The $29m mistake that benefits Coast residents
SOME Coast residents have had a nice surprise looking at their bank accounts over the past few days, as they began to receive payouts from the Radio Rentals class action settlement.
Amanda Proops was among the hundreds-of-thousands affected by Radio Rentals' controversial "Rent, Try, $1 Buy" scheme.
The scheme allegedly charged customers "well beyond the retail value of the goods" and imposed onerous and unfair terms on their leases.
But on April 6, she received her long-awaited refund from the electronics company after a class action filed by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers alleging unconscionable conduct secured a $29 million settlement in December.
Mrs Proops was a customer of Radio Rentals for about 10 years, but said she was "happy to no longer be a customer".
"I was happy with customer service until the last two years. They were difficult to deal with, direct debits were always on the wrong day despite having the same arrangement for years, and then I would get charged from the bank as well," she said.
"I didn't really notice they were overcharging until the end of the contract and they would lengthen them out.
"We were charged more than we should have been with interest and late payment fees."
She said was happy something was being done and vulnerable Australians were financially compensated for the unfair circumstances.
"I am very happy that they had to repay some of the money. I didn't get rich from it but happy with the amount," she said.
"There are so many companies that take advantage of people financially. It was good to know I wasn't the only one."
The class action was started in 2017 in the Federal Court and claimed that between March 28, 2011 and March 29, 2017, Radio Rentals' customers in every state except South Australia paid too much for their Rent Try $1 Buy rentals.
It also claimed that Radio Rentals did not tell customers about all the costs and some terms of the rental were unfair.
Radio Rentals and its insurance company agreed to pay money for refunds to Rent Try $1 Buy customers, without admitting liability.
The settlement was approved as fair and reasonable by the Federal Court on December 20, 2019.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers principal lawyer Rebecca Gilsenan said the case was brought to highlight the problem, hold the company to account, and compensate consumers who had been ripped off.
"This was a very difficult case to run, and a difficult case to win, but it was important that this case be brought to illuminate what goes on too often with businesses that deal with vulnerable Australians," Ms Gilsenan said.
"Without this action, the company would remain unaccountable, bad practices would not be forced to change, vulnerable consumers would continue to get trapped in debt and they would have no chance of recovering a single dollar or achieve any measure of justice."
Nearly 70,000 Queensland Cash Converters customers will also soon start receiving compensation payouts after the Federal Court, on March 24, approved a $42.5 million settlement following another class action.
It alleged the payday lender breached Queensland credit laws by effectively charging borrowers interest rates more than 175 per cent per annum.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said those affected by the Radio Rentals settlement and who registered would receive correspondence after refunds had been processed from April 6.