Loan sharks accused of targeting low-income parents

Back-to-school loans are pushing families into debt.
Back-to-school loans are pushing families into debt. Photo credit: Getty

Families struggling to afford back-to-school costs face a new challenge - high-interest loans imposed by finance companies.

With a new school term about to start, parents are asked to buy everything from uniforms to laptops for their children. But some now face another expense from high-interest loans being advertised on social media.

Companies such as Fast Track Finance Hawke's Bay are being accused of "preying on low income families" after posts on Facebook showed them targeting parents with offers, some with extremely high interest rates.

"BACK TO SCHOOL - get in early for school uniforms, stationery specials with our perfect short term $500 Back to School $5Hundy loan at only $40pw, $99 estab fee - 4mth term," one post reads.

This $500 loan would end up costing $739. That's $239 or nearly 50 percent more than the original loan.

These practises have angered Budgeting and Family Support Services chief executive Darryl Evans who accuses the industry of being "morally corrupt".

"This is preying on low-income families' vulnerability as the interest rates are higher than that of buying a motor vehicle through a high-street bank," he told Newshub.

"It puts families further into debt and often it is unserviceable debt due to the high interest being charged."

Mr Evans says many of the families he works with struggle due to the high rents in the housing market, and he wants loan companies' interest rates capped.

"Many of our families are cash-strapped and have no disposable income left from paying rent and buying food, coupled with the money spent on Christmas," he says.

"I believe families are being responsible as their money more often than not goes towards high rents, power, petrol and food. We are seeing huge levels of food insecurity as a result of high rents and the reality is there is no money left over. The vast majority of our clients live in constant deficit and with lots of stress."

He encourages families to save throughout the year, apply to Work and Income or the Salvation Army for assistance, and work with the school to pay stationery off over the term.

Radio NZ reported Fast Track Finance Hawke's Bay director and manager Julie Trott as saying her company was lending responsibly and would turn down those who couldn't afford the interest rates.

However she refused to discuss anything further with Newshub.

"Given the misreported information, there will be no further comment," she said.