Banner wars: FNB now taken to task

Cape Town – Another anti-brand billboard went viral on social networks this week, after Cell C lost a court and public image battle against a disgruntled customer last week.

READ: Cell C: Expert warns on consumer backlash

Now, First National Bank’s (FNB) Home Loan service has been taken to task, albeit by a consumer who has been running a five-year campaign against the bank.

Images of Nico Niemand’s mobile billboard went viral this week after consumers with a taste for anti-brand billboards spotted his trailer.

He said the Cell C judgment inspired him as it showed him that he could continue promoting his billboard and website and said FNB has not threatened him with legal action.

Niemand claims FNB has a vendetta against him, which he documents in detail on his website.

His claim is that through irregular management of his bond repayment, FNB auctioned off his property in 2009 when it should not have done so. His case is still on the court roll, he said.

Business gone wrong

FNB told Fin24 that it could find no merit in his allegations.

“We have held meetings with him to resolve his concerns and have fully investigated his complaints,” said head of FNB Legal Shaun Chelin.

“Mr Niemand is currently a FNB customer with several home loan accounts,” he said. “He has mortgages on residential properties in Brixton and surrounding areas that are being paid according to the contractual arrangements.”

FNB said Niemand’s campaign stems from business gone wrong with the bank. “Mr Niemand approached FNB in 1999 with a product known as ‘Talking Windows’,” said Chelin. “He now seeks substantial damages from FNB for business dealings that failed to materialise.

“However, no formal claim has been presented in this regard to FNB through legal channels or via an impartial party such as the Banking Ombud.”

Listen to an edited interview with Niemand:

Consumer activism

A record 5 495 people viewed the anti-FNB website on Wednesday, Niemand said, an indication of how viral his campaign had become this week.  He has promoted this site for years through car stickers and a trailer billboard.

Niemand made the banner last year and coincidentally parked it outside the same mall as the Cell C billboard for a specific reason. “I parked the trailer at WorldWear Mall because that is where FNB’s Home Loan headquarters are,” he told Fin24.

Niemand said there were many other home loan customers with similar stories to his and he wants to help them too. “There are so many people that [are] phoning since it became headlines in the news [and] the same happened to them,” he said.

“I had a lady yesterday who was crying [because] she lost her house,” he said. “I have so many people who are in the same position and I am fighting for them as well.”

“Wherever I stop, the people talk to me,” he said. “And it’s not showing me the middle finger. It’s congratulating me for what I am doing, because no one else is standing up for what the banks are doing.”

“I’m not going to stop,” he said.

- Fin24

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