Image

By Alan McIntosh

I was fascinated to read an article that’s been written by Richard Dyson of the Financial Mail on Sunday, exposing the true extent of the rip off being perpertrated by Brighthouse, the high street hire purchase company.

I genuinely believed it wasn’t possible to be more shocked by their conduct after dealing with them for years as an adviser for clients.

It wasn’t unusual to hear of tragic stories involving children having TVs taken off them within a month or two of Christmas after hard up parents had desperately tried to make sure Santa didn’t miss their kids on Christmas day.

Even more tragic was when children’s beds, taken out on hire purchase, were repossessed.

Its one of the sad things about people who live in poverty, often  essential items are obtained using hire purchase.

The effect is the person doesn’t own the goods until all payments are made and if they are repossessed before half the payments are made, the consumer can even be left with a debt for the goods they no longer have.

That’s why, if possible, its always best to buy such essential goods outright and judging from what Mr Dyson found, you are likely to save yourself a lot of money doing so.

He found in his investigation Brighthouse used unique, non industry codes to make price comparison impossible and priced some electrical goods  by up to a third more than an other retailers.

He also found they often mis-sold product insurance even when people already have contents insurance and charged interest not only on the goods, but the insurance and warranties.

What Can Consumers Do?

If you cannot afford to buy the goods outright and are on benefits,  you may be able to get a community care grant (which doesn’t need to be repaid) or a budgeting or crisis loan, which are interest free.

Alternatively credit unions rarely charge more than 11-12%, compared to the normal 30% APR that Brighthouse charge.

The benefit of buying essential goods, rather than obtaining them using hire purchase, is even if you struggle to repay the loan, the goods belong to you and legal action has to be taken to take them off you.

Many essential items like TVs, beds, tables and computers are protected in Scots Law,  where you own them and even sheriff officers cannot take them. So the children’s beds will be safe as well as other items like cookers and fridges.

People who have goods from Brighthouse should seek advice.

It may be the mis-selling of such insurance policies can be challenged and the money claimed back. Also if attempts are made to repossess good in people’s homes, they can never do this in Scotland without agreement or a court order.

If they do, it may be possible to get all payments under the agreement refunded and where anyone tries to enter your home without a court order, the police can be called.

So there may be light at the end of the tunnel for Brighthouse customers, they just need to walk towards the light.