It’s not the long awaited comprehensive credit reporting, but it is the Consumer Credit Legislation Amendment (Enhancements) Bill 2012 passed by Parliament yesterday and waiting for Royal Assent. The reforms will among other things, alter laws around financial hardship, and put the first national cap on payday loans – which should assist those people who are struggling with credit and access to credit. We look at what this Bill will and won’t do for people on the fringe, or people who are under hardship, and what the implications will be in terms of their credit file and maintaining a good credit rating.
By Graham Doessel, Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs and www.fixmybadcredit.com.au.
For someone who is struggling with debt, keeping your head just above water and avoiding defaults is the best thing you can do for yourself. This is why the ‘streamlining’ of laws around financial hardship is so important. For someone who is suffering temporary hardship to be able to discuss alternative arrangements with their lender other than being hit with a default on their credit file is so vitally important because if they are unable to secure a hardship variation, the consequences can be dire – which starts with defaults, and can end with more debt and defaults.
The consequences of having a negative credit listing, whether that be a default, a Judgment, a writ or a Clearout is generally a ‘lock-down’ of mainstream credit services for the term of the listing which is between 5 and 7 years. Once that lower-interest option is no longer available to you, it’s time to seek aid in other areas, especially in times of emergency. So that is where the payday lenders come in, or non-conforming lenders in the mortgage marketplace. These lenders have a bigger ‘risk’ because you may have a bad credit record, so they charge more in interest to offset that risk.
The Government has decided to crack down on payday lenders and cap their interest rates. Minister for Financial Services Bill Shorten said in a statement to the media yesterday, that these reforms will stop loan sharks from exploiting vulnerable Australians:
“These laws will place reasonable limits on what lenders can charge. The cap on costs appropriately balances consumer protection while still allowing lenders a return that is commercial.”
“The Gillard Government has moved to reduce the financial harm caused by lenders who ruthlessly impose excessive fees and charges simply because vulnerable consumers cannot obtain alternative access to credit. These reforms continue the Gillard Government’s ongoing commitment to deliver a fair go for all Australians,” explained Mr Shorten.
The Enhancements Bill introduces a cap for small amount credit contracts where the amount borrowed is $2000 or less, and the term is 1 year or less. For these loans the maximum any lender can charge is an establishment fee of 20 per cent of the amount of credit upfront and 4 per cent for each month of the loan. This provides for maximum charges of $72 on a loan of $300 over 1 month.
The legislation will also introduce a number of other reforms according to Mr Shorten:
- Applying a cap to other credit contracts based on the 48% cap currently in force in some Australian States. The Commonwealth cap addresses the range of avoidance techniques lenders currently have devised to avoid that cap.
- Responsible lending obligations to address high risk conduct by small amount lenders.
- For seniors who use reverse mortgages, greater certainty as to future outcomes when they enter into such contracts that the amount they are required to pay cannot exceed the value of the equity in their home (through a no negative equity guarantee).
- Simplifying the procedures for borrowers to apply for a variation to their repayments on the grounds of financial hardship, as it is in the best interests of both parties to try and resolve these situations as quickly and simply as possible.
Some objected to the Bill, saying the Government had effectively gone soft on the payday lenders.
In The Australian, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the final version was so weak it could have been written by the loan sharks.
As a credit repairer, I am of the view that any restriction on interest rate for pay day loans is a welcome move. But I see the bigger picture. Some people who are forced into these situations are there because the system has failed them. Not all defaults deserve to be there, but they all have the same outcome for prospective borrowers. They are banned from obtaining mainstream credit.
Where people are getting let down is in copping the mistake in the first place, and also in the correction of the credit reporting mistake. Whilst the powers that be say that there is a legitimate avenue for correcting credit reporting mistakes for the individual, any consumer who has had the pleasure of dealing with a big company for even small issues will attest to the difficulty in getting a straight answer, getting someone who knows what they’re talking about first time, and ultimately correcting the mistake. This is a common complaint of many of our credit repair clients. Most people are told if it’s paid up they can mark it as such but that’s about it. It’s a bit like David and Goliath, and in the end many just go away believing they are in the wrong.
So in an emergency situation, people who are stuck with bad credit must turn to payday loans. Including those people that aren’t able to obtain a hardship variation for their circumstances, and have a default or other negative listing placed on their credit file.
So I do applaud the new laws, but it’s not over yet.
I am still waiting to see how the new credit laws within the Privacy Amendment Bill will impact on the ease of correction of mistakes in credit reporting as well as how overdue payments are going to impact their ability to get mainstream credit before I hang my hat up and say that the Government has done all it can to help vulnerable consumers and give a ‘fair go for all Australians’.
If you are struggling with obtaining credit after being defaulted, and you believe the listing may be incorrect or unjust in any way, consider credit repair as an option to get an expert on your side who can help permanently remove unlawfully placed Defaults, Writs, Judgments and Clear-outs from your credit file. Call a Credit Repair Advisor today on 1300 667 218 to discuss whether you might be a suitable candidate for credit repair.
Image: Daniel St.Pierr/ www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net