Edgars account chaos: A checklist of how to go about the closure procedure

Edgars account chaos: A checklist of how to go about the closure procedure

Consumerwatch’s Wendy Knowler has been kept very busy this week compiling emails from Edgars account holders who have been trying in vain to close their accounts.

Edgars problem

Never say die - those accounts that defy closure 

In last week’s Consumerwatch, we talked about the many Edgars account holders who’ve been battling for quite some time to close their accounts - in some cases those accounts suddenly came to life again last year with amounts for club membership and service fees, when the account holders thought the account had been closed quite some time ago.

The account chaos is the result of a whole lot of dramatic change for the 92-year-old iconic South African retailer, behind the scenes.
Edgars has been sold by Edcon, which is currently in business rescue, to the Durban-based Retailability group, and its accounts management has been outsourced to RCS. As if that wasn’t enough fragmentation, Hollard underwrites the insurance policies which Edgars has sold many of its account holders, their monthly premiums being paid via their monthly accounts. All in all, for many accountholders, settling the amount owing in order to close their accounts seems like an impossible task. 

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That’s mainly because those extra monthly charges, which get added to their account whether they buy goods or not - service fee, club fee, insurance premiums - keep being added for as many months as it takes for the company to process their cancellation request. Many just don’t have the time or the energy to get to the closed account stage, and for many, especially the elderly, the stress and aggravation is dramatically affecting their quality of life.

The issues include:

Account was closed in store or via email, but not actioned

Club fee memberships not being cancelled, despite requests

Long delays in responding to account closure requests, with the result that the “value adds” keep on being added to their accounts 

Being sent “from pillar to post” in trying to get closure

So at the end of last week’s show, after recounting a particular bad case of an elderly woman who had been handed over to debt collectors for an Edgars account she closed at a store last January, I invited listeners in a similar position to email me with their details, and I’d take them up with RCS.

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There was a deluge and I’m still compiling those cases, mainly because most people didn’t think to give me their account numbers, giving me a lot of emailing replies to get through. 

I’ve sent through one batch, and already heard back from a few people to say their account is now closed. I also heard from Retailability’s head of marketing, Terry Dale, who shared what the company has done in an attempt to sort out the issues:

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"As Edgars we have agreed with RCS to have their team assigned to our social media pages to respond directly.  This may seem small but it allows for direct resolution of queries as RCS have access to their systems for direct logging and actioning of query resolution (remembering that customers come to our social pages usually AFTER having tried to contact RCS directly).  This will be effective in the next fortnight. This means customers won’t have to share their details with us as Edgars and then we logging the call on their behalf and then waiting for the credit service provider (RCS) to respond.  We still retain a monitoring service to ensure the queries are being responded to promptly.

"We have agreed with RCS that billings of third party services, after the request for account closure, be suspended even though technically customers should be cancelling with the individual service providers of those products i.e. insurance products are administered by Hollard and Edgars Club is not an RCS product.  This is going to minimise, we hope, the pain around billings post closure and has taken a while to agree as there are multiple data points tied to each customer that must be addressed to ensure an account is fully closed.   Customers do however need to remain mindful that if they cancel in the month, after billing date, they would still be liable for the standard service fee.

"We have allocated additional team members from our own Retailability customer service centre to focus specifically on RCS queries/complaints coming through so that customers contacting us, as Edgars directly, are receiving personal attention.”

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Since September, he said: "We have seen a definite decline in the number of complaints pertaining to account closures, billings and credit service provider issues and improvement in response times but we will not rest on this as we will always be providing services and products to our customers.”

My offer to help those who aren’t getting any joy stands. If you include a short summary of your experience AND YOUR ACCOUNT NUMBER!

Take a listen to the key points to increase your chance of getting your complaints heard and your problems solved: 

Got a gripe? Here’s how to increase your chance of getting a resolution…

Hi Wendy,

Been trying to get past closing my edgars account since march. Fees have been adding on every month since and everytime i go to the store to inquire i still dont get help. Please help.

That was a fairly typical email I received in response to my offer to help people get their accounts closed.

No account number. No store name. No surname. But “please help”. HOW?

But about 90% of the e-mails I get, in general, not just about the Edgars issue, don’t provide enough detail or lack basic information such as dates, references, and contact details. So instead of being able to forward that email to the relevant company with my comments and questions, I have to email back to get the details. And given the huge volume of email I receive, there’s a very good chance I will miss that second email with those details.

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The sad reality is that I get many more emails than I can deal with, so I cannot promise to take up every case or even respond to every email. And not being able to act on an email without first emailing to get the information I need to take up a case makes me far less productive than I could otherwise be.

Here are a few tips to increase your chances of my taking up your case with the “offending” company - and this applies to any email you send a company or ombudsman, in the hope of kind of help or resolution.

*Summarise your case in a few paragraphs, don’t just forward a series of emails and attachments and expect me to figure it out;

*Special plea: Use “proper” English, not sloppy “da, dem, gr8” SMS-speak with no punctuation or spacing. When I open an email and find a dense block of that, my heart sinks - it's very hard to wade through and attempt to understand. And I assure you others feel the same. Save it for your personal interaction with your family and friends.

READ MORE: Edgars account holders frustrated by unfair extra monthly charges, Wendy Knowler explains

If applicable, supply photographic evidence of the problem. This adds huge weight to your case.

Supply all relevant detail. Dates, places, names of the people you’ve dealt with, your name, your contact details, and a proper sequence of events.

That’s how you give yourself the best chance of success. 

Contact Wendy

Get in touch with Wendy via her website or her Facebook page. Please note that Wendy is not able to personally respond to every email she receives. If she is able to take up your case, she will contact you directly. Here are other avenues for you to consider.

Listen to more podcasts from Wendy Knowler in the Consumerwatch channel below: 

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