Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

A Johannesburg consumer who has been battling to make ends meet for the past seven months because of Absa's bungling of her vehicle finance agreement received R60,000 in reversed debit orders this week. And R72,000 was credited to her loan account.

This was after Money took up her complaint against the bank.

The consumer, who asked not to be named, told Money she had been forced into debt since her ordeal began at the end of last year.

In November, she bought an Audi A4 from an Audi dealer in Johannesburg. As part of the deal, which was financed by Absa, she traded in two vehicles.

Based on the consumer's contract with Absa, the dealer was supposed to pay the bank for the vehicles she traded in, this being a deposit of about R72,000 for the new car.

But in December Absa was still debiting her account for the vehicles she had traded in, and also began deducting her repayment for the new car.

"I was left with R2,000 a month on which to live," she says.

In December, the consumer discovered that the dealer had not paid the bank for the cars that she had traded in.

And the bank had obviously released to the dealer payment for the new car and was short of the deposit.

"The dealer had told me it would take them about seven days to pay the bank, but apparently that never happened.

"In January the finance person I had been dealing with [telephonically] left the dealer, so I went there and discovered the place was closed."

Having held to her end of the deal, the consumer couldn't understand why Absa was effectively holding her liable for the dealer's failure to pay her deposit to the bank.

"At one point one of Absa's legal advisers told me I should authorise the bank to auction the cars that I traded in and pay the bank for any shortfall.

"I said, 'No way!'," she says. "I had no idea where the cars were, or their condition. I had received e-toll statements, so they were on the road and presumably still in my name, which was hugely stressful because I had cancelled the insurance on them."

Since she wasn't getting anywhere with the bank, the consumer turned to Audi SA. "They told me that dealerships are independently owned, but that they would help me out of goodwill.

"I had to hound them all the way up to the MD's office and they kept telling me they were investigating and that I should keep the matter confidential."

But after months of waiting in vain for Audi SA to conclude its investigation, the consumer engaged an attorney.

"Since she got involved, Audi SA has been more responsive and asked me for copies of my bank statements and settlement letters.

"Had I bought from an obscure dealership I would understand this. The treatment from Audi is really shocking.

"As for Absa, this is no way to treat a customer. It's been a painful experience."

Trudie Broekmann, her attorney, says the entire supply chain - the dealership, Audi and Absa - acted "reprehensibly" by making the consumer the victim when the dealership failed to pay the bank.

"This must surely reflect as a lapse on the part of the bank's systems. Audi has also failed to respond satisfactorily to our client to the extent that it makes one lose confidence in the brand. We understand there are other victims of the same dealership."

Faisal Mkhize, the managing executive for Absa Vehicle & Asset Finance, blames "an administrative oversight".

He says the bank has refunded the customer, removed the redundant accounts and cancelled the debit orders.

"Our records show that the customer's current vehicle account is up to date and repayments will proceed in line with the agreement. We are also reaching out to the customer in an effort to repair the damage from a customer-experience perspective. We take our customer-first approach very seriously . this deviation is of concern to us. Our internal investigation will help us get to the bottom of the matter."

The consumer says she will claim from the bank the R14,000-odd in legal fees that she has incurred.