The corporate watchdog has fined a car finance provider for breaching responsible lending and repossession laws.
Car finance provider BMW Australia Finance Ltd has paid penalties totalling $391,000 and had a condition placed on its Australian Credit Licence following concerns raised by ASIC.
The licence condition requires BMW Finance to appoint a compliance consultant after ASIC found the firm breached important consumer protection provisions relating to responsible lending and the repossession of motor vehicles.
ASIC found that between November 2014 and May 2015, BMW Finance failed to make reasonable enquiries about, and take reasonable steps to verify, consumers' stated living expenses, income and cash at bank when there was an unexplained discrepancy in the figures provided, and made insufficient enquiries about consumers' capacity or plans to repay substantial balloon repayments due at the conclusion of the loan term.
In addition, ASIC found that BMW Finance failed to assess credit contracts it entered into with consumers as unsuitable, and entered into unsuitable credit contracts, when documentation provided by consumers showed there was insufficient income available after expenses to service monthly loan repayments.
An ASIC statement also noted that BMW Finance failed or delayed in its obligations to provide customers with statutory information setting out their rights and the options available to them after a finance company repossesses a mortgaged vehicle or the consumer voluntarily returns that vehicle.
“These failures by BMW Finance to comply with the requirements of the law resulted in customers entering into unsuitable loans and losing the benefit of important protections to reduce the impact of financial hardship,” the regulator said.
ASIC deputy chair Peter Kell said the outcome for BMW Finance shows failing to comply with important consumer protection provisions can result in significant penalties.
“ASIC will continue to monitor compliance with these provisions to reduce the risk of borrowers being placed into unsuitable loans, and to ensure that borrowers are informed of their rights and options available to them when facing financial hardship,” Mr Kell said.
In addition to the penalties, the licence condition requires BMW Finance to appoint an independent compliance consultant to conduct a review and report to ASIC on BMW Finance's policies and procedures on a quarterly basis over 12 months to ensure compliance with consumer credit laws.
In January 2015, ASIC issued 36 infringement notices to BMW Finance totalling $306,000 after finding that it breached consumer protection provisions relating to the repossession of motor vehicles.
Following further investigation into BMW Finances' responsible lending and collection practices, ASIC has issued a further 22 infringement notices totalling $391,000 to BMW Finance because ASIC has reasonable grounds to suspect it breached a further five provisions of the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009.
[Related: ASIC takes action against non-bank lender]