ConsumerWiki - Brighthouse Fact Sheet
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Brighthouse Stores (formerly Crazy Georges) Fact Sheet
This fact sheet has been produced to help anyone who may be having problems with the high street retailer BrightHouse. It is the result of many months of research (including the writers becoming customers of BrightHouse themselves) and experiencing, first hand, an inherent culture of social-discrimination, arrogance, lies, obstruction, rudeness, and even aggression towards customers.
By unravelling a complex system of financial exploitation (aimed at some of the least well-off in society), this fact sheet also makes essential reading for anyone who is – or anyone planning to become – a customer of BrightHouse.
BrightHouse were asked to review this fact sheet, and comment on its findings. The company did so, and has made the following statement:
Although the statement (above) mentions “a number of substantial inaccuracies, and incorrect assumptions”, other than the price match example (which has now been updated to reflect a current model) no other specific examples were given.
However, BrightHouse did supply an appendix containing more detailed information on their policies and operating practises. These points are reflected throughout the following chapters, particularly when BrightHouse company policy appears to contradict our findings.
BrightHouse – Your weekly payment store!
BrightHouse (the trading name for Caversham Finance Ltd) is a national retail chain specialising in the sale of home electronics and domestic appliances, household furniture and related products, primarily on a “rent to own” (Hire Purchase) “affordable” weekly payment basis. They target the “sub-prime” - in particular, the unemployed, single parents, council tenants and those with previous credit problems. Their stores will usually be found in deprived areas – places the big banks and building societies have long abandoned.
Originally launched as Crazy George’s in 1994 (and re-branding as BrightHouse in 2003) the company has seen a steady growth over the last 10 years, and currently has over 150 retail outlets throughout the country. Taking their place alongside Log Book Loans (loans secured on your car), Provident, (door-step loans) and Cash Converters (the buyback store), BrightHouse are one of the leading UK companies that specialise in exploiting the poor and profiteering from poverty (Crazy George’s made headline news in 1995 after being dramatically “thrown out” of France due to its “over-inflated prices” and “unfair credit terms” which were deemed to be extortionate and ruinous to low income consumers.)
In this country, too, BrightHouse have been the target of several debt advice agencies and consumer groups (including the BBC’s “Watch Dog” and “Money Box” programmes) - this due to predatory lending and, in some cases, a clear disregard for consumer law. Add to that some highly questionable contracts (more than once subjected to scrutiny by the Office of Fair Trading), “hard sell” sales techniques, non-negotiable insurance policies and “bully-boy” tactics if customers get into difficulties.
Goods on sale at BrightHouse are generally more expensive than at other stores. For example, a laptop on sale for almost £900 can be purchased elsewhere for around £600, and even cheaper by shopping online. Plus the annual charge for credit (29.9%) is much higher than it would be with tradition finance. (In contrast, a typical bank loan might have an annual charge of around 6.5%.) This means that, on average, goods purchased from BrightHouse will end up being almost twice as expensive than if you had bought them elsewhere. And this is before any extra insurance policies are added!
All sorts of people can experience financial problems and, as a result, find their ability to obtain credit impaired. Often they will have little or no choice than to use stores like BrightHouse for essential items for their home. Although they must now accept they are considered “sub-prime” (and have to pay a higher price for credit), this does NOT mean statutory consumer law no longer applies to them, nor should it mean they are ripe for blatant exploitation because of it.
1 – HIRE PURCHASE AGREEMENTS
When you enter into an agreement with BrightHouse, you are entering into a HIRE PURCHASE (sometimes referred to as “rent-to-own”) credit agreement. Hire purchase agreements are governed by THE CONSUMER CREDIT ACT 1974 and goods being hired (purchased) are subject to the SUPPLY OF GOODS (IMPLIED TERMS) ACT 1973 (see section 5 below). Your agreement will be based on the original “cash” price of the goods, plus interest (APR) at 29.9%, resulting in a total amount payable. This figure will then be divided equally to provide your weekly (or monthly) payment. You will be required to make your payments IN ADVANCE for the duration of your agreement – which could range from 52 weeks to 156 weeks, dependant upon the value of the goods.
When you have made all the payments on your agreement, you may (in writing - and within a 30 day period) exercise the option to have title (ownership) of the goods transferred to you. If you choose not to exercise this option, you can simply return the goods, and receive a discount (based on their current re-sale value) towards a new Hire Purchase agreement with BrightHouse.
Other than at the end of an agreement, and if title (ownership) is transferred, the goods belong to BrightHouse at all times. You cannot sell them or dispose of them in any way.
(You can view a full copy of BrightHouse Hire Purchase Agreement Terms and Conditions HERE (Adobe Acrobat File - opens in new window)
However, even though the goods belong to BrightHouse at all times, this does NOT mean they can just stroll into your home and remove them if you get into payment difficulties. Unless you have actually consented to their removal, BrightHouse cannot legally remove (re-possess) them until they have:
a) Issued you with a default notice (in writing)
b) Given you an opportunity to put matters right (at least 7 days)
c) Applied for (and been granted) a court order
These issues will be explained in more detail in a moment, but it is important to remember that: AT NO TIME CAN ANY EMPLOYEE (OR AGENT) OF BRIGHTHOUSE FORCIBLY ENTER YOUR HOME
If you do get into payment difficulties, your first recourse should be to try and address the problem yourself. You should do everything you can to bring your account up to date. If you find you cannot afford the regular repayments, you should decide whether you really need the goods and consider returning them. (Your agreement allows you to do this, without financial penalty, if you have paid more than half of the instalments on it.)
Sometimes people’s circumstances can change, often resulting in a drop of income. BrightHouse make absolutely no provision for this, and totally refuse to negotiate any form of reduced payments – even for a short time. However, it may be possible to dramatically reduce your payments by cancelling any Optional Service Cover policies you have. (More about this in section 2 below.)
Strangely, and with complete disregard to guidelines from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), BrightHouse seem to have an active policy of forcing you into further arrears and debt should you fall behind on your agreement. They will refuse to accept part-payments, and will not allow you to reduce any arrears by paying a little extra for a few weeks. Plus, to make matters worse, they will then require the FOLLOWING week’s/month’s payment as well, making it even harder to “catch up” and bring your account up to date. You will also incur a weekly “penalty charge” (currently £2.70 per agreement).
For example, let's say your weekly payment is £25.00 (3 typical agreements - fridge, washing machine and TV), the punishment for being just ONE DAY LATE will be a required payment of £58.10. Eight days late and it becomes a staggering £91.20.
An extract from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) guidelines regarding the collection of debt:
It won’t be long before BrightHouse start chasing you for payment. You can expect a telephone call if your payment is just one day late! BrightHouse have also been known to phone around the names you have given as references and turn up unannounced at your home. They will bombard you with all sorts of “threats” ranging from insisting on a set time to pay - to instant repossession, but you should simply ignore and disregard anything BrightHouse tell you unless it is in writing. Any kind of aggression or confrontation should be avoided at all times.
If you receive a formal written default notice, and are unable to bring your account up to date in one go, you may like to consider writing a letter similar to this one:
(Send recorded delivery to head office, and copy to your local store)
cc - BrightHouse local store and your local Trading Standards (this never hurts)
If you have paid more than one third of your agreement total, BrightHouse must seek a court order before they can re-posses their goods – which are now considered as “protected goods”. (Note - if, after one third of the agreement total has been paid and BrightHouse do re-posses their goods without a court order and without your permission, then Brighthouse are in breach of their agreement and you are entitled to claim back all payments made previously on it.)
Even if you have NOT paid more than one third of your agreement total, BrightHouse must still seek a court order (return order) to re-posses goods from your home - even then they cannot forcibly enter. They can, however, re-posses their goods if they are in a public place.
If BrightHouse do decide to apply for a re-possession order (or return order), you will be notified of the hearing date and you will have the opportunity to put your case forward in court. If you want to keep the goods (and continue with your agreement) you must show the court you can still afford the repayments, and you should make a reasonable offer to reduce your arrears. The court will make a judgement and, if acceptable, order BrightHouse to accept your offer.
If you have paid more than half of the instalments on your agreement you may, if you wish, return the goods voluntarily and without any penalty.
More often, and as an alternative to court action (BrightHouse don’t appear to like going to court), you will probably get the offer of an account re-set. This entails signing a new agreement, which takes your outstanding balance, PLUS your arrears and starts “fresh” with a BRAND NEW agreement spread over a slightly longer period.
You should think very carefully before agreeing to this, because you risk losing all the rights you have accrued regarding repossession and early settlement, making it easier for BrightHouse to repossess their goods should you get into difficulty again.
If you do decide to accept an account re-set, insist the store manager (and you) sign the following covering letter and ensure it is stapled to your new agreement along with a copy of your ORIGINAL agreement...
Here are the complete terms and conditions applied to a standard BrightHouse Hire Purchase Agreement
Please note. These files are NOT hosted by CAG.
OK, now a couple of things spring to mind... Firstly BrightHouse have recently been awarded "corporate membership of the Plain English Society", I'm guessing that these contracts weren't part of the appraisal process!!!
And secondly, customers are expected to have fully understood all the terms and conditions in the agreements they sign at the point of sale...
"STATEMENT: All charges, terms and obligations in every agreement we make with our customers are explained in easily understood language in a personal presentation in store before the agreement is signed. We then test customers on their understanding of the agreement..."
What do YOU think?
2 – “OPTIONAL” SERVICE COVER (OSC)
“Optional Service Cover” (non-insured) contracts are provided by BrightHouse themselves, and added to your hire purchase agreement as an additional weekly/monthly payment.
You should consider cancelling any “Optional” Service Cover policies you have now! Because:
a) You can return the goods, if necessary, without penalty if you have paid more than half the agreement total. You do not need an expensive insurance policy in order to do this. b) The service cover is often applied automatically without giving you the option to choose whether you required it or not, and
c) the service cover is extremely over-priced (and totally unnecessary as you already have statutory rights), plus it represents very poor value for money when compared to a typical manufacturer’s own extended warranty as the example below shows…
Extended Warranty direct from ACER for a 15.4” Laptop - Available upon registering a new ACER product, or at the end of the manufacturer’s 12 month guarantee period
A single one off payment of £49.99 which provides an additional 2 years of cover to the initial 12 months guarantee period, giving a total of 3 years cover. This cover includes collection and return, all parts and labour, repairs within 5 days or a brand new replacement product if not completed within 28 days.
Caversham Finance (Trading as BrightHouse) “optional” service cover
104 weekly payments of £5.95 (total £618.80) providing service cover for the 2-year duration of the agreement. As ACER guarantee all new products for the first twelve months regardless, this figure only represents one year of actual extended service cover. The cost of this cover is extortionate and, quite simply, cannot be justified.
Of course, “Optional” Service Cover isn’t really service cover at all. As we’ve already established, all new products are subject to a 12 months manufacturer’s warranty, (which, of course, is in addition to your statutory rights – more about that later…) and any volume purchaser like BrightHouse will be able to negotiate massive discounts with outside service agents for any repairs that may occur at other times. No. “Optional” Service Cover is just a thinly disguised payment protection plan that HUGELY inflates the overall cost of the product, and protects the interests of BrightHouse and NOT you!
BrightHouse also appear somewhat confused over the word “optional”. According to their own terms and conditions, “optional” service cover is an “option” to purchase at the time of the initial agreement, and cancellation thereafter will require 7 days notice. However, BrightHouse staff will tell you that “optional” means the option not to purchase the service cover can only be exercised at the time of the initial agreement and, furthermore, cannot be removed thereafter!
This is total nonsense. Service cover is optional and can be removed. Of course, any attempt to remove it will invoke fierce resistance from BrightHouse! Local store managers, under pressure from their area managers, will have stringent sales targets to meet, and the revenue generated by “Optional” Service Cover policies is vital to them.
You should also be aware that BrightHouse has the right to terminate your "Optional" Service Cover policy with just 7 days notice to you. They have been known to apply this clause if an item is deemed “beyond economic repair” leaving you considerably out of pocket (and left with nothing) when this happens towards the end of an agreement. In contrast, a typical manufacturer’s own extended warranty would, at least, result in a refund of the premium paid.
To remove optional service cover from your agreement(s), put a request in writing to your store (and to head office). Once this has been done the store has to comply with your request. Use a letter similar to this one:
In much the same as an account re-set (see above) the removal of Optional Service Cover will usually result in a new agreement having to be signed. This is because the weekly premium for it is incorporated into the weekly payment schedule.
If you do have to sign a new agreement, and because you risk losing all the rights you have accrued regarding repossession and early settlement, insist the store manager (and you) sign a similar covering letter (as demonstrated for an account re-set), and ensure it is stapled to your new agreement along with a copy of your ORIGINAL agreement.
(You can view a full copy of BrightHouse Optional Service Cover Terms and Conditions HERE (Adobe Acrobat File - opens in new window)
3 - DAMAGE LIABILITY COVER (DLC)
“Damage Liability Cover” insurance policies are underwritten by BrightHouse themselves (through associate company Caversham Insurance (Malta) Ltd), and added to your hire purchase agreement as yet another additional weekly/monthly payment.
“…We may require you to take out Damage Liability Cover if you do not have home contents cover…”
Actually, there is very little “may require” about it. This additional insurance policy (around £250 on a £800 cash price product) is loaded AUTOMATICALLY and will only be removed if you can supply proof of "suitable" home contents insurance. (Of course, BrightHouse reserve the right to determine what is and what is not "suitable". In fact, very few home contents policies will specifically include items subject to a hire purchase agreement, and agree to settle with the finance company in the result of a claim.)
Nevertheless, you are led to believe this insurance covers the goods for damage, theft, fire, flood etc. But, unlike “real” home contents insurance it WILL NOT provide you with any replacement should it become necessary (not even like-for-like), and will only ever, at best, release you from your agreement with BrightHouse. You end up with NOTHING. In fact, you may even end up with a policy excess to pay (up to £100 in some cases) particularly on portable items – laptops, cameras and game consoles for instance.
Furthermore, in the event of a claim, the store manager will have the final say as to whether the policy should apply. He may, for instance, decide the goods where stolen or damaged because you didn’t secure or look after them adequately
Most people - even those who live in "high risk" insurance areas - can insure the entire contents of their home for less than BrightHouse charge for Damage Liability Cover on a single item!
Basically, “Optional Service Cover” (above) and “Damage Liability Cover” is just one big payment protection policy split into two (thus disguising its true purpose) and, typically, BrightHouse will rely on your lack of knowledge and understanding when applying it. The two policies combined – and based upon a typical £800 cash price product – will eventually add around an extra £850.00 to your agreement.
With this in mind, and taking into account the inflated “cash” price and 29.9% APR, it means that, on average, goods purchased from BrightHouse, with Optional Service Cover and Damage Liability Cover policies attached, will end up being almost FOUR times as expensive than if you had bought them elsewhere. By their own admission, BrightHouse claim that around 90% of their customers have Optional Service Cover and Damage Liability Cover attached to their agreements.
(You can view a full copy of BrightHouse Damage Liability Cover Terms and Conditions HERE (Adobe Acrobat format - opens in new window)
4 – LATE PAYMENT CHARGES
A penalty charge of £2.70 (per agreement) for late payments may, on the surface, appear quite reasonable - that is until you consider it is a WEEKLY charge and is applied to all agreements individually. (Most customers will have more than one agreement. For instance, a typical bed will be spread over two separate agreements. One for the frame and one for the mattress.)
This equates to a monthly charge of more than £11.00 per agreement, and assuming an average customer may have 4 separate agreements, this quickly becomes a monthly penalty charge of around £50.00. (This makes the banks and their highly publicised penalty charges look like angels in comparison!)
Punitive penalty charges are unlawful. Losses for breach of contract must only reflect the actual loss, and not be a way of profiteering. In much the same way as customers have challenged banks and had their bank charges refunded, people have also succeeded with claiming penalty charges back from BrightHouse.
5 – YOUR STATUTORY RIGHTS AND THE SUPPLY OF GOODS (IMPLIED TERMS) ACT 1973
Even if you do not have “Optional” Service Cover on your agreement(s), and the goods develop a fault, don’t be fobbed off with any rubbish that repairs have to be paid for and the responsibility lies with you. Regardless of how old your product is, and assuming it's been used correctly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, then BrightHouse have a LEGAL duty to comply with the SUPPLY OF GOOD (IMPLIED TERMS) ACT 1973 and either refund, replace or repair (dependant upon how old the goods are) as necessary.
Contrary to popular belief, your basic consumer rights DO NOT expire after 12 months! A new product should be of "satisfactory" quality, "fit for the purpose", "free from defects", "safe" and "DURABLE." The act relies on how a "reasonable" person would define "satisfactory" - and (in the case of a freezer, cooker or high end electrical product) a "reasonable" person would expect a new product to last considerably longer than 12 months! High-end electrical products and most domestic appliances should have a useable life expectancy of anything between 4 - 18 years!!!!!
Your rights under the SUPPLY OF GOODS (IMPLIED TERMS) ACT 1973 can last for up to six years!
It is worth noting that BrightHouse frequently supply second hand goods. Of course, they prefer to describe them as “quality refurbished”, but the bottom line is they will be used, re-possessed or repaired products – often up to 3 years old. Your rights under the SUPPLY OF GOODS (IMPLIED TERMS) ACT 1973 are somewhat more limited when it comes to second hand goods. You should, therefore, refuse to accept any goods from BrightHouse unless they are clearly described as “new” on your agreement.
You are perfectly within your rights to do this.
6 – CONCLUSION
BrightHouse target the poor. Fact! They also know that 100% of their customer base is “sub-prime” – people who can’t get credit by other means. They rely on a typical customer being unaware of their consumer rights, and unlikely to “rock the boat” and jeopardize being accepted for credit. BrightHouse fully understand this – and that’s how their business works. The company clearly aims to exploit the most vulnerable and ill educated in society and, once signed up to their extortionate credit agreements, treats them with utter contempt and with absolutely no concern for their financial well being.
During our research, we frequently encountered contempt and rudeness from all sections of BrightHouse. From till staff, to store and regional managers, through to customer service advisors and senior managers. Questions were evaded, or we were lied to. Phone calls were never returned. Emails were ignored. Problems were disregarded, and any pleas for help with arrears or payment difficulties were met with a total lack of sympathy and steadfast refusal. But all of this is hidden behind a very polished corporate image, backed up by carefully chosen high profile charity causes, and very slick cross-media advertising campaigns.
Therefore it comes as no surprise that BrightHouse recently embarked on a 12-month deal to sponsor the TRISHA GODDARD show on (channel) five. Research conducted by AMS Media concluded that 70% of TRISHA GODDARD’S audience match the company’s "typical" customer profile. Interestingly, a recent independent report also revealed that 70% of BrightHouse customers are totally dependant upon state benefit.
Perhaps what is needed is a drastic overhaul of the government’s “social fund” system? A fair and affordable credit system for people denied access to mainstream credit. Not grants, not means tested loans or handouts, but affordable (base rate interest) finance with repayments deducted straight from benefit. Surely this is better than watching £150 million drained annually from the benefit system by venture capitalists like Vision Capital - the owner of BrightHouse?
Last updated - 11th April 2008
Information on Brighthouse Collections Procedure.
With thanks to Welshtris
All debt falls into 4 catergories
- 1-7 days late phone call
- 8-14 days phone call and home visit
- 15-45 days home visit, contact references, no resolve reclaim goods
- 46-90 home visit to claim back goods
Anybody over 90 days is classed as a drop off. This means you will drop off the store debt system. No further contact will be made from the store but you may be contacted by the regional debt collectors, but these only work for a week at a time in each area so don't let them scare you. You will receive a letter during each of these time frames to say that court action may occur. This NEVER happens as it would cost more than the goods are worth(unless you have three 52inch plasmas!).
Brighthouse have no right of entry to your property no matter how much they tell you otherwise, never invite them in. If they stop you shutting the door on them phone the police straight away as this is tresspassing. All brighthouse goods have a book value. This is the value of the goods to the store. These depreciate in time, like motervehicles, if you are offered a buy out, make sure you are not paying too much for this and ask for the book value, they will be so shocked you might get a few quid off!!!
The last bit of advice I will share is that if you have paid a third of your goods overall price you have protected goods status. This means that if brighthouse reposess your goods you are most likely entitled to your money back, all of it! If you confront them with this they will not reposess, but never take a credit rewrite as this will cancel your protective goods status.
Useful contact information re: Brighthouse
Now then, we all know that Brighthouse has a culture of rudeness and ignoring requests for information, customer service, advice etc. This goes all the way from till monkeys, through to store and regional managers and right up to customer service advisors and SENIOR managers. Nobody EVER calls you back or returns your calls or emails... (infact most emails bounce back)...
A little research using the WHOIS register reveals that Brighthouse (Caversham Finance) own many web domains...
For their regular website they use:
http://www.brighthouse.co.uk/ (no email facilities)
http://www.brighthouse.info/ (no email facilities)
Interestingly, the "customer service" page on their website offers NO facility to make contact by email - although it does say "call, email, pop in store!"
It also gives their customer service department address as:
BrightHouse Customer Services
16 Grampian Court
This is NOT Brighthouse head office, and my guess it's just an "out-sourced" call centre.
Their REAL head office (and REAL customer service department) address is:
Reading RG4 5AP
Brighthouse also own these additional web domains:
Incidently, Caversham Trading Ltd is the company they use to buy/lease retail property which it then rents to Brighthouse Ltd
Now then, if you want to contact anyone at Brighthouse by email you can forget ANY of the web addresses above. For head office email they use:
All operations staff have email accounts in the format of:
SURNAME.FORENAME AT BRIGHTHOUSESTORES.CO.UK