The consumers are among thousands of car owners who have been struggling to make their repayments ever since they stopped receiving rebates, which they were being paid up until last month, for advertising the car-selling scheme.
The rebates were paid to them in exchange for the use of their cars as billboards bearing stickers and unique codes for referrals via SMS.
The scheme was started in 2008 by Pretoria businessman Albert Venter, who owns the Satinsky Group. It attracted mostly low-income earners – apparently up to 30 000 – who bought entry-level cars, such as Nissan Micras and Tata Indicas, at full price, without a deposit and financed over six years.
Ever since the scheme collapsed last month, consumers who were reliant on the rebate – which constituted the lion’s share of their repayment – have found the full installment unaffordable, pushing some into a state of over-indebtedness.
The banks that financed the deals – Absa, Nedbank’s Motor Finance Corporation and Standard Bank – deny that they included the advertising rebate in the consumers’ income when doing the affordability assessments. But angry consumers are claiming that the banks must have included it, and some have charged that they are victims of reckless lending.
Many consumers have claimed that their credit applications have been doctored – with their income inflated and/or their expenses understated – allegedly by the car dealer in order to secure the sale.
WesBank is the only vehicle financier that refused to enter into a deal with Satinsky. Wesbank’s chief executive Chris de Kock has publicly slammed his competitors for not doing their homework on the Satinsky Group.
He is on record as saying his competitors did their customers “a huge injustice by lending credibility to a brand that had no brand equity in the market”.
Satinsky consumers had hoped to bring a class action against Satinsky and the banks for reckless lending, but failed. Consumers involved in today’s bank visits say their banks have either refused to give them their original credit application forms, or say they don’t have the forms.
In terms of the National Credit Act (NCA), credit providers are obliged to maintain records of all applications for credit, credit agreements and credit accounts in paper or electronic format for a period of three years.
“Failure to do so constitutes a contravention which would attract an appropriate sanction in terms of the Act,” Obed Tongwane, the chief operations officer at the National Credit Regulator, says. One of the consumers who can’t get her original credit application is a woman who asked not to be named.
She has a default judgment against her, by Nedbank, but was granted finance by Nedbank’s MFC for her 2012 Nissan Micra which she bought in April 2012. She made her application online, and only when she took delivery of the vehicle was she required to give the car dealer’s agent a copy of her payslip and identity document.
She earns R18 000 a month but, according to documentation received from MFC, her monthly household income is R50 000.
In terms of the NCA, a credit provider must take reasonable steps to assess the financial means and obligations of the consumer.
Tongwane says consumers have a right to their documents from credit providers. “In the event credit providers refuse to provide documents requested by consumers, the consumers must lodge complaints with the NCR.”
The regulator has received complaints against Satinsky from 27 consumers, he says. “The investigation has been prioritised and is at an advanced stage,” he says.