IF YOU purchased furniture and appliances from Courts and paid for them in cash, you will not automatically qualify for any of the company’s loans.
Despite what the ads tell you, it’s not that easy.
Courts, T&T’s largest furniture and appliance store, branched out into finance in 2018 and announced loan packages for customers under the all-new Courts Ready Finance.
“Courts Ready Cash Loans is now open to the general public!” says an advertisement.
According to the information provided, no collateral will be required and you do not need 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 are eligible for a maximum of $6,750, says The advertisement.
All you need to do is walk around with two pieces of photo ID, a recent letter of employment and proof of income, proof of address and two references.
But a trip to the courts to apply for a loan shows it’s a little more complicated than advertised
A Courts customer who has been buying items with cash from the business lately said she went to inquire about the $30,000 loan.
To her surprise, she was told that she didn’t qualify, that she had to purchase a hire-purchase item first.
The customer service representative told her it was to “boost her credit rating” and prove that she had a good credit history.
After proving herself to be a high-paying hire-purchase customer for six to 12 months, she would then be eligible for a $15,000 loan, she was told.
She would then receive a 24-month loan at $925 per month.
And, at the end of the two years, instead of $15,000, she would have paid $22,200 to the courts. That means she would pay the courts a total of $7,200 in interest over 24 months, or 48% interest over two years.
The CSR said this would equate to an average interest rate of “about 24%”.
“So I’ll have to pay for an item, plus the loan, at the same time?” the woman asked the CSR.
The CSR answered yes.
Customers can also get loans from $6,500 to $672 per month for 12 months.
In response to questions from the Express Business, the Court’s public relations officer, Shahad Ali, said: “Unicomer (Trinidad) Ltd., doing business as Courts, is licensed (under the lenders) to provide cash loans up to $30,000.
“Courts goes beyond furniture to serve its customers, including but not limited to appliances and electronics.
“Courts provides credit facilities to its customers to support their purchases, meet their urgent needs and even improve their standard of living.
“That’s why Courts has been in the credit business for many years and already serves thousands of its clients.
“Courts offers cash loans as a value-added product to its customers.”
Ali said the company is prohibited from disclosing certain information regarding its license.
“Due to restrictions issued under the Pawnbrokers Act, we are unable to answer in detail all questions submitted.
“The law imposes restrictions on lenders regarding the provision and/or publication of information about their license and/or their activity of lending money.”
He said that so far their customers “have been receptive to all of our products and services under the Courts brand.”
He said Courts is part of the Unicomer Group, which operates in 24 countries and has more than 2 million active customers.
“The Unicomer Group has extensive experience in managing various consumer credit products in each of its markets across all of its brands.”
Unicomer Trinidad Ltd managing director Errol Le Blanc during a networking session at the company’s T&T headquarters in Freeport in June last year said they had started offering loans to the public in 2018.
“Now, with the decision to extend the Ready Cash Loan offering to all of the company’s valued customers, the company is truly diversifying the way it does business,” he said.
Offering cash loans is an alternative way to generate income, he said.
“In 2018, we started creating the Courts Ready Cash brand. The Courts Ready Cash brand is all about offering cash loans. He said loans were now one of the band’s main sources of income and were available at Courts stores.
“If you want to borrow money from the courts, that’s no problem. You can go to one of our stores and you can get a cash loan up to $30,000.
Courts has 48 stores across T&T with over 955 employees.
The company said it has invested more than $500 million in developing T&T infrastructure over the past three years.
The Unicomer group was founded in 2000 in El Salvador after the acquisition of the distribution brand of the Dutch group Ceteco.
As to whether the courts would grant banks and other financial institutions any form of competition, Karen Darbasie, CEO of First Citizen’s Bank and president of the T&T Bankers Association, wasn’t worried.
The banking sector is prepared for any kind of competition, she said.