Westpac Admits Disclosure Breach And Agrees To Pay Customers $3.7 Million
Westpac New Zealand Limited (Westpac) has signed a settlement agreement with the Commerce Commission admitting it breached the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003, and has also agreed to make payments to customers totalling $3.7 million.
The bank has accepted that it breached the law by failing to provide key information to credit card customers before they entered into their contracts. Due to a process error, when Westpac posted credit cards to 19,000 new personal credit card customers between May 2017 and March 2018, it failed to provide the required initial disclosure of their credit terms.
The Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act requires lenders to provide important information that helps consumers understand their rights and obligations under their loan before they enter into their loan contract.
Westpac reported the issue to the Commission in March 2018. The Commission then filed High Court proceedings against the bank in July 2019, seeking a declaration that the bank breached the Act as well as orders for statutory damages and refunds of costs of borrowing. As part of the settlement, Westpac has agreed to admit in court that it breached its legal obligations.
Westpac will pay at least $3.6 million to customers to whom it failed to provide the required initial disclosure information. Westpac has already written off $100,000 owed by some affected customers.
As the matter remains before the Court, the Commission will make no further comment at this time.
Initial disclosure is key information about a loan that lenders must give to borrowers, such as the amount owing, interest and payment details, details about the lender such as their dispute resolution provider, hardship rights, and how to cancel the loan. It helps borrowers understand what the loan will cost them and what their obligations and the lender’s obligations are under the loan contract.
The initial disclosure rules ensure the borrower gets the details of their loan, and a written record of the key terms of their contract, before they enter into it.
The key information is set out in Schedule 1 of the CCCF Act 2003.