Wendy Knowler

There will be no “699” class action.

Eastern Cape High Court judge Dayalin Chetty yesterday dismissed with costs, attorney Duncan Heuer’s application to have the R699-a month vehicle owners certified as a class, with a view to bringing a class action against the Satinsky Group – the company behind the now-collapsed “Drive a New Car from R699 per month” deal – and the banks which financed those deals.

About 24 000 people across the country are affected, most of whom battle to pay their monthly instalments since they stopped getting advertising fees in return for doing relatively high mileage with the deal’s stickers on their cars.

Heuer, of Port Elizabeth law firm Pieterse, Cary, Finlaison Inc, chose local resident Johannes Ignatius Bartosch, a contact worker with a motor manufacturer, as “the 699 man” to represent the others.

The ultimate aim was to have the credit agreements with Nedbank’s MFC, Absa and Standard declared to be reckless lending in terms of the National Credit Act, thus declared null and void and cancelling the consumers’ rights and obligations. The banks would then have to take back the cars.

In responding affidavits, the banks said Heuer’s claims were based on hearsay and speculation; that the Satinsky clients’ experiences varied too greatly to satisfy the requirements of a class action, and that the Port Elizabeth High Court had no jurisdiction to decide on the matter.

Judge Chetty agreed on the jurisdiction issue, saying Heuer’s papers were “based entirely on conjecture and assertions”.

“The entire case is predicated upon extravagant assertions,” the judge said. Assertions made included that the banks did not conduct proper affordability assessments, and the consumers didn’t understand or appreciate the risks, costs and obligations of the contracts they signed.

He dismissed the application with costs, to be paid “de bonis propriis”, which is an expression of a court’s disdain at an attorney’s conduct.

The banks welcomed the ruling yesterday. Nedbank said MFC, which has some 14 000 Satinsky clients, had a dedicated process in place to help the affected clients.

“We believe that this is the correct application of the law to the facts of the case,” said Absa, which has 6 500 Satinsky clients.

Standard Bank said it only granted loans if “all the credit and affordability criteria have been met”.