As the country and the rest of the world battle covid19, credit purchases and credit standings with financial institutions have become a major concern for many people. Especially so, since jobs have been lost, salaries have been cut, and several businesses have closed down.
In the face of the downturn, one of TT's largest retail chains, Unicomer (Trinidad) Limited, is assuring customers that their payments and purchases would be safe.
In order to help customers, Unicomer has restructured payment options as well as devised new incentives to assist them with their payments and purchases.
Unicomer's director of consumer finance Devon Romero, in an interview with Business Day at his office in Freeport, said the company understood the current challenges and sought to ensure their clientele had one less thing to worry about.
“We really had to innovative in a hard way. We had to activate a lot of alternative payment channels, so we used Pay Pal, WiiPay and SurePay that now allowed customers to pay online. We also set up a few kiosks around the country," he said.
“We are taking risks on customers where other financial institutions would not. Our requirements are a lot less onerous. While some of our rates are different from the banks, varying people can get loans. We lend to taxi drivers and Cepep workers.”
The Unicomer group comprises of Courts, Courts Optical, Lucky Dollar, RadioShack and Ashley Furniture Store and operates in 15 Caribbean territories, as well as the US and several countries in Central and South America.
The group was traditionally well-known for its retail sales in furniture, appliance and electronics but it has now expanded into financing.
“We have now morphed into doing two things. We offer financing to customers to purchase our products and cash loans to our best customers," Romero explained.
He added that with the onset of covid19, the company needed to ensure that their customers and business stayed afloat.
Romero noted that the cash loans were expanded to the setting up of CrediCare to assist customers of varying backgrounds, incomes and job statuses.
“CrediCare Assistance Programme is to assist people who have had permanent job losses, temporary job losses, which are further broken down. We have also included in the programme a mechanism to serve people who have kept their jobs but lost income, like no more bonuses, overtime or suffered pay-cuts. We also catered for people who have lost household income, meaning the customer has not lost income but the household has.
“Loans for existing customers range from $6,500 to $30,000. And new loans to new customers start from $5,000.”
Romero explained that based on how new customers pay their loans, this would qualify them for more. Unicomer has also allowed customers to refinance their accounts at a lower rate to make it a lot more affordable and has also offered payment deferrals.
One of the biggest incentives that they are promoting is customers’ insurance, although it has been in existence for some time now.
“The customers’ insurance allows the payments to be covered up to one year. So, if you lose your job or got a pay-cut just walk with the relevant documentation and all will be fixed. The customer does not have to lose their mind to make the payment because they are covered," he said.
“The customers’ insurance kicks in after the first six months of opening an account with us.”
To counter detractors, Romero said Unicomer has always been supportive of its customers and does not repossess furniture, appliances and electronics as a hobby, as claimed by some members of the public.
“Since covid19, we have done no repossessions. People don’t just get repossessed because they missed two payments. They have had to be in excess of four months of missed payments for consideration of repossession to take place. So, it is a myth that we do this without proper assessment and evaluations.
“Secondly, our phone calls are reminders about your upcoming payment dates. This is important and should not be ignored as it is here you can speak with a representative to find out about options if a payment cannot be made.”
Romero encouraged customers to relax for the Divali and Christmas seasons, as they have credit options available tailored to suit all people.
“We are here for you and want our relationship to progress into the future. Covid19 will be over in one form of the other and that includes normalising the measures for us to live with.
“During that time, however, Unicomer still wants a relationship with its customers. Customers are not paying because they don’t want to or do not feel to, it is because we all are genuinely stumped.
“We need to help each other, especially now,” he said.