High Court dismisses Budget Loans appeal - notes “cynical and extortive” conduct
Published25 Feb 2019
The High Court at Auckland has dismissed Budget Loans Limited’s appeal against the sentence imposed on it and Evolution Finance Limited (together, Budget Loans).
In dismissing Budget Loans’ appeal Justice Moore said the offending was “among the most serious of its kind. There is no comparable case involving such damaging, prolonged, focused, cynical, personal and economic conduct.”
In May 2018 Budget Loans was fined $720,000 in the Auckland District Court on 125 charges under the Fair Trading Act 1986 (FT Act) relating to misrepresentations made by the company while collecting loans. It was also ordered to pay reparation totalling $109,000.
83 charges were for misrepresentations about the companies’ right to repossess borrowers’ property. For example, company notes on one file state “great idea to undertake an illegal repo of a vehicle”.
29 charges were for misrepresentations that the companies could add costs after borrowers’ property had been repossessed and sold. For example, one borrower was told she owed more than $57,000 when a court judgment meant the balance was capped at $15,000. The borrower declared bankruptcy as a consequence.
10 charges were for misrepresentations about the amount that borrowers were required to pay under attachment orders made by the courts. For example, one borrower was told she owed nearly $56,000 when a court judgment meant the balance was capped at about $8,600.
The charges were based on a random selection of 21 debtors from loan books covering approximately 7,500 loans.
Justice Moore described Budget Loans’ instructions to collection agents as “cynical and extortive” and said “unlawful representations were a central feature of the companies’ operating business model.”
He noted that reparation orders had not been complied with, and “given the parlous circumstances of most, if not all of the victims, this circumstance sits uncomfortably with any suggestion on the part of the companies that they have co-operated.”
The Commission is seeking management banning orders against Budget Loans’ current and former directors Allan Hawkins and Wayne Hawkins and will make no further comment on this matter until that matter has been decided by the Court.
In 2010 Budget Loans was fined nearly $31,000 on 34 Fair Trading Act charges, for misleading representations about its right to recover certain costs from debtors. A timeline of the current case is below.
125 charges filed against Budget Loans and Evolution Finance at Auckland District Court.
Both companies convicted on 106 charges, with 19 charges dismissed. The companies appeal conviction on all charges and the Commission appeals against dismissal of the 19 charges.