Information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Your Debt - Your Rights

If you have debt that you can’t pay such as a loan or lease payments, and you are in financial hardship, you have rights. Your financial services provider may help you but if you are not happy with their help, you can make a complaint to the Credit and Investments Ombudsman.

Do you have a complaint?

If you have a problem with your mortgage broker, lender, credit union, bank, financial planner, debt collector or other finance provider, you should contact them right away.

Most complaints can be solved quickly with a simple phone call or email.

If you are not happy with the response from your finance provider, you can make a complaint to the Credit and Investments Ombudsman.

We are a free, fair and impartial dispute resolution service for consumers and small businesses in the finance industry.

We investigate and resolve complaints.

We can investigate your complaint if the finance provider:

  • has broken a law or code of practice,
  • has not met standards of good industry practice,
  • or has acted unfairly towards you.

Here are a few examples:

  • You were approved for a loan that you could never afford to repay.

  • Your broker arranged a loan for you that did not meet your requirements or needs.

  • You think your interest rate to be too high.

  • You needed help with your loan payments because you lost your job or were ill, but your lender did not offer you any financial hardship assistance.

  • A debt collector harassed you by calling you too many times, or by calling members of your family before contacting you.

  • Your lender incorrectly charged you a fee.

  • Your lender listed a default on your credit file, without telling you first.

Making a complaint to us is easy. You can make a complaint online or send us a completed complaint form by email, fax or post.

If you need assistance in lodging a complaint, we can help you.

If you are speech or hearing impaired, you can contact us through the National Relay Service ask for the Credit and Investments Ombudsman at 1800 138 422.

Case study: Tim could not work due to injuries

Tim could not work for three months because he was injured in a car accident. As Tim was self-employed, he could not earn an income while he was injured. He fell behind on his home loan repayments and applied to his

lender for hardship assistance, but the lender knocked him back. Tim then returned to work and began making his usual repayments. But he could not afford to make a lump sum payment to cover the overdue amounts on his loan.

Tim was waiting on the outcome of an insurance claim he had made for his car accident and expected to receive money that he could use to pay the outstanding amounts on the loan.

So he asked his lender for four months to repay the amounts that were overdue. His lender would not give him the extra time without evidence that his insurance claim would be paid.

As Tim did not have evidence to show the claim would be paid, the lender insisted that the overdue amounts be paid and started legal action.

Tim approached the Credit and Investments Ombudsman for assistance. We looked into his complaint and asked the lender to add the overdue amounts to the total debt.

The lender agreed to do this and extended the loan term for an extra four months. They also agreed to retract fees and charges that were added to Tim’s debt during his financial hardship.

Case study: Credit provider gave Nicole a loan she could not afford

Nicole signed a loan agreement to purchase a car. She was required to pay 207 weekly repayments of $128 and one final repayment of $118.

When Nicole entered into the agreement, she was working full time as a call centre operator but her hours varied on a weekly basis. While she also received Centrelink benefits, she had a son to care for. Her combined income was approximately $837 a week.

Although Nicole made the first 10 repayments, she couldn’t pay them when she got sick.

So Nicole approached the Credit and Investments Ombudsman. She said that the credit provider should not have given her a loan as she could not afford the repayments and was already struggling with her weekly living expenses prior to entering the agreement.

The credit provider denied this, saying they took steps to confirm Nicole’s income and expenses, and asked her to provide documents, such as payslips, bank statements and Centrelink statements, so that they could verify her financial information.

From this, the credit provider used a benchmark, known as the Household Expenditure Measure (HEM), for her living expenses.

The Credit and Investments Ombudsman gave the credit provider a Preliminary Review that they had failed to comply with responsible lending obligations imposed by the National Credit Act. This is because:

  • a review of Nicole’s bank statements showed that she was having difficulty with meeting her current living expenses as she had low balances at the end of every month in the three months prior to entering the loan agreement,

  • Nicole’s credit report showed over 35 inquiries made by her for small credit amounts,

  • the credit provider applied a standard benchmark for Nicole’s expenses without considering her actual expenses,

  • the credit provider failed to make further inquiries with her about how she was going to afford the repayments, and

  • we conducted our own credit assessment and found that Nicole would not have been able to pay the required amounts on the loan agreement without significant hardship.

The credit company responded to the Preliminary Review and offered to take back the car at their expense, cancel the loan agreement, release Nicole from any further liability, and refund all monies paid to Nicole.

Case study: Group complaint about unsuitable credit contracts

We recently resolved a group complaint lodged by a financial counsellor on behalf of numerous Indigenous consumers living in rural Australia. The consumers collectively complained about being provided with unsuitable credit contracts from a financial services provider. In order to achieve a fair outcome for both parties, CIO liaised directly with the consumers’ financial counsellor noting the difficulties involved with contacting parties that were often outside of telephone range.

We found that the financial services provider failed to verify each consumer’s financial situation and consequently provided the consumers with unsuitable credit contracts .

By facilitating various negotiations, all parties were able to reach a mutually reasonable resolution. In summary, the financial services provider agreed to waive the outstanding debt under all the credit contracts in full and release the item to the consumers unencumbered.

The financial counsellor expressed their gratitude for CIO’s assistance in resolving the complaints with such a positive result that they would not otherwise have been able to achieve on their own.

Recognising National Reconciliation Week at CIO

Botanical Gardens Heritage Tour

Each year National Reconciliation Week (NRW) from 27 May to 2 June 2017, celebrates and builds on the respectful relationships shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. The theme for 2017 was ‘Let’s take the next steps'.

To mark this occasion, on Friday 2 June, a group of CIO staff set off to the Botanical Gardens for the Aboriginal Heritage Tour, as part of our mission and commitment to the Reconciliation Action Plan initiative.

The tour began with a demonstration and talk in the Education Centre. The tour guides transported us to their childhood at North East Arnhem land, with lively anecdotes. They showed us spears and other implements; and explained the use of ochre, in painting and other decorative and useful objects.

The diversity and richness of Sydney’s harbour with abundant oysters and the sustainability practised by Aboriginals, more than 1000s of years ago, was brought to life in their stories.      

Afterwards, we explored the gardens with our respective tour guides. The male staff accompanied the male tour guide and the female staff enjoyed the humour and warmth of Henrietta’s company as she shared fascinating glimpses of plants for medicinal use and skilfully showed us how baskets are woven. A highlight was seeing the golden thread, reputed to be stronger than metal, spun by a spider.               

The mood was joyous and we left enriched from the experience.