Consumer Action Law Centre (Consumer Action) and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) are launching a new report on how irresponsible lenders are causing harm in Victorian Aboriginal communities, highlighting the harmful sales tactics used by some companies and heartbreaking personal stories.
‘Consumer issues in Victorian Aboriginal communities’ is based on a project of Consumer Action and VALS – a ground-breaking partnership that seeks to address unmet consumer credit and debt legal need in Victorian Aboriginal communities.
Consumer Action and VALS’ report puts the spotlight on harmful products and practices the organisations are seeing in their casework and engagement sessions with community. These include:
- Predatory funeral insurance
- Utilities debt and disconnection
- Irresponsible lending, including payday loans and car loans
- Insurers and caryards mis-selling ‘junk insurance’
- Unsolicited and high pressure selling
- Telecommunication retailers mis-selling expensive devices and plans
The report also highlights the correlation between financial hardship and crime, and problems with access to consumer credit and debt legal services in communities.
“Issues with products like payday loans, rent to buy, essential services issues, and unsuitable funeral products are prevalent in our communities and they are leaving families in considerable debt,” says Consumer Action Koori Engagement Manager, Kaylee Anderson.
“The mis-selling of funeral expenses policies to community is particularly concerning given Sorry Business is a significant time for community that is being actively exploited.
“Just last week, Federal Parliament passed new laws to improve consumer protection but there are thousands of individuals and families who have purchased these products in the past and they shouldn’t lose out,” says Anderson.
Anderson says that the project had only scratched the surface when it comes to size of the consumer credit and debt issues affecting community.
“This project has allowed the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service to build our skills in this specialist area of law, which we have then used to turn the tables on the companies that have taken advantage of our community,” said Moricia Vrymoet, Director of Legal Services at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service.
“Our clients have seen real wins since the start of this project and we are excited to continue building on those successes, says Vrymoet.
Since the project began in March last year, we’ve held community engagement sessions across the state, have spoken to more than 500 community members, and taken on more than 80 cases.
“Financial pain is not the only damage that is caused by products such as payday loans and rent to buy schemes. We see the flow on effects from these products hurt our clients when we assist them in our Criminal and Family Law divisions.
“Despite the success of this project there is still a great need for further outreach and education in the community. The demand will only grow as we continue to travel to communities to learn from them and discover the issues that they are facing,” said Vrymoet.
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