Peddlers of ‘share trading software’ have been at it for years

Moneyweb has seen complaints going back to 2009.

CAPE TOWN – A Moneyweb investigation has established that the individuals behind the companies selling the Optimal Market Systems software have been running businesses of this nature since at least 2009. Over this time, their modus operandi appears to have remained the same.

In October and November, Moneyweb published two articles (available here and here) detailing a number of complaints that had been made regarding the sales practices employed by these companies. Since the publication of these articles, Moneyweb has received more complaints from clients with similar experiences. The National Consumer Commission has also confirmed that it is investigating these entities, and the Financial Services Board is also taking an interest.

In all instances, the companies have been set up by Lucas Cornelius (Lucius) and/or Lourien van der Merwe, whose business address is currently Pro Equity Court, 1250 Pretorius Street, Hatfield. Their first venture was established under the name Trinity Moneyline in 2006 and this was followed by a second, Mustang Marketing, in 2007.

Initially, these entities sold ShareTrackin software from C & K Moneyline. They used the direct marketing approach of calling potential customers, arranging face-to-face meetings, and persuading them buy the software packages for thousands of rands.

The first complaint Moneyweb is aware of regarding their methods is from someone who signed up in May 2009. Over the years, the complaints remain very similar.

Customers allege that salespeople assure them of high returns and money back guarantees if they are unsatisfied. They are also allegedly told that they can pay off their purchases over a budget period of up to five years, and in some cases that they will only be required to start paying if they are satisfied with the product after the six month trial period.

However, once they have signed their contracts, customers allege that full payment comes off their credit card immediately. Others claim that the company also takes further, unauthorised amounts off their accounts.

When these customers attempt to return their products for a refund, they allege that they are met with excuses and obfuscation. A common complaint is that the refund is refused because the software package had been opened. However, many customers claim that the products are opened by the company’s own salespeople at the time of purchase.

C & K Moneyline has told Moneyweb that the complaints against these companies led them to end their agreement with them in 2013. A representative from C & K Moneyline, Marika Droskie, told Moneyweb that:

“On the 13th of September 2013 C & K Moneyline issued a notice of a formal investigation to Lucius and Lourien van der Merwe and suspended their rights in terms of an Agency Agreement to market and sell our products and services pending the outcome of the investigation. The investigation was based on complaints similar to those that Moneyweb was reporting on ….

“Two days after this notice was send (sic) to them they vacated their office premises. C & K Moneyline then released a notice distancing ourselves from Lucius van der Merwe, Lourien van der Merwe and any business that they are either members or directors of.”

However, in a letter to Moneyweb, lawyers acting for the Van der Merwe’s dispute this version of events.

“The relationship between our clients and and C & K Moneyline has broken down irretrievably due to our clients being victimised by C & K Moneyline,” the letter states. It goes on to claim that “our clients are in possession of the necessary proof of confirmation of abovementioned (sic)”.

Moneyweb requested to see this proof, but had however received no response by the time of publication. The Van der Merwe’s also did not provide any details on what form this victimisation took.

Moneyweb has also confirmed that two months after C & K Moneyline ended its relationship Mustang Marketing, Nedbank closed the company as a merchant and removed all card devices from it. Moneyweb asked the bank for clarification on why it took this step, but Nedbank would not disclose the reasons, citing client confidentiality.

In the course of 2013, the Van der Merwe’s also established two new companies – Cursu Taurorum and Tenacity Capital. These are the companies about which Moneyweb has received the most complaints.

Having been excluded from selling the SharetTrackin product, these companies now sell the Optimal Market Systems software. As with ShareTrackin, the product itself does legitimately provide analysis on JSE-listed companies, although it is not actually a trading system. The sales techniques employed are however questionable.

In more than one instance, complainants allege that salespeople take multiple credit card impressions on blank credit card slips, which they ask customers to sign. If they are questioned, the salespeople state that this is just company policy but they don’t know what they are used for.

Moneyweb is in possession of documentation which shows that both Cursu Taurom and Tenacity Capital have accounts with Nedbank. Following requests, Nedbank has confirmed that it is investigating these merchants.

Rakesh Ranchod, executive head of Nedbank card customer management said that: “As a responsible financial services provider, we view this matter in a serious light and we are conducting investigations on this issue and will advise in due course.”

Furthermore, Moneyweb has learnt that two new companies were recently established to sell the same software, using the same methods. In at least two instances, they even employ the same salespeople – Michael Rathbone and Cyle Gouws.

The new entities are VDM Capital and Pro Equity Management. Their business addresses are the same as those of the other companies, and the contracts given to customers are also almost identical.

Company records confirm that Lucas Cornelius (Lucius) van der Merwe is currently the only active director of Trinity Moneyline, Cursu Taurorum, CT Capital Management, VDM Capital, and another company operating under the name VDM Employment. Lourien van der Merwe is currently the only active director of Mustang Marketing, Tenacity Capital and Pro Equity Management.

Trinity Moneyline in currently in voluntary liquidation, while Mustang Marketing is in the process of being de-registered.

The Van der Merwe’s did not respond to questions from Moneyweb regarding why Nedbank closed Mustang Marketing as a merchant, why it is necessary for them to operate a number of different companies that all do the same thing, or why company salespeople request that clients sign blank credit card slips at the time of purchase.

The full response from their lawyers can be downloaded here.

COMMENTS   1

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Rogues.

I know a few people who have been fleeced by these people.

The sales people make massive promises which are blatant lies and then debit your card for R20000 immediately instead of the free trial as promised.

Try to get your money back at the end of the trial and there is an avalanche of more lies.

These people are thieves. Plain and simple.

You have been warned.

End of comments.

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