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13-182MR ASIC review of debt consolidation sector highlights weaknesses in industry practice and risks for consumers

Thursday 18 July 2013


An ASIC review of debt consolidation providers has found that Australian credit licensees which provide these services are at risk of not complying with their responsible lending obligations.

ASIC is concerned about the standard of record-keeping practices in the 82 clients files that were reviewed across 17 licensed providers.

Report 358 Review of credit assistance providers’ responsible lending conduct relating to debt consolidation (REP 358) found:

Deputy Chairman Peter Kell said, ‘Consumers that seek a debt consolidation provider usually do so in an attempt to turn their financial difficulties around. However, while debt consolidation services can be beneficial, they are not appropriate for all borrowers’.

Commonly, all existing loans, credit cards and other debts are rolled into a new loan with a longer term (often 30 years) and secured over the family home. Significant risks and costs of this include:

‘Debt consolidation is not a one-size-fits-all solution to financial difficulty. It is essential that providers ensure the debt reduction strategy they are proposing meets the consumer's requirements and objectives and is affordable both in the short and long term. We will continue to monitor this sector closely and will take action where we see adverse outcomes for consumers’, Mr Kell said.

ASIC's MoneySmart website has more information about consolidating and refinancing debts.

Download:

REP 358


Background


Debt consolidation includes credit assistance activities such as securing new or additional credit for the purpose of using that credit to pay off other pre-existing credit contracts or to reduce the total number of payments being made.

ASIC published Report 119 Protecting wealth in the family home (REP 119) in 2008. This report identified debt consolidation as an area where consumers were vulnerable and could experience very poor outcomes.

Following the commencement of the National Consumer Credit regime, ASIC has been undertaking reviews of such high risk segments of the consumer credit industry to assess how they are complying with the responsible lending obligation.

Responsible lending obligations, contained in the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009, require credit providers and credit assistance providers to:

In February 2013, ASIC updated the guidance in Regulatory Guide 209 Credit licensing: Responsible lending conduct (RG 209) to assist industry in understanding the responsible lending obligations including the new obligations under the Consumer Credit Legislation Amendment (Enhancements) Act 2012.


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