Sector Articles of Interest - 4 November

Written on the 4 November 2020 by SAFCA

  • FCA Weekly digest
  • CBA ordered to pay $150,000 for credit limit increase provided to problem gambler
  • EWOSA report
  • Marion Life
  • AFSA insolvency warning


FCA Weekly Digest

Monday 19 - Friday 23 October 2020

Introduction:

Welcome to the second edition of our Weekly Digest. This email is to keep you across any recent changes to the Toolkit, COVID-19 Toolkit and National Debt Helpline website.

This week's email was unfortunately delayed - but from now on we'll aim to send the Digest every Monday (outlining updates from the previous week).

The Facebook group will remain active and this newsletter reflects the posts we make each week.

Looking for a different Weekly Digest? You can find all our previous versions on the Weekly Digest Toolkit page.

Changes to Toolkit and Website Resources

National Debt Helpline Website

New letter or email template link to request a hardship variation from telcos on the Phone and Internet Bills page.

Financial Counselling Australia Toolkit

New factsheet, A guide to establishing identity when dealing with the ATO, on the Tax Debts page.

See below for more details.

News and Updates

Posted on Facebook Toolkit Group throughout the week.

How to Establish Your Identity with the Australian Tax Office (ATO)

There have been some changes to the process of establishing your identity with the ATO.

Financial counsellors have been accepted as "covered entities" under section 255-25(2)(g) of the Tax Administration Act, meaning you can act on behalf of your client as a professional, rather than an individual.

The linked factsheet outlines the process for becoming an authorised representative for your client and confirming your identity with the ATO.

It also outlines what to do if you encounter an ATO representative who does not accept your credentials under this process.

The ATO is changing their systems in regard to financial counsellors, but this is always a drawn out process in large organisations.

Please read this guide carefully and let us know if you encounter any problems. The guide is available on the Toolkit.

Bushfire Financial Counselling Newsletter

Connecting the people and agencies who provide Bushfire Financial Counselling throughout Australia.

Our first bushfire financial counselling newsletter has been published! Here, we can share the good work being undertaken by financial counsellors and their agencies as part of the recovery process.

Further editions will be released on a bi-monthly basis. If you have any articles or insights you'd like to share, please get in touch with Georgia Lenton-Williams, Communications Advisor, georgia.lw@financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au.

Newsletter available via this link.

6/179 Queen Street, Melbourne VIC W: www.financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au Ph: 0402 923 750  Email: info@financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au
 



CBA ordered to pay $150,000 for credit limit increase provided to problem gambler: Royal Commission case study

The Federal Court has ordered the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) to pay a $150,000 penalty after the Court found the bank breached the responsible lending provisions of the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 (National Credit Act).

The penalty is for failures to take account of a notification by a customer (Mr Harris) that he was a problem gambler and to take reasonable steps to verify his financial situation before offering and approving a credit card limit increase.

The National Credit Act provides consumer protections to ensure credit providers make reasonable inquiries about a borrower's financial situation before assessing whether a loan contract is suitable for them.

ASIC's investigation related to a credit limit increase provided by CBA to Mr Harris on 20 January 2017, which increased the credit limit on his CBA credit card from $27,100 to $35,100. CBA offered and then made the credit limit increase despite Mr Harris informing CBA in October 2016 that he was a problem gambler and did not wish to increase his credit limit until he was able to get his gambling under control.

In the decision of 23 October 2020, Justice Murphy declared that CBA contravened the National Credit Act prior to offering and approving Mr Harris' credit card limit increase by failing to:

  • make reasonable inquiries as to whether Mr Harris still considered himself to be a problem gambler;
  • take reasonable steps to verify whether Mr Harris was still using his CBA credit card to pay for gambling expenses, and the extent to which he was doing so and had done so since he informed CBA of the problem gambling;
  • take reasonable steps to verify Mr Harris' financial situation; and
  • assess the credit card limit increase as unsuitable to meet Mr Harris' requirements or his objective to cease being a problem gambler before accepting any credit limit increase.

ASIC alleged and CBA admitted that this misconduct was the result of inadequate systems and processes in respect of problem gambler notifications. Because of these inadequacies, CBA failed to take account of Mr Harris' notification that he was a problem gambler and to take reasonable steps to verify his financial situation before offering and approving a credit card limit increase.

As recognised by Justice Murphy in his judgment, CBA has taken corrective measures to finalise a hardship arrangement with Mr Harris and has introduced a series of measures intended to address issues associated with problem gambling as well as broader measures to assist customers to manage their credit card expenditure.

In arriving at the penalty to be imposed, the Court took into account CBA's cooperation with ASIC and admissions of contravention of the law. CBA has also been ordered to pay ASIC's costs.

Background

CBA's conduct with respect to credit cards and credit card limit increases was the subject of a case study by the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry Interim Report Volume 2 (p101).

Since CBA's conduct, the law has changed. A credit card contract or credit limit increase must be assessed as unsuitable if it is likely that the consumer would be unable to repay the credit limit within a period prescribed by ASIC.  ASIC has prescribed a three year period (18-257MR). Additionally, unsolicited credit limit increase offers, like those Mr Harris received, are now prohibited.

In 2018 ASIC set out our expectations that credit card providers do more to proactively assist consumers struggling with problem credit card debt. At that time ASIC found that more than one in six consumers were struggling with credit card debt (18-201MR).

Contact Details
Fiona Guthrie
CEO
Financial Counselling Australia
 



EWOSA Report

Energy & Water Ombudsman SA, Sandy Canale, issued the 2019-20 Annual Report of EWOSA.

"The Scheme's workforce, which moved offsite in March, responded to 8690 cases, down 19% from the previous financial year the majority relating to electricity issues.

The reduction in cases was boosted by retailers' support of customers under financial stress in response to Covid-19 restrictions as well as changes brought in by Australian Energy Market Commission to improve affordability and retailers' management of hardship customers.

Electricity complaints made up 80% of all cases during the year with gas issues at 15% and water issues at 5%, unchanged from the previous year."

To access the 2019-20 Annual Report online, please visit www.ewosa.com.au
 



Marion Life - October E-News

MARIONLIFE HUNGER WALK

Help Fight Hunger 16-24 November.

The 4th Annual MarionLIFE Hunger Walk is taking a different shape this year.

  1. Register to be involved: https://www.trybooking.com/BMMVT
  2. Walk to Drakes at one of these locations between 16-24 November: Ascot Park, Castle Plaza, Blackwood, Aberfoyle Park, Hallett Cove or Woodcroft.
  3. Donate In-Store: pantry and hygiene basics to support people in crisis

Plus, take a photo of yourself donating in-store and tag #MLHungerWalk and #Drakes

Thank you for taking part in the MarionLIFE Hunger Walk, supporting the work of MarionLIFE as we give support to individuals and families experiencing challenges across Southern Adelaide.

CALL FOR CHRISTMAS DAY LUNCH VOLUNTEERS

All MarionLIFE services are made possible by volunteers generously giving of their time and passion to serve others if you would like to give back to the community on Christmas Day, please let us know!

Christmas Day Lunch Volunteer help prepare and serve a Christmas Day Lunch on 25 December to disadvantaged individuals and families from the local community.

We are looking for people with an enthusiastic and empathetic approach to become a part of a friendly, caring team of volunteers committed to the inclusion of all the community members attending our Christmas Day Lunch on 25 December. Phone 8277 0304 or email info@marionlife.org.au  to express your interest in a volunteering role.

MARIONLIFE YOUTH BACK FOR TERM 4!

MarionLIFE Youth is a youth drop-in space for local 10-17 year olds in our Youth Centre building between 3-5:30pm on Fridays after school. Each Friday of the School Term providing a safe place to 'hang-out' with fun activities, life skills workshops and a healthy light meal. All free!

The opportunity is provided for young people to access information about relevant support services. We look forward to seeing you there, 887 Marion Rd, Mitchell Park (enter at rear).

This project is supported by the Carthew Foundation and Foodbank SA. If you would like more information or promotional material sent to you please let us know via phone 82770304 or email info@marionlife.org.au.

The MarionLIFE Team

enrich lives, maximise independence, provide hope
 



AFSA warns people to steer clear of dodgy insolvency advisors

2 November 2020

The Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA) is today launching a campaign to raise awareness of dodgy insolvency advisors who exploit people when they seek help to manage debt.

AFSA is particularly concerned that those experiencing financial stress because of the economic impact of COVID-19 may be easy targets.

"People who find themselves dealing with large debts for the first time as a result of COVID-19 may be tempted to turn to advisors who say they have a quick fix and later find out what they've done is illegal," AFSA's Deputy Chief Executive Gavin McCosker explained.

Mr McCosker said it is vital the public know that dodgy advisors exist and what to watch out for.

"It's not always easy to spot a dodgy advisor, but if someone offers a solution to your financial problems that sounds too good to be true, it probably is," he said.

Tell-tale signs that an insolvency advisor shouldn't be trusted include:

  • promising a payment to get out you out of bankruptcy within a few months
  • recommending you include false, exaggerated or fake debts in a bankruptcy application
  • offering to organise your affairs so your property will be protected if you go bankrupt
  • advising that bankruptcy or a debt agreement will not affect your credit rating.

AFSA has developed resources, including a short video, to increase awareness of the risks of dealing with dodgy advisors. Anyone facing financial hardship should contact one of the registered insolvency practitioners listed on afsa.gov.au/advice.

Mr McCosker said a few dodgy advisors have the potential to damage the industry.

"Insolvency practitioners say dodgy advisors are their number one concern. If an advisor persuades someone to hide or dispose of their assets before they enter into a debt agreement or bankruptcy everybody loses."

AFSA takes action against these advisors to protect the industry and those experiencing financial trouble.

"When we discover or are notified about a dodgy advisor, we investigate and take action. Each year we inspect hundreds of personal insolvency administrations, and attend creditors' meetings if dodgy activity is suspected," said Mr McCosker.

"We rely on the industry and members of the community to report any activity that has the potential to take unfair advantage of people who use the personal insolvency system.

Report any concerns about potential dodgy behaviour or suspicious activities to AFSA via the online tip off service at afsa.gov.au.

For more information, visit www.afsa.gov.au/insolvency/cant-pay-my-debts/where-find-help

 


Author: SAFCA

SAFCA

Suite 7 Wellington Centre, 2 Portrush Rd.
Payneham SA 5070