Resthome resident's bank account drained by clothing retailer

By Kristin Edge of the Northern Advocate -
A 59-year-old woman who set up an automatic payment for a $99 jacket, discovered she was still paying the jacket off at $20 a week, two years later. Photo / Thinkstock
A 59-year-old woman who set up an automatic payment for a $99 jacket, discovered she was still paying the jacket off at $20 a week, two years later. Photo / Thinkstock

A Whangarei resthome resident had about $1500 drained from her bank account by a clothing retailer for a $99 jacket.

The 59-year-old woman, who does not want to be identified, said she set up an automatic payment for the jacket from door-to-door sales team Home Direct.

But nearly two years and about $1500 later, she was still paying, with $20 regularly being deducted from her Westpac Bank account and transferred to Home Direct.

The company has agreed to refund the money but only thanks to observant staff at the Morningview Village who noticed the continuous payments coming out from their client's bank account.

Clinical director and nurse Michelle Wang said the resident had asked her to check her bank statement regarding a $400 payment to Home Direct about five weeks ago.

It was then Ms Wang also detected the weekly $20 direct debit payments.

"We made a call on behalf of our resident to Home Direct to see if we could talk to a salesperson to sort this out for her but we have had not much luck," Ms Wang said.

"We asked, 'Why is she still paying money?' - but we didn't hear back. She is a vulnerable person and she is living in a rest home."

But last Friday, only hours after the Northern Advocate put questions about the woman's account to Home Direct, a representative contacted the resthome and spoke about her account.

Staff at the home were told the $400 payment had been a mistake and it would be refunded plus about $1500 that had accrued since the woman had completed paying off the jacket would also be paid into her account and the direct debit had been cancelled.

The woman has yet to check her account to see if the payment has been made. But she is delighted to have had a response from Home Direct.

After a number of moves she has no idea where the jacket is but clearly remembers buying it.

"I remember they came into the street and then backed their truck up the driveway. They opened the doors and we had a look.

"To anyone thinking about buying stuff off these sorts of people - think twice."

Home Direct is a private New Zealand company that has been in business since 1973. They sell a a broad range of products including clothing, nursery, manchester, audio visual, gaming, toys, furniture, personal care, health and beauty products, phones, household appliances, whiteware, recreation and outdoor products.

In a statement to the Advocate a Home Direct spokeswoman said the company regularly wrote to customers which included a notice when their account was paid off.

"Customers have full control over their direct debit, which they can cancel at any time. Our call centre is more than happy to help with queries relating to direct debits and payments," she said.

In relation to the $400 purchase earlier this year, Home Direct said: "After due investigation a purchase that was billed to the customer was reversed and credited to the customer's account - this was at no cost to the customer and the customer has not been affected by this."

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