Edgars accountholders at the helm of frustration

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

Many Edgars account holders who’ve decided to close their accounts are among South Africa’s most frustrated consumers right now, said Wendy Knowler in this week’s Consumerwatch.


The hardest goodbye

I continue to get a steady stream of complaints from Edgars customers, most about battling to close their accounts, and some about battling to stop the extra charges or interest being applied to their “six months’ interest free” accounts. The Edgars accounts story is such a sad, complicated one, the bottom line being that for many, 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, so I hear from quite a few sons and daughters of account holders, or mothers of people too busy in their jobs for the time they need to devote to closing their accounts or settling a dispute.

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A quick recap - Edgars has been sold by Edcon, currently in business rescue, to the Durban-based Retailabilty group, and its accounts management has been outsourced to RCS. And Hollard underwrites the insurance policies which Edgars has sold many of its account holders, their monthly premiums being paid via their monthly accounts. Sayon Pather wrote to me about this 79-year-old mother’s Edgars’ drama. “She has always maintained an impeccable financial track record,” he began. “At this stage in her life she should not have to deal with the stressful harassment proffered by Edgars, and now the debt collectors they have handed her over to, for R511,11, which in fact she should not owe. My mother's Edgars account was made paid-up in full and the account closed in January 2020. This was confirmed by the cashier and witnessed by family members.

“In spite of this, Edgars continued harassing my mother over the following months. This served to put an enormous mental strain on both my parents and is wholly unwarranted.”

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In April, Mrs Pather got a letter from the debt collectors saying she’d been negatively listed with a credit bureau. “I tried calling them to sort this matter out, but was told that I cannot do anything without my mother present.” 

I took up the case with RCS CEO Regan Adams.

Should account holders not go into a store to cancel? I asked.

His response: “Mrs Pather closed her Edgars account in a store in January and it appears it wasn’t sent to RCS. Hence the handing over, blacklisting. She had a zero balance at the end of January 2020 when the request for closure was initially requested in-store. The club fee, however, continued to bill as the club subscription, was not cancelled by Edcon. The customer continued to pay, settled and paid the club subscriptions again in June 2020.

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"Edcon, however, failed to cancel the subscription as requested by the customer.” So, twice, Edgars failed her; unacceptable consumer abuse, especially in the case of an elderly woman who prides herself on excellent financial management. In August 2020, the account was migrated to RCS with a balance of R156.00. At this point, the club subscription still had not been cancelled and the billing continued.  “We have now cleared the charges and the balance is zero on the account. The account will be closed and a request was sent to the Bureau to update the customer’s profile accordingly."

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“Yes, stores are able to accept the request for closure that is then sent to our offices to complete. In this case, you will note above that Edcon never cleared the charges or closed the account and hence this balance was migrated over to our platform.”

At the risk of over-promising, please email me if you are in a similar position with your Edgars account.

I will take up as many cases as I can.

Have a listen to Wendy Knowler's expert advice as she chats to the team further about this: 

A sticky, illegal mess

If you buy your honey from a supermarket, there’s a very good chance it’s not pure honey - and thanks to a labelling loophole, it could be 100% Chinese honey, and you wouldn’t know it.

Did you know that honey is the third most adulterated food in the world, after milk and olive oil? South Africa has to import honey, because local beekeepers are only able to produce about half the honey we consume. And here’s the thing - honey imports into SA trebled from around 2000 tons in 2011 to 6000 tons in 2020, 60% of which came from China, a country with a very dubious track record when it comes to various forms of honey adulteration. The rest comes mainly from Zambia, Poland, Romania, and Uruguay.

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That emerged at a virtual workshop on honey fraud, hosted recently by the South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO) and attended by beekeepers, retailers, and regulators.

The reason for Chinese honey dominating imports into SA becomes clear when you consider the price: Chinese honey is by far the cheapest of the imports. And here’s the problem - according to Professor Norberto Garcia of Argentina, President of the Apimondia Scientific Commission of Beekeeping Economy, there aren’t enough bee colonies in China to produce the massive, ever-growing volume of honey which China is exporting.

“And if you blend pure honey with fake honey, it’s not honey,” Garcia said.

“Local beekeepers can’t complete with the price of Chinese honey - your situation is particularly worrying.”

And apparently the blending of honey is a particularly big problem in SA to the point where the consumer really has no idea what’s in that squeeze bottle.

Currently, it’s not uncommon to see honey bottles with “Product of South African and/or China/or Zambia or Poland”. It’s allowed by our labelling regulations, because international honey supply varies considerably, but it does mean that the consumer cannot make an informed choice. That “or” means it could be 100% Chinese honey; no local honey in the bottle at all.

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If you are choosing honey off the shelf of your local supermarket, based on price alone, you’re contributing to the problem. According to Dyllan Roach of SA honey producer Peel’s, which has with beehives spread across KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State, when factoring in the cost of pure, bulk honey; plus the bottling costs, distributor and retailer margins, you should expect to pay R100 to R130 for a 500g bottle of pure, South African honey in a supermarket. But many “honey” products found on shelves are selling for R65 to R80 for a 500g bottle. This price would barely cover the cost of honey from the individual beekeeper, never mind the costs associated with bottling, transporting, and distributing the honey, Roach said. We can’t rely on government to test the honey in the supply chain - it’s just not happening, due to the huge cost of the sophisticated testing methods required to detect the ever-more-clever forms of adulteration.

If you do want to know that you’re getting the real thing, a good place to start is to find a beekeeper in your area and support them.

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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