Paid International Ltd, formerly known as First Stop Money Ltd, has paid $30,600 in penalties after ASIC issued three infringement notices for making misleading representations in its online advertisements.
The small amount lender, which operates nationally online, stated that it offered ‘instant decisions’ and loan approvals ‘within minutes’ for small amount loans on websites operated by Paid International at firststopmoney.com.au, loanspronto.com.au and paydayplus.com.au.
ASIC was concerned the ads were false or misleading because the lender’s assessment of a loan application was not ‘instant’ or completed ‘within minutes’. In some instances, loan applications took up to 72 hours to be assessed.
Deputy Chairman Peter Kell said, ‘This is another example of a small amount lender making statements on its website that indicate a concerning lack of awareness about the responsible lending laws, and an apparent disregard for their responsibility to avoid making misleading statements in their advertising.
‘ASIC is committed to ensuring lenders adhere to their obligations, to help reduce the risk that overcommitted consumers find themselves in a debt spiral.’
Credit licensees such as small amount lenders must make reasonable enquiries about the consumer, verify their financial situation and assess the suitability of the loan for that particular consumer before providing them with a loan. It is not appropriate or possible for a small amount lender or any other credit licensee to make an instant decision or approve a loan ‘within minutes’ if they are complying with their obligations.
The payment of an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the ASIC Act consumer protection provisions. ASIC can issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe a person has contravened certain consumer protection laws.
Paid International was issued with three infringement notices for the misleading claims made on each of its websites. Each infringement notice was for a penalty of $10,200.
ASIC issued Regulatory Guide 234 Advertising financial products and services (including credit): Good practice guidance (RG 234) in November 2012.
ASIC has also taken action against other credit licensees in respect of their false or misleading advertising, including: