Accused of defrauding its customers, the smartphone insurer Indexia (ex-Sfam), the group that owns the Hubside.Store stores, is being summoned to the commercial court in Paris for “deceptive commercial practices”. Duped customers and former employees testify about France 3.
It is the story of a commercial empire that resembles that of a fairy tale. Except it ends up going wrong in the end. In 1999 in Roman-sur-Isère in the Drôme, Sadri Fegaier had a simple BTS insurance policy in his pocket. But he also has a lot of nerves. He persuades the town of Roman to help him get a loan to open a phone shop. His business is a hit, he quickly opens four new stores in the region.
Today, Sadri Fegaier is a 43-year-old billionaire. How did he climb the ladder so quickly? He first had a brilliant idea: to transform his company into a company specializing in the insurance of mobile phones and tablets. This is the beginning of Sfam, the French multi-risk insurance company, which later becomes Indexia.
“The really big innovation he insisted on in his marketing was to say ‘I’ll refund you everything’. And then to have it linked to a product that sold a lot with potential phenomenal customers.”says Manuel Jacquimet, consulting specialist in the sector, in the Special Envoy program of January 19, devoted to Sfam’s practice.
The real boost for Sfam was the partnership with Fnac. In exchange for signing a contract with the insurance company, the consumer could benefit from price reductions in the cultural goods brand. But faced with numerous complaints from customers who were unable to terminate their contract with Sfam, Fnac ended the partnership.
Sfam has actually been singled out for several years for misleading trading practices. The UFC-Que Choisir association, which defends consumers, has received more than 6,000 complaints from dissatisfied Sfam customers. In 2019, the anti-fraud authority questioned the practices of the group, which paid a fine of 10 million euros.
In Lyon, the former seller of a Hubside.Store store told us about the marketing tactics used by employees to get customers to sign as many insurance contracts as possible. “We learned a text by heart, which we had to recite a bit for the customer. In particular, we always had to tell the customer that it was free and without obligation”explains Thibault*.
This ex-salesman stayed with the company for two months before resigning. He was disgusted by Hubside’s business practices. According to him, many disgruntled customers called to cancel contracts. The aim was then to do everything to discourage them.
“Sometimes when a client asked to cancel, we told them we would. But in fact we did nothing.”
A former Hubside seller
“When clients called on the phone, the advisor would do everything to keep you on the line and try to avoid a cancellation. Sometimes when a client asked to cancel, we told him we would. But actually, we did nothing”, continues Thibault*.
In its investigation dedicated to Sfam, the program Envoyé Spécial reports that the company had designed software internally to provide a very precise procedure to follow the company’s teleconsultants in relation to dissatisfied customers. In summary, a teleconsultant had to wait for the fourth phone call from the same customer to effectively terminate his contract.
The Hubside stores have implemented a well-crafted strategy to attract customers to the store. On the sidewalk outside, a woman calls passers-by and promises them a free gadget, like an external phone battery. Then a salesman takes over the shop and offers the visitor various assurances before offering him a high-tech object.
“In reality, we didn’t give the battery if the customer didn’t sign”, notes Thibault. Another unfair practice, “sometimes a client thought he had taken out only one set of policies, in fact he was forced to take out three sets”, continues the former employee of Hubside.Store.
Many customers who have taken out breakage or theft insurance for their phone also experience more charges on their bank account. This is explained by Jérôme Es, resident of Ain in front of the France 3 camera.
“In 2022 it was the start of the mess. In May they took me twice. I called them to regulate the situation. They told me it would be done. But in August 2022 it started again. Until December when I had to taken out 6-7 times”.
video length: 01min 37
A customer defrauded by Sfam testifies
A Drômoise explained to us another deceptive practice of the Sfma. Marie Riffard Voilquié noticed the occurrence of new direct debits under the names of other companies on her bank account. The latter, however, belong to Sfam.
“I realized there were samples with different names. I had no idea where it came from.”says Marie Riffard Voilquié.
video length: 40 sec
Sfam case: “I had no idea where these samples came from”
Despite the fine imposed by the crackdown on fraud in 2019, the bad practices of Hubside and more generally Sfam have not stopped. “Three months ago I went with my cousin to a Hubside store and they did the same external battery sales technique to him”, explains Thibault*, the ex-salesman. He himself had subscribed to a service called “buy back”, which in theory allows you to change your smartphone every three months, in exchange for the monthly payment of the subscription.
But the reality is different. “You have to send the phone without being sure of receiving another one. They told me that there were micro cracks and therefore they would have to add 400 euros if I wanted to change it.”half laughs Thibault *.
Indexia’s deputy general manager, whom we were able to contact, defends himself against these various accusations. “We have companies that manage very large volumes of customers. We should not hide the fact that from time to time things do not go well. From the moment we are informed, we want to find a solution for our customers, because we want them to be satisfied”says Jean-Pierre Galera.
New consumer complaints filed in 2022 led to a summons last August by the Indexia group and its founder Sadri Fegaier before the Paris Criminal Court.
*name has been changed