Love it or hate it, Brighthouse has become a permanent fixture in the UK high street. With over 300 stores nationwide, they are the biggest rent to own retailer in the United Kingdom. Brighthouse offer a range of household appliances, TVs, computers, mobile phones and even furniture and beds, all on pay weekly terms.
For many people, Brighthouse and other rent to own companies provide a vital service, helping them to purchase products which would be unaffordable if they had to be paid for all in one go. Critics of rent to buy stores say that their products are expensive, interest charges are high and customers are often forced to buy insurances, warranties and other bolt on items, driving costs up even further. In fact a government enquiry found that 1 in 5 rent to own customers were falling into arrears on their agreements.
How Do Brighthouse Prices Compare To Other Retailers?
Comparing like for like with Brighthouse was not always straightforward, as they used their own manufacturer codes on their website. They do now include manufacturers codes on their listings. However, it is safe to say that prices at Brighthouse are significantly more than at other retailers. We looked at several products to see how prices compared to other UK retailers. In some cases we found that Brighthouse products, with credit were nearly three times more expensive than when purchased elsewhere.
Iphone 6s – Silver 16GB on Vodaphone.
Brighthouse Price – £903.46 with Five Star Cover (more about this later)
Cost of Credit: 78 weeks payments @ £18.50 a week – total cost £1443.00
Interest Rate/APR/ 99.8%
Equivalent Item at Misco.co.uk – £622.80
* Prices correct June 2016. The Bright house phone is tied to Vodaphone, and has £30 credit, case and screen protector included.
Samsung Addwash 9kg Washing Machine
Brighthouse Price – £942.01 with Five Star Cover
Cost of Credit – 156 weekly payments @ £12.00 per week – total cost £1872.00
Interest Rate/APR/ 69.9%
Equivalent Item at Currys.co.uk – £599.00
With the washing machine example above, the item costs nearly 3 times as much than it would if purchased from another store.
So Why Is Brighthouse So Popular?
Brighthouse offers credit to customers who may not be accepted elsewhere, those on low incomes, on benefits and those with poor credit. Customers do need to be credit checked but Brighthouse is far more likely to accept customers (albeit on higher terms) than other providers of credit. The pay weekly terms make items appear to be affordable, and customers seem to prefer the comfort of fixed weekly repayments. Despite a survey of rent to own store customers revealing that nearly 75% of them feeling that they are paying too much, the difficulty in obtaining credit elsewhere made this form of borrowing a necessity.
The Infamous 5 Star Service
All Brighthouse prices are quoted with their 5 star service package which appears to be a warranty and insurance package rolled into one. Quotes given state that items are not sold separately so it appears that you must take out this package when purchasing an item. It seems to be added automatically when you purchase and despite looking through their site, we could not see anything which says this item can be removed.
The 5 Star service includes delivery and installation where applicable, unlimited repairs, loan products and like for like replacement. Whilst this looks like offering additional peace of mind, only around 5% of modern consumer products break down in the first five years after purchase. Therefore 19 out of 20 customers who have this insurance will never need to use it.
Apply Online Buy In Store.
Whilst you can apply in store to purchase a product, applying online and completing your purchase in store is the usual way they operate. Once an application is submitted, it is then credit checked and applicants are invited into their local store to complete the application process. This will include bringing the necessary documents to prove identity and residence. The customer is then pre-approved for a line of credit.
Customers can choose to pay weekly or monthly by direct debit. Customers who choose to make payments monthly will have to pay 4 weeks in advance up front. Customers paying weekly only need to make one payment up front. Easy Pay is an option which automatically deducts payments from a debit card ensuring that no payments are forgotten.
Brighthouse have been criticised in the past for the aggressive way they chase late payments. Home visits and numerous telephone calls are not uncommon. If a payment is late then a £5.50 fee is charged. If a cheque is returned unpaid or a direct debit fails there is a further charge of £5.
Brighthouse urges customers who are having difficulty meeting their repayments to contact the store immediately. Customers who have done this however have reported that the response is not always helpful or sympathetic.
Are There Alternatives?
If you have been on benefits for at least 26 weeks and need essential items like furniture you may be able to get a loan from the social fund.