ASIC has commenced civil penalty proceedings in the Federal Court against car finance provider Money3 Loans Pty Ltd (Money3) alleging breaches of its responsible lending obligations when providing finance for the purchase of second-hand vehicles.
ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court said, ‘Taking strong action against credit providers who we consider have failed to consider the financial circumstances of vulnerable consumers is a key focus for ASIC this year.’
ASIC alleges that in the period between May 2019 and February 2021, Money3 failed to properly assess whether certain borrowers (including First Nations peoples) could meet their repayment obligations before entering into loan contracts for the purchase of second-hand vehicles. Each of these consumers, and a substantial proportion of Money3 customers, were either receiving Centrelink payments as their sole income or were on low incomes.
‘ASIC is concerned that Money3 did not properly assess these loans to determine whether the consumers could meet their repayments without causing harm. These loans were mainly provided to people on low incomes, adding to their financial distress.
‘The consumer loans we are concerned with showed the purchase price of $8000 for a second-hand vehicle with additional fees and warranty adding another $3,000. An $11,000 loan is a substantial sum for a consumer on a low income to repay without having been properly assessed as to whether they could afford to repay it. In some cases the vehicle broke down, leaving the consumer with an unusable car and a loan that they couldn’t afford, compounding the detriment,’ concluded Ms Court.
Specifically, ASIC alleges that Money3:
- Entered into unsuitable loans with certain consumers, meaning the consumer could not meet their repayments without experiencing financial hardship;
- Failed to assess those loans as unsuitable by determining that the consumers could not meet the repayments without experiencing financial hardship;
- Failed to make reasonable inquiries about, and verify, those consumers’ financial situation, requirements and objectives;
- Failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that its representatives complied with the credit legislation and were adequately trained and competent.
ASIC further alleges that when approving loans, Money3 applied arbitrary expense amounts from an internal ‘product guide’ which were not based on the consumer’s financial situation and were substantially lower than their reasonably necessary expenses.
The matter will be listed for directions on a date to be determined by the Court.
Money3 provides personal loans and consumer vehicle finance through direct, broker and dealer channels within Australia. A significant amount of Money3’s business is with consumers who are unable to access a traditional bank loan for a variety of reasons.
The National Credit Act provides consumer protections to ensure that credit providers make reasonable inquiries about a borrower's financial situation and assess whether a loan contract will be unsuitable for the borrower.
ASIC acknowledges the input from consumer advocates and affected consumers in identifying Money3’s conduct and assisting with ASIC’s further enquiries.
If you believe you have been provided with an unsuitable loan, you should make a complaint to the lender. If you need help, you can call the National Debt Helpline for free on 1800 007 007. First Nations consumers can call Mob Strong Debt Help to speak with a First Nations financial counsellor – free call 1800 808 488. If you are not satisfied with the response from the lender, you can lodge a complaint with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (www.afca.org.au). A financial counsellor can help you with this process.
People concerned about the condition of a purchased second-hand vehicle can contact their state’s Fair Trading or Consumer Affairs office.
ASIC’s Indigenous Outreach Program also manages a dedicated help line to assist First Nations consumers with money matters – 1300 365 957.
The matter has been listed for a case management hearing on 15 June 2023.
Editor's note 2:
At the case management hearing on 15 June 2023, timetabling orders were made and the matter was referred for mediation. The next case management hearing is listed for 25 September 2023.
Editor's note 3:
On 12 September 2023, the Federal Court made orders by consent extending the period in which the mediation is to occur to 23 October 2023. The case management hearing listed for 25 September 2023 was vacated and relisted for 8 February 2024.