Predatory lenders return to target New Zealand's vulnerable

Many of the families the Salvation Army is helping now have "mountains of debt".
Many of the families the Salvation Army is helping now have "mountains of debt". Photo credit: Getty

Predatory lenders are continuing to target our most vulnerable - and the Salvation Army is fighting back.

It's helping thousands of Kiwis with financial advice, and reports heartbreaking stories of illegal practices and people being taken advantage of.

The Salvation Army's Ronji Tanielu told Newshub on Wednesday these "dodgy companies" are using illegal contracts to break the law.

"Sometimes the contracts aren't meeting the requirements of proper formal contracts," he says.

"Information is missing, often around the details of the contract. The lender isn't meeting the requirements of the law."

He says these "exploitative lenders" are now selling to people with mental health issues.

"We have a mobile trader that's been working in Mangere, South Auckland. It was shut down in Hamilton, and they reinvented themselves and came up to Mangere," he told Stuff.

"They went into a mental health home in Mangere, and they signed up nearly all of the clients to some dodgy phone contracts and Playstation contracts, and so on."

Mr Tanielu didn't want to name the home, due to the investigation into the lenders currently under way. He says the practise is widespread, and the Salvation Army is now trying to get these contracts cancelled.

"The Commerce Commission is doing a great job prosecuting these dodgy businesses," he told Newshub.

The products sold include everything from toys through to phones and computers - and they come with "massive mark-ups". Mr Tanielu says in one case a company was selling a Samsung 5 phone for around $1600, compared to a normal retail price of around $700.

"It's a warped practise because they're preying on the needs of these people," he says.

"People always think 'why are poor people buying these things?' It's always easier to make a bad decision when all the choices in front of you are bad."

Many of the families the Salvation Army is helping now have "mountains of debt".

"They go with pamphlets then get people to buy off the pamphlets," he says.

"Another way is they take a truck to these communities... and then they park up and invite people to come from that neighbourhood to walk through those products."

And it's not the first time the problem has come under scrutiny. In August 2015, the Commerce Commission released a damning report into mobile traders.

"Some mobile traders make misleading or confusing representations about the price of the goods they sell," the report found.

"Documents provided to customers are often non-compliant in that important information required to be clearly disclosed by the CCCFA and FTA is often not adequately disclosed to customers."


Contact Newshub with your story tips: