The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has found that 18.5 per cent of Australian consumers are “struggling” with credit card debt, based on a review of 21.4 million accounts.
“Our findings confirm the risk that credit cards can cause financial difficulty for many Australian consumers”, ASIC deputy chair Peter Kell said, warning that consumers are being granted credit cards that don’t meet their needs.
Released this morning, the ASIC report Credit card lending in Australia concluded that credit cards can present a “debt trap” for Aussie consumers, with 550,000 people in arrears in June 2017. Additionally, 930,000 had persistent debt and 435,000 repeatedly repaid small amounts.
“Only a handful of credit providers take proactive steps to address persistent debt, low repayments or poorly suited products,” Mr Kell said.
“There are a number of failures by lenders to act in the interests of consumers and we expect them to respond swiftly to our findings. We will be following up to ensure the problems we have identified are addressed, including public updates later this year.”
ASIC also released a consultation paper calling for responsible lending assessments to consider the borrower’s ability to repay the credit limit within a three-year time frame.
The proposal, which is open for submissions until 31 July 2018, is based on the belief that a three-year period will protect consumers from entering into unsuitable contracts while still providing reasonable access.
According to the report, consumers are also being stung by balance transfers, with 30 per cent of those who switch during promotional periods actually increasing their debt by at least 10 per cent.
Additionally, in 2016-17 consumers paid $1.5 billion in annual fees, late payment fees and other usage fees. As of June 2017, $31.7 billion existed on credit cards and was accruing interest charges.
“ASIC expects credit providers to take proactive steps to address consumers with problematic credit card debt,” the regulator said.