Sick Kiwi woman's unending nightmare of debt

  • 28/06/2018

When we borrow money, it means we just need a bit of help. But get in with the wrong lender, and it could also mean despair, harassment and crippling debt.

In some cases, it's so bad the Government now says it's ready to step in.

Unchecked lenders have free reign to charge whatever they want in interest payments, and hike the interest even higher if payment is missed.

Darryl Evans from the Mangere Budgeting Services Trust says these practices aren't illegal, but they're certainly immoral.

"The pressure they're putting on vulnerable people is, in my mind, simply not acceptable."

The Budgeting Services Trust says New Zealand's laws around consumer credit are weak compared to other countries, and the time for change is now.

Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi agrees the laws need an upgrade.

"We are making sure we strengthen those laws to make sure we protect vulnerable consumers who are still being preyed upon by people who are charging sometimes over 800 percent for loans."

The Government's priority is to cap the interest rates lenders can charge - but hidden fees, lack of credit checks and aggressive marketing are still big problems.

Teresa Mitchell from Tuakau took out a loan for $17,000, and has paid back $22,000 - yet the loan company is still hounding her for more.

It's because of an undisclosed charge the company applied to her account after every single payment of $5 per week.

"This enabled them to always have me in a position where they could charge me penalty interest," she told The Project.

She took out the loan to pay for a new car, and mistakenly thought the man who arranged the deal was an employee of the dealership. In fact, he worked for a lender and travelled around dealerships arranging finances.

Ms Mitchell is unwell, describing herself as "as close to terminally ill as you'd ever wish to get". She says the loan company's behaviour has worsened her condition.

"This continued harassment of people turning up at my door demanding money with tow trucks, no regard for me as a person, treating me with disrespect."

She doesn't know when her nightmare will end, and the company is still demanding $4367 from her - on top of another $4000 in other loans she had to take out after repossessions.

"I do not deserve this situation," she says. "If I didn't pay the bill, fair enough. I've paid 22-grand."

She says the Government should make sure lenders can't transfer from one finance company to another with "no regard".

"They are morally bankrupt specimens who are oxygen thieves and prey on the weak and vulnerable in our society, and they are scum of the earth."

The Project host Kanoa Lloyd also shared her own story of debt, saying it was only recently when she finally paid off a credit card that she realised the emotional toll it had taken on her.

"It was an ugly, rainy cloud that was bouncing around in the back of my mind."

Guest host Urzila Carlson chimed in with her own experience of paying off a $10,000 loan, which she says she struggled with because she is "creative" rather than smart with money.