Courts-store

IF YOU have been purchasing furniture and appliances at Courts and paying cash for it, you will not automatically qualify for one of the company’s loans.

Despite what the advertisements are telling you, it’s not that easy.

Courts, the largest furniture and appliance store in T&T, diversified into the financing business in 2018 and has been advertising loan packages for customers under the fairly new Courts Ready Finance.

“Courts Ready Cash Loans now open to the general public!” says an advertisement.

According to information given out, no security will be required and you don’t have to be a Courts customer to apply for a Ready Cash loan.

New Courts customers can get a Ready Cash loan of up to $30,000, unsecured, with up to 24 months to pay, while existing Courts customers qualify for up to $6,750, the advertisement says.

All you have to do is walk with two forms of picture I.D, a recent job letter and proof of income, proof of address and two references.

But a trip to Courts to apply for a loan shows it’s a little more complicated than advertised

A Courts customer who has been buying items cash at the company within recent times, said she went to find out about the $30,000 loan.

To her surprise, she was told she did not qualify, that she had to first purchase an item on hire purchase.

The customer service representative told her this was to “build up her credit rating” and prove she has a good credit history.

After she had proven she was a good-paying hire purchase customer for six to 12 months, then she could qualify for a $15,000 loan, she was told.

She would then be given the loan for 24 months at $925 a month.

And, at the end of the two years, instead of $15,000 she would have paid Courts $22,200. That means she would pay Courts a total of $7,200 in interest over 24 months, which is 48 per cent interest over two years.

The CSR said this would amount to an average interest rate of “about 24 per cent”.

“So, I will have to be paying for an item, plus the loan, at the same time?” the woman asked the CSR.

The CSR replied yes.

Customers can also get loans for $6,500 at $672 a month for 12 months.

In response to questions from the Express Business, Court public relations officer, Shahad Ali said, “Unicomer (Trinidad) Ltd., trading as Courts, is licensed (under the Moneylenders Act) to provide cash loans up to $30,000.

“Courts goes beyond just furniture to serve its customers including, but not limited to, appliances and electronics.

“Courts provides credit facilities for its customers in order to support their purchases, meet their urgent needs and even improve their standard of living.

“This is why Courts has been in the business of credit for many years already serving thousands of its customers.

“Courts offers cash loans as an additional value product to its customers.”

Ali said the company was prohibited in giving out certain information concerning its licence.

“Due to the restrictions issued under the Moneylenders Act, we are unable to answer all of the submitted questions in detail.

“The Act places restrictions on moneylenders regarding the provision and/or publication of information about their license and/or money lending business.”

He said, thus far their customers “have been receptive to all our products and services under the Courts brand”.

He said Courts is part of the Unicomer Group, which operates in 24 countries and has over 2 million active credit customers.

“The Unicomer Group has extensive experience managing various consumer finance products in each of its markets across all its brands.”

Unicomer Trinidad Ltd’s managing director, Errol Le Blanc, during a networking session at the company’s T&T headquarters in Freeport in June last year, said they began offering loans to the public in 2018.

“Now, with the decision to extend the Ready Cash Loan offer to all the company’s valued customers, the company is really diversifying the way they do business,” he said.

The offer of cash loans is an alternative means of generating revenue, he said.

“In 2018, we started setting up the Courts Ready Cash brand. The Courts Ready Cash Brand is basically to offer cash loans.” He said the loans were now one of the big sources of group revenues and were available in Courts stores.

“If you would like to borrow cash from Courts, it’s not a problem. You can go to one of our stores and you can get a cash loan up to $30,000.”

Courts has 48 stores throughout T&T with over 955 employees.

The company said it invested over $500 million in infrastructural development in T&T over the past three years.

The Unicomer Group was founded in 2000 in El Salvador after the acquisition of the Dutch group Ceteco’s retail brand.

As for whether Courts would give banks and other financial institutions any kind of competition, Karen Darbasie, First Citizen’s Bank CEO and president of the Bankers Association of T&T, was not worried.

The banking sector is prepared for any kind of competition, she said.

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