R699 cars deal is a scam: consumer activist

A Gauteng based consumer activist has called the R699 per month car deal a scam, and alleges some fraudulent activity within the scheme.

“I believe it’s a scam,” Simon Lapping told CNBC Africa, noting that WesBank conducted a financial analysis as much as two years ago of the R699 car advertising concept and called it a Ponzi Scheme.

Last month, Satinsky Group announced an abrupt end to a partnerships agreement with Hong Kong based advertising company, Blue Lakes.

The dissolving of the partnership left many Satinsky clients without the monthly advertising earnings they had become dependent on to finance the cars bought.

Satinsky responded to the outcry by saying that it was never responsible for any payments to clients who purchased vehicles from the company.

Lapping questioned why WesBank failed to warn the public back then, following its findings, adding that those banks who dealt with the Satinsky group “did not do any checking whatsoever”.

Lapping alleged that some fraud involved in the scheme, and called on banks to investigate the matter.

Reports have alleged that Satinsky may have altered customer details on loan applications to make them more appealing to banks – however the group CEO, Albert Venter has vehemently denied this, saying the process was carefully vetted and documents signed off by clients.

WesBank said it actively chose not to be involved with Just Group, a subsidiary of Satinsky Group, in any way whatsoever.

Banks respond

The South African banks which financed the scheme have since responded.

It is understood that Absa, Standard Bank and Nedbank all facilitated the loans behind the Satinsky cars – with WesBank (FirstRand’s vehicle finance arm) avoiding the process from the start.

Absa

Absa came out strong against the Satinsky group, saying that it has terminated its relationship with the company.

“Absa’s business relationship with Satinsky was reviewed in 2013 which coincided with customer complaints received relating to the Blue Lake’s advertising scheme,” an Absa spokesperson said.

“The bank has since issued notice to Satinsky to terminate the relationship.”

Absa noted that it had no other agreement with Satinsky apart from providing finance to customers, in line with the bank’s processes and credit criteria.

“The advertising service agreements between Satinsky clients and Blue Lakes Trading and Promotions of Hong Kong are separate agreements to which Absa is not a party and does not promote in any manner,” the bank said.

“In addition, Absa is unaware of which clients did in fact conclude such agreements with Blue Lakes.”

Standard Bank

Standard Bank distanced itself from the controversy, saying that, on any given day, it receives hundreds of applications for vehicle finance.

“As a responsible bank and lender, Standard Bank will asses any loan application received from a client,” the bank said.

“In the case of Satinsky Group, individual client loan applications would be received in the normal course of business as it would from any other dealership.”

The bank noted that the Satinsky applications – and the success of the application – is based on the individual’s ability to repay the debt in the agreed time period and agreed terms and does not take into account any future royalties or earnings when signing a credit agreement with a customer.

“Strict credit criteria are in place to ensure that the customer has the ability to meet all their financial obligations when granting the loan.”

Standard Bank said that it would be happy to look at assisting customers rescheduling their loans, “as we would as part of the normal collection practice for accounts in arrears”.

“Should customers feel that they are not in a financial position to honour their financial commitments, they should contact their bank immediately so that a mutually beneficial solution could be agreed upon.”

Nedbank

Nedbank did not return comment by the time of publication, but the group’s Motor Finance Corporation (MFC) previously told Independent’s Consumer Watch that it, too, had nothing to do with Satinsky’s dealings with Blue Lakes.

“MFC is not privy to nor involved with these agreements between the car buyer and (a third party) as these are entered into only once the bank finance contract has been signed and accepted by the car buyer and the vehicle value paid out to the dealership,” managing executive Trevor Browse told Consumer Watch.

“At no stage is any form of dealership rebate, subsidy or lead fee factored into MFC’s financing decision.”

Neither Standard Bank nor Nedbank provided any feedback on whether or not they would continue to finance vehicles through the Satinsky group.

BusinessTech contacted Satinsky group for comment, but it did not respond by the time of publication.

More on the R699 saga

The inside story of the R699 car scheme

R699 cars a Ponzi Scheme: Wesbank

R699pm car business falls apart: report

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R699 cars deal is a scam: consumer activist