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Ethics in finance

Expect ethical practices from van leasing companies

In 2022, fleet vehicles posted growth figures of up to 2.8% year-on-year, according to the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), but as demand for vans on finance grows, it’s important for suppliers to continue to hold themselves to high standards of service, writes Jonathan Beadle, commercial manager at Van Ninja.

Vehicle availability issues are causing problems for leasing companies. Long lead times can make factory orders unviable. How many customers are happy to wait up to 12 months for their van? And in the case of orders containing Ford products, customers must wait even longer. Their order board is closed while they work through the backlog.

A responsible van leasing company should do its best to inform customers of realistic delivery dates and keep them updated if those dates change. This can be done by discussing vehicle availability with customers after the initial enquiry and finding a vehicle that suits both their needs and what will be available when it's required.

We would hope that all leasing companies have these professional standards. However, there are no guarantees this will be the case.

Unethical practices

Sometimes, vans are not in stock. And some leasing companies are adopting practices which cast the industry in a poor light. We have been told of leasing companies agreeing on deals with customers for new van leases, only to move the delivery date back 6 months.

Other cases may vary. First, customers could be accepted for lease agreements on specific vans, at a very cheap price. Then, as the delivery date nears, they will find that the vehicle is not going to be in stock in time. Instead, the customer is given the option to switch to another van of similar spec which is in stock but will increase the monthly payment significantly. It feels very much like a bait and switch. This sort of thing happens too often to be passed off as supply issues or stock problems.

This tactic, if it is deliberate, is damaging the image of the entire van leasing industry. Here’s the thing. Even if all of the above is genuine, how are customers going to see it? What is their perception? Many customers’ first and only experience of vehicle leasing will be a turbulent process in which they are messed around. The customer journey shouldn’t include having their vehicle model swapped, their delivery date changed, or perhaps even their prices increased.

While this practice might benefit individual leasing companies in the short term, keeping customers on the hook in this way can only generate bad reviews and poor word of mouth which will reduce customer confidence, and turn many customers away.

Is there an ideal approach?

Is it deliberate sabotage and a lack of care for their customers, or is it short-sightedness and an urge to get the deal done no matter the side effects?

It’s hard to say.

Reliable companies should work very hard to remain honest with their customers, keeping them informed every step of the way. Staff should always do the best they possibly can for their customers, and it is disappointing to see how leasing companies treat their customers. Particularly as transparency helps with customer retention and cuts out a lot of the hassle when it comes to fulfilling their needs.

Customers looking to lease a van should be given full transparency on vehicle availability, whether that is stock or an ETA on delivery.

Honesty with customers is the only way to develop good working relationships, and more trust in the van leasing sector is surely a good thing for everyone.