Consumer credit insurance confusion spurs ASIC overhaul

Consumer credit insurance confusion spurs ASIC overhaul

The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) has commenced work with representatives from the banking industry on reforming Consumer Credit Insurance (CCI) in Australia.

This type of add-on insurance, often sold with credit cards, personal loans, home loans and car loans, is intended to help borrowers meet their repayments if they lose their job, become sick or injured, or die.

But according to ASIC, CCI has long been associated with poor consumer outcomes in Australia and overseas, with many consumers being unaware that they have purchased CCI, or discovering they are ineligible to make a claim on their CCI policy. When compared to other common insurance products, such as car and home insurance, consumers may receive relatively little back in claims compared to what they pay in CCI premiums.

Following prior ASIC audits of eight Australian banks, as well as ASIC’s work in relation to add-on insurance products (including CCI) sold through car dealerships, the CCI Working Group was established, including representatives from ASIC, the ABA, banks and consumer advocacy groups. The Group met for the first time on 27 July 2017, with a goal to progress a range of reforms, including a deferred-sales model for CCI sold with credit cards over the phone and in branches.

Under this deferred-sales model, consumers cannot be sold a CCI policy for their credit card until at least four days after they have applied for their credit card over the phone or in a branch, reducing the risk that a consumer will feel pressured to purchase a CCI product that does not meet their needs.

The CCI Working Group has also seen banks commit to strengthening their processes for obtaining express consent from customers who purchase CCI, and providing improved disclosure about the cost and duration of these policies. The Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA) is set to incorporate these measures into its revised Code of Banking Practice and accelerate their introduction so they commence in the first half of 2018, well before the new code is fully in place.

According to ASIC deputy chair, Peter Kell:

“Consumers should be confident that when they sign up for consumer credit insurance, they know what it is and that it suits their needs.”

“We welcome industry’s commitment to improve their sales practices and look forward to working with industry and consumer advocates on these initiatives.”

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Will comprehensive credit reporting change my credit score?

Comprehensive credit reporting may change your credit score, either positively or negatively, depending on an individual's situation.

Under comprehensive credit reporting, credit providers will share more information, both positive and negative, about how you and other Australians manage credit products. That means credit reporting bureaus will be able to make a more thorough assessment of everyone’s credit behaviour. That will lead to higher scores for some consumers and lower scores for others.

How can I improve my credit rating/score?

Your credit score will improve if you demonstrate that you’ve become more credit-worthy. You can do that by minimising loan applications, clearing up defaults and paying bills on time.

Another tip is to get the one free credit report you’re entitled to each year – that way, you’ll be able to identify and fix any errors.

If you want to fix an error, the first thing you should do is speak with the credit reporting body, which may take care of the problem or contact credit providers on your behalf.

The next step would be to contact your credit provider. If that doesn’t work, you can refer the matter to the credit provider’s independent dispute resolution scheme, which would be the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

AFCA provides consumers and small businesses with fair, free and independent dispute resolution for financial complaints.

If that doesn’t work, your final options are to contact the Privacy Commissioner and then the Office of the Information Commissioner.

What causes bad credit ratings/scores?

Failing to repay loans and bills will damage your credit score. So will falling behind on your repayments. Your credit score will also suffer if you apply for credit too often or have credit applications rejected.

How do I know if I've got a bad credit history?

You can find out what your credit history looks like by accessing what's known as your credit rating or credit score. You're also able to check your credit report for free once per year.

Are there emergency loans with no credit checks?

While many personal loans require a credit check as part of the application process, some personal loans and payday loans have no credit checks, which may appeal to some borrowers with a bad credit score.

Keep in mind that even if a loan is available with no credit check, the lender will likely want to confirm that you can afford the repayments on your current income.

What are the pros and cons of debt consolidation?

In some instances, debt consolidation can help borrowers reduce their repayments or simplify them. For example, someone might take out a $7,000 personal loan at an interest rate of 8 per cent so they can repay an existing $4,000 personal loan at 10 per cent and a $3,000 credit card loan at 20 per cent.

However, debt consolidation can backfire if the borrower spends the extra money instead of using it to repay the new loan.

Can I get a personal loan if I receive Centrelink payments?

It is hard, but not impossible, to qualify for a personal loan if you receive Centrelink payments.

Some lenders won’t lend money to people who are on welfare. However, other lenders will simply consider Centrelink payments as another factor to weigh up when they assess a person’s capacity to repay a loan. You should check with any prospective lender about their criteria before making a personal loan application.

Can I get guaranteed approval for a bad credit personal loan?

Few, if any, lenders would be willing to give guaranteed approval for a bad credit personal loan. Borrowers with bad credit histories can have more complicated financial circumstances than other borrowers, so lenders will want time to study your application. 

It’s all about risk. When someone applies for a personal loan, the lender evaluates how likely that borrower would be to repay the money. Lenders are more willing to give personal loans to borrowers with good credit than bad credit because there’s a higher likelihood that the personal loan will be repaid. 

So a borrower with good credit is more likely to have a loan approved and to be approved faster, while a borrower with bad credit is less likely to have a loan approved and, if they are approved, may be approved slower.

Which lenders offer bad credit personal loans?

Several dozen lenders offer bad credit personal loans in Australia. These are generally smaller lenders that aren’t household names.

How are credit ratings/scores calculated?

Different credit reporting bodies may use different formulas to calculate credit scores. However, they use the same type of information: credit history and demographic profile.

They’re likely to look at how many credit applications you’ve made, which lender the applications were for, what purpose they were for, how much they were for and your repayment record. They’ll also look at your age and postcode. They’ll also look to see if you’ve had any bankruptcies or other relevant legal judgements against you.

Your score can change if your demographic profile changes or new information is added to your file (such as a new loan application) or existing information is removed from your file (i.e. because it has reached its expiry date).

What is bad credit?

A person is deemed to have ‘bad credit’ when they have a poor history of managing credit and repaying debts.

Can I get an easy/instant personal loan?

Some lenders are able to approve applications with little documentation and within minutes. However, there is a catch. People who take out easy/instant loans generally pay higher interest rates and are restricted to lower amounts than people who follow a traditional borrowing process.

How do I find out my credit rating/score?

You're entitled to one free credit report per year from credit reporting bodies like Equifax, Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and the Tasmanian Collection Service. You can also get a free report if you’ve been refused credit in the past 90 days.

Credit reporting bodies have up to 10 days to provide reports. If you want to access your report sooner, you’ll probably have to pay.

What are the pros and cons of personal loans?

The advantages of personal loans are that they’re easier to obtain than mortgages and usually have lower interest rates than credit cards.

One disadvantage with personal loans is that you have to go through a formal application process, unlike when you borrow money on your credit card. Another disadvantage is that you’ll be charged a higher interest rate than if you borrowed the money as part of a mortgage.