Parties at odds about lending rules fix

National Party housing spokesperson Nicola Willis says the PR for the scheme is out of touch with...
Nicola Willis. Photo: RNZ
National Party deputy leader Nicola Willis has accused Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Dr David Clark of turning a blind eye to problems with the country’s new lending rules and wants him to adopt her party’s draft law urgently.

But Dr Clark says that would cause unnecessary delays in dealing with the issue.

The minister, who is the MP for Dunedin, has come under increasing pressure recently after the changes to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act (CCCFA) have prevented people from getting mortgages.

The changes were intended to clamp down on loan sharks but have caused banks to closely vet mortgage applicants’ personal finances.

Last month, the Otago Daily Times reported multiple stories about people struggling to get mortgages because of things such as Kmart trips, therapy sessions, Netflix accounts and restaurants eating habits.

One mortgage broker described the new approach as a "forensic analysis" of someone’s bank accounts.

Dr Clark ordered an investigation, which is under way, to see if the rule change was having unintended consequences or if the banks were overreacting to it.

Earlier this week, Ms Willis, who is also her party’s housing spokeswoman, wrote to Dr Clark asking the Government to urgently adopt a private member’s Bill drafted by National Party commerce spokesman Andrew Bayly.

Mr Bayly’s proposed law would allow tighter responsible lending regulations for lower-tier lenders to prevent them lending too much to vulnerable borrowers, and lighter ones for banks.

Speaking to the ODT yesterday, Ms Willis said Dr Clark was turning a "blind eye" to issue.

National had supported the CCCFA changes when they went through Parliament because it did not want to see loan sharks taking advantage of vulnerable lenders.

However, it was clear the law was not working as intended and the minister needed to fix it urgently, Ms Willis said.

"The reality is clear ... I’d expect the minister to be acting with a lot more urgency and making fundamental change on the issue," she said.

Ms Willis believed banks were only reacting to rules.

"It’s not a change anyone wanted and it’s not a change anyone is welcoming."

Dr Clark replied to Ms Willis’ letter on Thursday saying that based on his meetings with banks last week, he detected little enthusiasm for an entirely new set of rules for banks and other regulated lenders.

They had suggested small tweaks that could be made to ensure the purposes of the legislation were best met, Dr Clark said.

"Quite aside from the time it would take to draft new regulations and consult with the banks and other lenders, the approach you propose would result in undue delay to consumer benefit from possible tweaks that could be made to regulations and guidance in the nearer term," he said.

The review’s preliminary analysis was due by mid this month.

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