Friday, August 17, 2007

Hunting of the Sharks

Back in the late '90s, in a Marketing lecture up at Vic, we were fortunate enough to have Consumer Institute dude David Russell along for a yak. He was pleased that he had seen through some good pieces of consumer legislation; the Fair Trading and Consumer Guarantees Acts. During question time, I asked what other legislation he would like to see. He replied that a tightening on the availability of credit would complete the trilogy.

Damned straight. The rot set in back in 1979, when Zip! Zap! National Bank Visa! appeared on the scene. Up until then, debit cards Diners' Club and Amex were the only plastic on the scene. These acted to streamline expense accounts for rich people. For the poor, there was lay-by. But Visa popped up, quickly followed by Bankcard and Mastercard, bringing instant unsecured loans to the masses.

For those who had maxed out the plastic, hire purchase agreements provided another way to accumulate crap of planned obsolescence. Can't afford that new shiny bauble? Oh yes you can! Living beyond one's means has never been easier. So what if the adrenaline kick from spontaneous purchases due to unearned wealth wears off when the monthly payments are due? For fuck's sake, don't miss a payment or the late payment fees will kill you.

Not so long ago, I recall reading that it was not a Labour government priority to regulate credit availability. Not their job, eh. Good to see that has changed. Sure, the No Asset procedure is a band-aid. The criteria seems quite stringent, and seems aimed as triage for the very worst examples of people stuck in a rut. More interesting will be what measures are proposed to counter the money lenders.

Even better to see Lisa Owen popping up exposing loan sharking at Sky City. Now there's a girl who doesn't mind getting her hands dirty.