21 Jun 2011

Government to crack down on loan sharks

1:54 pm on 21 June 2011

Consumer Affairs Minister Simon Power says the time has come to do something about loan sharks who prey on vulnerable people.

Mr Power is organising a financial summit in Auckland in August to be attended by members of the financial sector and community groups.

The minister says there are many credit companies that are transparent, responsible and open - but there are others that are not, and he wants to send a signal that their days are numbered.

"Governments can't regulate or legislate over risk. If people willingly get into a contract that they understand the terms and conditions of, that is a matter for them.

"But where those terms and conditions and the true cost of credit are not made clear, and that disclosure is not made available, that is an area for regulators."

Mr Power says a key question is whether the law needs to be changed to provide more protection for consumers, or whether that can be achieved through voluntary industry initiatives.

Earlier, he told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme there are gaps in the system with the type of information some borrowers get when they take out a loan, which allows unscrupulous lenders to take advantage.

"Disclosure is all about not how much you tell people or how little you tell people - it's how relevant the information is.

"One of the issues we got onto on the investment side of the ledger with these finance companies is people were either swamped with too much information, or it was hidden in the fine print, or there wasn't enough information."

Mr Power says he expects an action plan to come out of the summit to help people trapped in debt.

Summit just a talk-fest - Goff

Labour Party leader Phil Goff believes a summit would just be a talk-fest.

Last year, the Government voted down a Labour members' bill that would have set a cap on how much interest could be charged on loans.

Mr Goff says tougher laws are needed now.

"People are being ripped off, they're losing their money - those that can least afford it - they're losing their possessions. There should be protection under law."