ASIC has extended Class Order [CO 14/41] for a further two-year period to 1 April 2024. The class order relieves credit providers and lessors from the obligation to provide written notice to consumers about hardship contract variations of 90 days or less (known as ‘simple arrangements’).
The relief was due to expire on 1 March 2022 and has been extended by ASIC Credit (Amendment) Instrument 2022/81.
The relief was extended following public consultation through Consultation Paper 354 ASIC relief for simple arrangements following a hardship notice: [CO 14/41] (CP 354), issued on 8 December 2021.
We received six non-confidential submissions (CP 354) which have been published on ASIC’s website. Submissions from industry bodies indicate that:
- even when relief under [CO 14/41] is available, credit providers often provide written notice to consumers; and
- there exist some circumstances where credit providers benefit from the additional flexibility afforded by the relief so that they can respond quickly to consumers experiencing financial difficulties.
While ASIC recognises that consumer organisations consider that the class order should be allowed to expire, ASIC considers that this class order remains appropriate to support credit providers to be able to quickly offer temporary assistance to consumers, particularly as consumers continue to be impacted by the financial consequences of COVID.
In addition, ASIC considers the extension of [CO 14/41] will give the Government time to consider whether this relief should be made permanent through modifications to the requirements of the National Credit Code.
ASIC is the national regulator for consumer credit and consumer leases under the national credit legislation.
Under the National Credit Code, a consumer experiencing financial difficulties may notify their credit provider/lessor that they are unable to meet their repayment obligations (i.e. a hardship notice). The credit provider/lessor must respond by either agreeing to or declining to change the contract and provide written notification to the consumer about their decision.
The exemption from the written notification requirement for simple arrangements was introduced in 2013 following changes to the hardship provisions of the National Credit Act.
ASIC's Moneysmart website has guidance for consumers in financial hardship.