Relief for Lewis washing machine customer

Cape Town -  The man at the centre of a washing machine row breathed a sigh of relief on Friday after Lewis Stores [JSE:LEW] fully refunded his deposit and confirmed that they have cancelled his contract.

Lewis will collect the washing machine from him.

The 60-year-old gardener from George made news headlines on Thursday after his employer, businessman Onne Vegter, launched a scathing attack on Facebook against Lewis for charging him R17 955 for a R5 999 washing machine.

READ: Lewis charges gardener R18 000 for R6 000 washing machine

The gardener - who Vegter describes as a very humble, timid man in his 60s, with limited literacy - bought the 14kg twin tub washing machine on January 9 at the local Lewis branch in George.

Vegter said in a follow-up email to Fin24 on Friday that his gardener is relieved at the outcome now plans to buy a slightly smaller twin tub for under R3 000 at Game.

"He has arranged a 6-month interest-free loan with me to enable him to do so. So as far as this customer is concerned, the issue is resolved."

Vegter said he however shared Clark Gardener's concerns that thousands of consumers "continue to get ripped off".

He called for stricter consumer protection legislation.

Allegations denied

Lewis group CEO Johan Enslin on Thursday denied any allegations of reckless lending and said that interest and all costs were charged in accordance with the National Credit Act, and that all processes required by the act and its related regulations were followed.

Enslin said: “The company denies any allegations of reckless lending, as an affordability assessment in terms of company policy and as required by the National Credit Act was conducted".

On Thursday Fin24 reported on potentially dubious extra charges for insurance.

The extra charges included what seemed to be a double charge of R2 052 and R3 785.76 for exactly the same insurance, only with different wording: 'monthly payment for customer protection insurance' and 'protection insurance for clients, payable monthly'.

Enslin explained:“It is incorrect that the customer was charged twice for the same insurance cover.

“The total cost of all insurances including both credit life insurance and insurance against damage or destruction to property in respect of this 36-month contract was an amount of R3 785.76, corresponding to a monthly charge of R105.16.

"The total service fees due to Lewis Stores in terms of this contract amounted to R 2 052.00, corresponding to a monthly service charge of R57.00.

"The levying of these monthly service charges is in accordance with the National Credit Act and regulations.

"It is therefore not true that the cost of insurance in respect of this contract equals the cost of the merchandise purchased.”

On Vegter's advice, the customer and a family member went back to the store on Tuesday to have the contract cancelled because it was just too expensive for him.

Enslin confirmed the customer request to cancel the contract and said Lewis is willing to accede to this request even though it falls outside the five working day cooling-off period in which customers may cancel their contracts.

"Lewis will collect the washing machine from the customer’s home and refund the deposit paid,” said Enslin.

READ: Lewis hits back in R18k washing machine row

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