Lewis Loses High Court Case To Avoid Tribunal Case
3 Years ago financial wellness firm Summit went to war with Lewis Stores over various common business practices that Summit say as being exploitative and against the law. Soon afterwards the National Credit Regulator (NCR) was drawn into the fray in when Summit lodged official complaints with them. The matter then spilled over into the media.
One of the issues was about Lewis Stores charging new clients (first-time clients) a delivery fee for items that consumers could (and did?) easily take from the store such as laptops and cellphones. It made Lewis a lot of money and allowed them to check if consumers actually were at the address (in case they later wanted to send legal letters etc).
Summit submitted that credit using clients were being discriminated against by having to pay such a fee for a product while cash paying clients were not. They also felt that the fee charged was too high in many cases.
“The National Credit Act allows for delivery fees but says that consumers should have the right to decide if they wish to use that service or not’
The National Credit Act allows for delivery fees but says that consumers should have the right to decide if they wish to use that service or not. Summit submitted that Lewis gave new clients buying on credit no choice in the matter and insisted on the charge.
The NCR considered the matter but decided not to refer the matter to anyone else and dismissed the complaint.
Once the NCR dismiss or reject a complaint the matter can be taken directly to the National Consumer Tribunal (NCT) by the complainant. In this case, this is what Summit did and the NCT agreed to hear the matter.
This obviously was concerning to Lewis (as they could be fined or face reputational backlash) so they decided to apply to a High Court to try and stop the matter from going any further. They feel that Summit has no legal basis to be complaining (as opposed to individual consumers who might complain) and would very much like to avoid paying back probable millions in delivery fees.
The High Court feel that the matter should be heard by the NCT and ruled in favour of the case going ahead despite Lewis’s concerns and the NCR’s dismissal. Judge Molefe also ordered Lewis to pay Summit for their legal fees in having to fight at High Court over the matter.
The NCT will, therefore, be hearing the matter and will make a ruling on whether Lewis was within their rights to force new consumers to pay the fee if they didn’t really need the service (and also if Summit has any standing to bring such a complaint on behalf of others to them).