for this sort of delay. It should really only take a matter of days to decide whether it can be repaired or if it needs replacing.

Unless they’re not using the official warranty repair mechanism perhaps?

I’ll get in touch and see if they can’t hurry up a bit.

Update. I heard back from the reader. The store got in touch, apologised profusely and gave her a brand new replacement laptop. Good for them.

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