Eco Life under investigation by SNAP Financial Group
“This type of alleged activity is absolutely not tolerated,” says SNAP executive
By John Bleasby
The ongoing conflict between controversial Sudbury, ON contractor Eco Life Home Improvements and owner David Murray with unhappy customers, both past and present, has now ensnared non-bank lender SNAP Financial Group. From November 2017 to November 2108, some of Eco Life’s customers accepted the financial services of SNAP offered through David Murray at the time of contract signing. John Bleasby spoke with Kyle Wenn, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of SNAP Financial Group, about his company’s dealer system and loan approval process, and its relationship with Eco Life. Although none of the allegations been proven in court, Wenn says SNAP Financial Group is taking steps to protect those customers who have made serious claims against Eco Life.
Point of sale financing is a part of today’s consumer world, be it cars, boats or furniture. The same applies to home renovation projects. Some homeowners might turn to a bank line of credit to pay for home improvements, while some might use their credit cards. Others have the money on hand and simply issue cheques or send bank transfers.
However, many homeowners, for one reason or another, look elsewhere for financing help. Companies like SNAP Financial Group then become an attractive alternative. SNAP is a non-bank lending organization headquartered in West Des Moines, IA, with Canadian offices in Vancouver and Toronto. According to the company website, the company has facilitated over $1 billion in transactions with more than 100,000 customers since 2006 in both Canada and the United States.
What SNAP Financial does
SNAP offers contractors the opportunity to present customers with monthly or deferred payment options for renovation projects as part of the contract negotiations. The contractor does not represent the lender per se, but simply presents the loan application form on behalf of the financing company.
Kyle Wenn, COO of Snap Financial Group, explained that like similar lending organizations, SNAP relies on consumer and industry credit organizations to qualify the dealer and to verify key elements of the customer’s loan application, like household income and employment status, as part of its risk assessment and underwriting process. At the contractor-to-customer level, the loan application process is very user-friendly. As this SNAP video shows, loan applications can be processed on a mobile device right at the customer’s home, with hard copies following.
Usually things go well — the loan is approved quickly, often faster and with fewer complications than with a bank financing. Although SNAP’s borrowing costs are usually higher than a bank, they are considerably less than interest on an overdue credit card balance. It’s great for contractors too — once the job is complete, the customer signs an acknowledgement of completion and payment is released. When things go well, everyone is happy. However, success is dependent on both the customer and the contractor following all the rules and procedures.
Things have not gone well, however, with SNAP’s relationship with Eco Life Home Improvements, as Kyle Murray outlined in a conversation with Canadian Contractor this week.
As part of SNAP’s dealer background checks, does the company look into court records for things like past convictions or judgments?
Only if they appear on their commercial bureau report. Some of them might not at the time, depending when those court cases were initiated.
Do company representatives meet with the contractor personally or visit their place of business?
In the majority of cases, yes, depending where contacts were initiated, for example at a trade show, or through an OEM [Original Equipment Manufacturer] relationship. I can’t say it’s done every single time, however it is a normal chart of how would we approach the underwriting.
Although not been proven in court, are you aware of the situation in Sudbury, and the recent allegations being made against Eco Life Home Improvements and its owner David Murray?
We are aware of certain allegations by customers of work incomplete or work not started by this organization.
How long has SNAP Financial done business with Dave Murray and Eco Life?
I believe from our records that he started in November of 2017.
Did SNAP do business with Dave Murray under his previous company name, Prestige Home Centre?
Not that I am aware of.
Have you received complaints about Eco life?
We have been dealing with customer complaints about Eco Life since early in November 2018, around the 10th or 11th.
Has SNAP Financial undertaken any internal investigations into Eco Life?
Of course. We take those types of complaints very seriously. A huge part of our complaint management process is to go through and contact customers who have complained. We investigated immediately and shut the dealer down pending further investigation. There has been no reason to turn this dealer back on, nor will there be.
So, you are not currently doing any business with Eco Life?
We have terminated all business dealings with that dealer as of November 13, 2018.
Have you forwarded any findings to the authorities?
We have a number of legal proceedings in place right now against Eco life in regards to these specific customer complaints. We need to express that this type of alleged activity is absolutely not tolerated. It takes advantage of well-paying customers, and is a matter of defrauding those customers and defrauding SNAP Financial. We will go to the full length of the law in order to protect our interests and those of our customers
Some of your loan customers have been contacted by a SNAP representative who has told them that their monthly loan repayments have been suspended pending an outcome. Can you elaborate?
The person who called is a senior manager in our Operations Department. From a procedures perspective, whenever we get complaints about issues like this, our normal practice is to suspend payments from the customers until we investigate further. So I fully expect that she has had those conversations and is following those procedures as outlined by SNAP Financial.
Have you any other comments on the situation in Sudbury?
When we started the company in 2006, the intent was to be another arrow in the quiver of the contractor. It’s very straightforward, just like taking Visa or MasterCard, or accepting a cheque. The ability to offer monthly repayments to those who might otherwise not be able to afford the project is important for contractors. What we try to do is put processes and programs in place that weed out the bad guys and let the good guys reap the success of those tools.
We need to express to the industry that it is important to be on the right side of the ledger. We have customers in Sudbury who had their jobs completed and are happily paying. I don’t know the exact circumstances of this particular dealer. Circumstances change. Nothing annoys me more than being dragged through this. We want to be with the good contractors, but it’s the bad apple that can spoil the bushel.
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