Consumer beware: balloon deals are on the increase
“But they signed the contract. It’s binding.”
That’s invariably what somebody in a smart‚ air-conditioned corporate office – and with the benefit of a fine education and generations of experience of entering into contracts – says when a consumer claims not to have known about a tricky clause in a contract.
Buyer beware‚ read the contract‚ and all that. Yes‚ yes‚ I’ve been saying that‚ over and over‚ for two decades myself. But how easy are the contracts to understand – who were they written by and for? The consumers who emerged from the not-so-good side of SA’s social engineering system? I think not.
The companies’ mission statements speak of “total commitment to customer satisfaction”‚ “ensuring customers are treated fairly” and the like‚ but their measure of fairness often excludes the realities of their target market.
Is it fair, for example, to expect a 20-something first-time car buyer, the product of a family that has never owned a car, to spot the fact that after they’ve made 71 monthly payments of say, R4,000 there is one final payment of about R80,000, when that amount is in tiny print with no “eye-catching” mechanisms such as bolding, italics or boxing?
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