Maria was granted a credit card by a lender which had a limit of $10,000. The card had been taken out while visiting a retailer in November 2020. A staff member had helped her fill out the credit card application, and Maria bought $7,000 worth of items.
In 2021, Maria had sold the items for $500 because she was experiencing financial hardship. In mid-2022, the lender gave Maria some hardship support.
Later in 2022, Maria discussed the debt with her friend Matt. He was concerned about the lender granting her a credit card. He was aware that English was not Maria’s first language and that she had limited understanding of finances, and only had a primary school education. Matt also knew that Maria had been only earning the minimum wage when the credit was approved. Further, Maria was currently suffering from depression and was unable to work.
Matt contacted the lender on Maria’s behalf with a complaint that it should not have granted Maria a credit card because it should have been obvious that she did not understand how such a facility worked and because she was on the minimum wage.
There was some delay in the lender responding. While it did not consider the credit card facility was unaffordable for Maria, the lender had some concerns about whether the terms of the credit contract had been properly explained to her. For this reason, it was willing to try and resolve the case.
Matt advised us of Maria’s background. He also explained her current medical and employment situation. Matt told us that given Maria’s depression, she found it very difficult to complete even the smallest task.
We advised the lender of the information Matt had supplied.
After some consideration of the information Matt had provided about Maria’s current circumstances, the lender offered to write off the balance of the debt, with no further payments required from Maria.
Matt discussed the offer with Maria, and he advised us that Maria gratefully accepted the lender’s offer. Matt also noted that he was certain that the lifting of the “tremendous burden” of the debt would have a “significant impact on the quality” of Maria’s life.
While this case was resolved without us conducting an investigation, it provides a useful reminder that if a borrower is likely to have difficulty understanding the terms or effect of a loan contract, extra steps should be taken to ensure the borrower understands the contract.
The lender’s acknowledgement of Maria’s vulnerability was very helpful in reaching an early resolution. Matt’s assistance with Maria’s case was invaluable because she was not in a position, given her health, to pursue a complaint with the lender or with us.