Repossession of goods questioned

Retired police captain turned activist, Keith Blake, took up the cudgels on behalf of his Ottery neighbour, Maureen Links, who first bought a stove and then later a DVD player, from OK Furniture, at the Ottery Hypermarket, on behalf of Mark Williams, 31, her child.

Ms Links told Mr Blake the account was opened for Mr Williams who gets a South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) grant, and is “mentally challenged”. She paid monthly instalments of R270 for the stove and R105 for the DVD player – R375 a month, on his behalf. She did miss some payments but caught up, Ms Links said, even if it meant “being throttled by the cost of living”.

In July, Mr Naidoo from OK Furniture arrived at Ms Links’s house with a “document she had to sign, showing the instalment shortfall which amounted to R550”.

Subsequently Mr Williams lost his Sassa card and he had to wait for a new one to be issued before he could get his monthly grant.

Ms Links said that on August 24, she had a call from Mr Naidoo to say that he and an assistant were outside her house to collect the stove and the DVD player.

She explained about the lost Sassa card to Mr Naidoo and told him when Mr Williams gets his grant, which would be for two months, she would make up the arrears. However, when she arrived home the items had already been removed.

Ms Links alleged that Mr Naidoo forced Mr Williams to sign a document but she didn’t know what it was. Ms Links told Mr Blake she is trying her utmost to pay off the instalments.

She wanted Mr Blake to find out why the instalments suddenly increased in July and why arrangements can’t be made to allow the unemployed Mr Williams to pay smaller amounts.

She wanted Mr Blake to find out what her rights are and what OK Furniture’s legal obligations are under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). She said she suffered a loss of dignity when the stove and DVD player were removed.

It’s not as simple as Ms Links and Mr Blake believe.

Aubrey Karp, managing director of the Shoprite Furniture Group, confirmed that they removed the goods under the provisions of the National Credit Act (NCA).

The bill for the stove and the home theatre system (not a DVD player) was five months and eight months in arrears respectively. OK Furniture will return the goods when Mr Williams gets the arrears up to date and continues with the monthly payments. Mr Karp confirmed that Mr Williams signed an instalment sale agreement, which is governed by the NCA, with OK Furniture in August last year for the stove.

“Mr Williams had to pay a deposit of R370 and then 29 monthly instalments of R262.83 with a final payment of R262.83. The first instalment became due in October and the payment included Credit Life and All Risk Insurance, which were not subject to interest charges, and until Mr Williams had paid the accounts in full, OK Furniture would own the goods.

“Before we took possession of the items in August this year the account was five months in arrears – R 2 744.08 and because his payments were behind his insurance was no longer valid,” Mr Karp said.

“In October 2015 Mr Williams bought a home theatre system and had to pay a deposit of R130 and 29 monthly instalments of R104.56 with a final payment of R104.28, also governed by the NCA. Before we took possession of the item Mr Williams was eight months in arrears of R900.31 and he no longer had insurance so we were at further risk. Ms Links signed a voluntary termination under the NCA which is the applicable legislation, and not the CPA,” said Mr Karp who added that OK Furniture did not enter an agreement with Ms Links.

“Although we can confirm that Mr Williams receives a Sassa grant, we can’t comment on his alleged mental status but when the credit assessments were done he was credit active at the registered credit bureau. We made various one-sided attempts with Mr Williams to agree on a repayment plan to get these two accounts up to date but he elected not to do so. This, despite the NCA placing a statutory duty on consumers to respect their obligations,” said Mr Karp.

If Mr Williams brings his payments up to date within 30 days, according to the voluntary termination agreement, OK Furniture will return the items.

The NCR said the voluntary surrender of goods is in accordance with Section 127 of the NCR.

Which means that the consumer gives notice to the credit provider terminating the agreement if the goods are still in the store’s possession or returns them.

The collection agents acting on behalf of the supplier advise the consumer to sign the voluntary surrender so they can repossess the goods. Only the buyer or the buyer’s agent can sign the agreement and buyers must not be forced to sign the document, the NCR said.