A FURIOUS Gosport single mum-of-two was reduced to tears by weekly payments retailer BrightHouse when her 14-year-old asthmatic daughter ended up sleeping on the floor for almost five months waiting for a replacement bed.
Erica Neave has been a loyal customer of the firm for 11 years. The facility to pay weekly for household essentials has greatly helped her furnish the family home despite her endless struggle trying to make ends meet.
Her nightmare began two years ago when she was in the process of fitting out daughter Madison’s bedroom. She’d already bought and paid around £1,000 for a dressing table set and chairs but to complete the makeover a suitable bed to go with it became a priority.
She arranged to buy a bed, but insisted on a replacement under the BrightHouse product insurance scheme when it developed a fault they couldn’t get sorted.
She thought arranging it would be a doddle, so with £312 of repayments for the bed behind her she got the ball rolling.
‘Because the bed was insured, if it’s faulty or they can’t repair it they have to replace it like for like,’ the 44-year-old care worker said.
‘They spent an age faffing around getting someone out to look at the bed only to realise they couldn’t get me a suitable replacement in the same price range.
‘Instead they wanted me to order a more expensive bed, but I said I wasn’t prepared to go along with that as they’d taken my insurance money and it was up to them to get it fixed.
‘They were trying to find me another bed around the same price range so I didn’t have to pay any more. Finally they came up with nothing more than a divan base which didn’t have a headboard.
‘It wasn’t anything like the original bed I bought and wasn’t what my daughter wanted. When the delivery team dropped it off they’re supposed to assemble it to make sure it was alright, but they just left it unpacked and drove away despite BrightHouse charging a setting up fee.
‘I phoned the Gosport shop to complain and ask about a headboard. They arranged to drop one off within a week. I didn’t want any more hassle and agreed to take the divan just to get it sorted.
‘When I went to unwrap and build it, two of the wheels wouldn’t fit. I phoned the shop and they said all I had to do was to bang them in, but I told them it was impossible – the base was faulty. So they sent out their delivery people again who finally took it away for a refund.
‘The shop then called to say I wouldn’t get a refund cheque to buy my daughter a replacement bed until they received the bed back despite having collected it. They were hopeless. Nobody seemed know what they were doing.
‘Every time I contacted the shop to chase things up all I kept getting was ‘get onto head office’ because the management claimed they didn’t have the authority to do anything.
‘But when I called head office they insisted I ring the shop manager instead. I was just being sent back and forth, and given the run around.’
As if matters couldn’t get much worse her asthmatic daughter was left to sleep on a mattress on the floor for weeks while an increasingly angry Erica spent hours on the phone chasing up the refund cheque.
But the bitter row intensified when the promised refund proved elusive.
Initially she was told it would take ten days for the cheque to drop through her letterbox. When it didn’t arrive it was revised to 14 days.
The last straw was when an incandescent Erica got onto the firm’s customer relations people to complain that she’d been sent a default notice for a missed bed repayment, only to be told issuing her a refund cheque could take up to six weeks.
Fighting back tears of frustration with the way she was being treated, she asked Streetwise if we could intervene on her behalf.
Our background enquiries revealed BrightHouse is the trading name of Caversham Finance Ltd., owned by private equity firm Vision Capital.
Critics claim that it sells its furniture, TV’s, and white goods on hire purchase at exorbitant rates of interest to low income vulnerable customers and insists on expensive mandatory insurance cover.
Last October BrightHouse, which has around 250 stores in prominent high street locations, was ordered by the Financial Services Authority to repay customers £14.8 million after the watchdog found it had treated them unfairly.
Once we got on the case we expressed the view that the firm were in breach of contract and Erica should be promptly refunded. We asked them to investigate.
We were particularly perturbed at the shambolic response to her legitimate complaints, and the dismissive way she’d been treated. It looked like a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right was doing.
Within 48 hours of raising our concerns Erica took a call from head office to say the cheque for £312 was on its way.
A spokesperson said: ‘We’re sorry that it took longer than expected to resolve this issue. This has now happened following a conversation with our customer, who has already received the cheque.
‘We have also made a good will payment of £50 to recognise that this customer didn’t receive our usual high quality service.’
Erica was astonished by the speed of the response.
‘As soon as I spoke to Streetwise there was a cheque at the door,’ she said. ‘I went straight out and bought my daughter a beautiful bed for just £129.‘I’m just so angry at the way I was treated. I’ll never shop with them again. I really can’t thank you enough for helping me and my family.’