Loan seekers "duped into dodgy" agreements
Not every loan provider you find online offers loans and though the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) clearly bars institutions from using misleading advertisements, many consumers are hoodwinked into signing contracts they ordinarily would not have entered into.
Section 40 of the CPA further states that it is unconscionable for a supplier or an agent of the supplier to use unfair tactics or any other similar conduct, in connection with marketing of any goods or services to a consumer.
However, there are companies like Loan Scout SA, Loan Zone, Loan Tracker and Loan Connector that use these unfair tactics to take advantage of the fact that a consumer is substantially unable to protect their own interests because of ignorance and an inability to understand the language of an agreement.
About 10 consumers who approached Consumer Line recently claimed that they were being harassed and threatened by Lifestyle Legal for loans they had applied for, but had never received.
Linked to their loan application was an additional contract in which the companies' core function, which they would not have solicited had it been not for the loan application form they completed, they said.
Some had not even applied for the loan, but their bank accounts were debited without proper authorisation.
Christine Greenfield told Consumer Line she was looking for a small loan when she came across Loan Scout SA.
She filled out an application form for them to check whether she qualified for the loan, which is the norm.
Greenfield said she heard nothing from the company until last month, when R429 was debited from her account. She duly reversed the debit on discovering that it was Loan Scout SA.
This did not stop the company from debiting a further R99 last week.
It was upon inquiring about this debit order that she was told they did not offer personal loans, but instead offered services. She was told she could cancel the contract but would still be liable to pay for the outstanding months of her so-called contract term.
Speaking to the company's customer relationship manager, Greenfield said, was fruitless as she was told her account would be handed over to debt collectors.
Mari Strydom of Boksburg said that in 2015, she had supplied her details online to Lifestyle Legal, hoping they would call and offer her a loan as she was looking for one.
Subsequently to that, Lifestyle Legal put through unauthorised debit orders on her account, causing her to pay R1500 for services never rendered. She now has an adverse credit rating as Lifestyle Legal reported her to Transunion credit bureau as a bad payer.
Strydom was opening a clothing account when she discovered that she had a default listing for monies due to Lifestyle Legal.
Upon calling Transunion, she discovered that she was not the only person listed by Lifestyle Legal, she said.
Adele William is another victim who said she had received threatening mail and SMSes from Lifestyle Legal stating that Loan Tracker SA and Loan Zone SA demanded payment of R1729.95.
"This service was unsolicited and I only wanted a loan," she said.
She said she had never signed anything, but Lifestyle Legal had now sent her a summons over the amount.
Last Tuesday she was also listed as a bad payer, she said.
"How can some random person demand this money from me and I have never had anything to do with them?" Williams asked.
Capital Lifestyle Solutions which trades as Lifestyle Legal and Loan Tracker did not respond, but their attorney Henno Bothma, of Abrahams and Gross, did.
Bothma said Loan Tracker offered subscribers a telephonic legal assistance package, which offered assistance in a broad array of legal fields such as labour law, family law, and criminal law, plus the added benefit of a complimentary loan finding service.
"Loan Tracker does not offer any loans or financial services and clients are referred to various credit providers should they indicate that they want to apply for a loan," Bothma said.
He said all terms and conditions are transparent and the consumer is asked to tick a box providing consent and to agree that they have read and understood them.
He said Lifestyle Legal was a debt collection company registered with the Council for Debt Collectors, which recovers debt on behalf of Loan Tracker SA and various other entities.
He said both Loan Tracker and Lifestyle Legal had complied with regulatory laws and were not running a scam as claimed by these these consumers.
More than 100 consumers have complained on consumer website hellopeter.com that they were tricked into signing up for legal services when they needed loans.