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22-105MR Former Rent 2 Own Cars directors to pay $228,000 penalty for their involvement in misleading consumers
Two former directors of Rent 2 Own Cars Australia Pty Ltd (Rent 2 Own Cars) have been ordered to pay a combined penalty of $228,000, after an earlier finding that they were involved in illegally providing high-cost credit to buyers of used cars.
The Federal Court ordered that Paul Green and Timothy Roberts pay $138,000 and $90,000 respectively, and imposed injunctions restraining them each from engaging in credit activity for three years.
ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court said, ‘As directors of Rent 2 Own Cars, Mr Green and Mr Roberts were involved in their company misleading consumers about the true cost of the credit they were receiving, with some consumers being charged interest rates significantly higher than the 48% per annum statutory maximum.
‘This conduct continued even after Mr Green was put on notice, by ASIC, of concerns about the conduct. As today’s outcome demonstrates, directors of credit providers who turn a blind eye to the risks of their company’s credit contracts misleading consumers as to the true cost of credit can face significant penalties.’
The penalty judgement follows findings made by the Court in September 2020 that Rent 2 Own Cars misled consumers by not disclosing the interest rate charged in some contracts, and in some cases by charging an interest rate higher than the rate stated in the contract. In so doing, Rent 2 Own Cars breached the National Consumer Credit Protection Act and the ASIC Act. Mr Green and Mr Roberts were found to be knowingly involved in these breaches (20-213MR).
Rent 2 Own Cars was placed into liquidation on 25 March 2021and deregistered with effect from 30 September 2021.
When imposing the pecuniary penalties, Justice Greenwood noted that the conduct in this matter was extensive and serious, and that Mr Green and Mr Roberts were knowingly concerned in breaching the law. His Honour also acknowledged the severity of Rent 2 Own Cars’ conduct, noting that while a pecuniary penalty could not be imposed on the company because it was deregistered, an appropriate penalty for its breaches would have been $775,000.
Mr Roberts did not contest ASIC’s case or defend the proceeding at trial.
Rent 2 Own Cars provided credit to consumers for the purchase of used cars, through a ‘hire-to-purchase’ contract entered into by franchisees acting on Rent 2 Own Cars’ behalf. Rent 2 Own Cars was deregistered in September 2021.
ASIC commenced civil penalty proceedings against Rent 2 Own Cars and its two directors in August 2018 (18-252MR). The trial was heard on 29 and 30 July and 1 August 2019 before the Honourable Justice Greenwood.
ASIC’s Moneysmart.gov.au has information and tools to help consumers when buying a car, including on researching car loans and understanding the associated costs, including insurance. The website also has information about the fees and charges allowable on loans and what to look for in a credit contract, including how interest is calculated and charged.