We all know that sinking feeling that comes when the fridge-freezer stops working, the washing machine suddenly springs a leak or the mattress starts to sag so much that you can feel the bedsprings.
It can be hard to find the money to replace large household items, particularly if it’s an expense you weren’t planning for.
Many families now use rent-to-own stores to buy their domestic goods. This is where customers pay for things like furniture and electronics on a weekly instalment basis. You might recognise some of the shops from your local high street, like BrightHouse and PerfectHome, or have used online firms like Buy as You View.
Although these companies are becoming more popular, not much is known about how they operate, how they differ from other shops offering the same types of goods and, in particular, the customer service and protection they provide.
Buying an item on a rent-to-own basis is a type of credit agreement, so it’s an area we – and a lot of other consumer organisations – are very interested in.
To try and find out more about the market, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Debt and Personal Finance have launched an inquiry into the sector. They’re a group of MPs and representatives from organisations like us who are interested in issues that affect people’s finances on a daily basis.
They estimate that around 350,000 households in the UK are using rent-to-own companies.
During their inquiry, MPs will be looking in more detail at the products and services offered by rent-to-own retailers to see why customers are choosing to purchase their household items in this way, if they’re getting a fair deal and, importantly, if there are enough protections in place for customers who take out rent-to-own agreements.
That’s where you come in! The APPG is planning to publish a full report before Christmas, and is busy gathering evidence to be able to write that report. They’ll be speaking to relevant businesses, consumer groups and charities, but it’s really important that they hear from members of the public too about whether they’ve ever used a rent-to-own company and what their experiences were like if they have.
You can help by filling in the survey below, which asks a few basic questions about your experiences.
Responses will remain anonymous, but anything you can share about the things you’ve bought, the payments you’ve made and the customer service you’ve received will really help the APPG to get a true picture of how the rent-to-own market works.
Please send us your responses before Wednesday 22 October when the call for evidence closes.
Reading this on a mobile? Click here if the survey doesn’t work.