A mobile trader came to Nikau’s home and asked him to sign a form. Nikau is illiterate and was reluctant to sign, but said the mobile trader was insistent and refused to leave until Nikau signed the form.
Shortly afterwards the mobile trader started debiting Nikau’s account with weekly payments of $25. It transpired the form the mobile trader had asked Nikau to sign was a direct debit form.
Nikau tried to contact the mobile trader to find out what the payments were for, but without success.
Eventually Nikau went to a community law centre where a community lawyer was able to get a copy of the direct debit form as well as the relevant contract showing the payments were to purchase a mobile phone for a person with the same surname as Nikau. Nikau said he did not know this person. The mobile trader advised the community lawyer that it had delivered the phone to Taiesha. Taiesha is Nikau’s daughter, but has a different surname.
Nikau said he knew nothing about the purchase, was not in contact with Taiesha and did not know where she lived. Nikau felt the mobile trader had taken advantage of him when it demanded he sign the direct debit form. Nikau asked the community law centre to help him get his money back. Nikau said he had lost $825, being 31 $25 payments and $50 for two dishonour fees charged by Nikau’s bank.
When Nikau’s community lawyer did not get a response from the mobile trader, she complained to FSCL.
We referred the complaint to the mobile trader’s internal complaints process, but the mobile trader failed to respond to the complaint so we started our investigation.
As soon as we wrote to the mobile trader about the complaint the mobile trader telephoned us, apologising that it had not responded to Nikau. The mobile trader asked for a further opportunity to review the complaint.
We agreed, and the mobile trader went back to the community lawyer agreeing to pay Nikau $825. Nikau accepted the offer and the complaint was resolved within a couple of days of reaching us.
Key insights for consumer organisations
We are often able to help resolve complaints where consumer organisations are experiencing difficulty because we are in contact with the person responsible for resolving complaints at the particular lender or financial service provider. We will also start an investigation into a complaint 20 days after the complaint is made, giving financial service providers a real incentive to resolve complaints quickly.