On 16th February, 2023, the Commission commenced investigations against FINCA Malawi Limited on allegations of misleading conduct, unconscionable conduct and non-disclosure of material information.
The Complainant alleged that, on 26th April 2022, he secured a loan amounting to Sixteen Million Malawi Kwacha (MK16,000,000.00) from FINCA. According to the loan contract, the loan had a processing fee of 2.5% and an annual interest rate of 48 and free credit life insurance.
The Complainant also submitted that apart from the 2.5% processing fee (which should have amounted to MK400,000.00), he was also deducted MK160,000.00 from the loan amount disbursed allegedly for the insurance’s premium. However, these terms and conditions were not disclosed to the Complainant at the time he was entering into contract.
Between August and November 2022, he got sick and was unable to perform his normal duties which affected his finances. He informed the Respondent about his illness with the belief that the insurance for the loan covers for such circumstances. The Complainant was, however, surprised to receive constant reminders from the Respondent informing him to fulfil his loan obligations in time as per repayment plan. Furthermore, the communications indicated that, as per the provisions of the loan contract, he would also be charged loan penalties for these months since he was not able to timely service the loan. The Complainant nevertheless, claimed that he later paid these arrears plus the imposed penalties.
The Complainant alleged that when he inquired about his insurance covering serious illnesses, he was told that his illness did not qualify for the critical illness, and thus not covered. The Complainant felt misled.
The Respondent admitted that they provided conflicting information, but pointed out that the complainant was told of his obligations with regards to processing fee, commission and insurance premium.
The Respondents also acknowledged that some customers have documents that provide that the insurance cover is free when in fact it is not and they are addressing this issue by providing correct documents.
It was also noted that the fact sheet and the loan agreement forms have conflicting information.
Following deliberations, the Commission resolved that the Respondent should refund the Complainant the amount of MK160,000.00 which was the 1% credit life insurance premium which was not disclosed to the Complainant.
- ALLEGED MISLEADING CONDUCT AND UNCONSCIONABLE CONDUCT BY SANA FOOD COURT
On 26th January, 2023, the Commission commenced investigations against Sana Food Court on allegations of misleading conduct and unconscionable conduct.
The Complainant alleged that in August 2022, the Respondent was running a promotion on the sale of pizzas, dubbed “Buy One, Get One Free”. The promotion was on a “medium size pizza” which if a customer purchased between Friday and Sunday every week at a price of MK10,500.00, then the customer would get another “medium size pizza” for free.
However, it was observed that if a consumer orders the “medium size pizza” from the menu, the normal price was MK5,400.00. This gave an impression that the person buying the pizza under the promotion was already paying for the price of two pizzas, even though it was disguised as if the other pizza was free.
During investigations, it was noted that the initial promotion had phased out, particularly in that the prices for both normal pizzas and promotional pizzas had increased. However, the Respondent continued to run similar pizza sale promotions dubbed “Buy one, get one free”.
Further, it was noted that the promotional price for one pizza is substantially different from the price a customer pays when he or she is buying a single pizza under the normal price, generally very close to double the prices for each pizza if purchased under the normal price. It was observed that in principle, by purchasing one pizza at the promotional price, the customer was already paying for the second pizza, which is being disguised as being offered for free.
Following deliberations, the Commission found that the presentation of prices by the Respondent was grossly misleading, deceptive and unconscionable in contravention to the CFTA.
The Commission also found that the Respondent did not respond to the Notice of Investigation nor follow-up letters that the Secretariat of the Commission wrote to them. As such they were guilty of violating Section 50 of the CFTA, which makes it an offence for an enterprise to omit or refuse to furnish the Commission information.
The Commission therefore resolved to issue the following orders:
- That the Respondent should pay a fine of Five Hundred Thousand Malawi Kwacha (K500,000.00) for engaging in misleading conduct and unconscionable conduct.
- That the Respondent should pay a fine of Five Hundred Thousand Malawi Kwacha (MK500,000) for failure to cooperate with the Commission during its investigations by failing to furnish the Commission with information when requested to do so.