Accused of deceiving its customers, the smartphone insurer Indexia (ex-Sfam), the group that owns the Hubside.Store stores, is summoned before the Paris commercial court for “misleading commercial practices”. Duped customers and ex-employees testify to France 3.
It is the story of a commercial empire, which resembles that of a fairy tale. Except that in the end, things end badly. In 1999 in Roman-sur-Isère in the Drôme, Sadri Fegaier has a simple BTS insurance in his pocket. But he also has a lot of nerve. 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 billionaire at 43 years old. How did he climb the ladder so quickly? He first had a brilliant idea: to transform his business 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 will later become Indexia.
“The very big innovation he insisted on in his marketing was to say ‘I’ll reimburse you everything’. And then, it was to have associated that with a product that was selling a lot with potential phenomenal customers”says Manuel Jacquimet, consultant specialist in the sector, in the Special Envoy program of January 19 devoted to the practices of Sfam.
The real boost for Sfam was the partnership with Fnac. In exchange for subscribing to a contract with the insurance company, the consumer could benefit from price reductions in the cultural products 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 commercial practices. The UFC-Que Choisir association, which defends consumers, has received more than 6,000 complaints from dissatisfied Sfam customers. In 2019, the fraud prevention authority questioned the practices of the group, which paid a fine of 10 million euros.
In Lyon, the former salesman of a Hubside.Store store, told us about the marketing tactics deployed by employees to get customers to sign as many insurance contracts as possible. “We were taught a text by heart that we had to recite to the customer a little. In particular, we always had to tell the customer that it was free and without obligation”explains Thibault*.
This ex-salesman stayed two months in the company before resigning. He was disgusted by Hubside’s business practices. According to him, many disgruntled customers were calling to terminate contracts. The objective was then to do everything to dissuade them.
“Sometimes, when a client asked to cancel, we told him that we were going to do it. But in fact, we did nothing”
A former Hubside salesman
“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 that we were going to do it. But in fact, we don’t did nothing”, continues Thibault*.
In its investigation dedicated to Sfam, the program Envoyé Spécial reports that the company had designed software internally to give a very precise procedure to follow to the company’s teleconsultants in the face of 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 deployed a well-honed strategy to attract customers to the store. On the sidewalk, outside, a woman calls out to passers-by and promises them a free gadget, like an external phone battery. Then, a salesperson takes over in the shop and offers the visitor various insurances before offering him a high-tech object.
“In reality, we did not give the battery if the customer did not sign”, notes Thibault. Another unfair practice, “sometimes a client thought he had signed for only one set of insurance, in fact he was made to sign three sets”, continues the ex-employee of Hubside.Store.
Many customers who have taken out breakage or theft insurance for their phone are also seeing multiple charges to their bank account. This is explained by Jérôme Es, a resident of Ain in front of the France 3 camera.
“In 2022, that was the start of the mess. In May, they took me twice. I called them to regularize the situation. They told me that it would be done. But in August 2022, it started again . Until December when I had to be sampled 6-7 times”.
video length: 01min 37
A customer deceived by Sfam testifies
A Drômoise explained to us another deceptive practice of the Sfma. Marie Riffard Voilquié noticed the appearance of new direct debits under the names of other companies on her bank account. The latter, however, belong to the Sfam.
“I realized that there were samples with different names. I had no idea where it came from”says Marie Riffard Voilquié.
video length: 40sec
Sfam case: “I had no idea where these samples came from”
Despite the fine imposed by the repression of fraud in 2019, the bad practices of Hubside and more broadly of Sfam have not ceased. “I went three months ago with my cousin to a Hubside store and they did the same external battery sales technique to him”, explains Thibault*, the ex-seller. He himself had subscribed to a service called “buy back” which allows, in theory, to change smartphone every three months, against the monthly payment of the subscription.
But the reality is different. “You have to send the phone without being sure to receive another one. They told me that there were microcracks and that they therefore had to add 400 euros if I wanted to change it”laughs half Thibault *.
The deputy general manager of Indexia, whom we were able to contact, defends himself from these various accusations. “We have companies that manage very large volumes of customers. We are not going to hide from the fact that from time to time there are things that do not go well. From the moment we are informed, we wants 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 from the Indexia group and its founder Sadri Fegaier before the Paris Criminal Court.
*name has been changed