The Consumer Action Law Centre (CALC) are warning consumers to avoid mortgage brokers, arguing that clawback fees passed on by brokers to consumers are ‘unfair contract terms’ potentially in breach of Australian Consumer Law.
This was in response to a Sydney couple who are refusing to pay a clawback fee to their broker after they refinanced their $940,000 loan from St George to ANZ at the end of last year.
spoke with Amine Berrada from Home Loan Experts, who was the couple’s mortgage broker who settled their loan with St George. He said he followed the proper processes and gave them great service, so he was blindsided.
“Mr Lee shopped around, and repeatedly came to my office to get the best service and deal. He came back to me with lots of offers and asked me to match or beat those offers, which I managed to do. He was very happy with the process and my service. After I got him an offer he was happy with, he bought his wife and his kids to my office to chat about what would be the next step and how we could organise the loan. Everything went perfectly. At no point did they give me any indication that they were going to refinance the loan. I was shocked when I got the notice from St George that the account was closed. I was surprised; I thought that maybe they had to sell their property. They never came to me and asked me about refinancing.”
There are many times throughout the loan process where the contract – in particular, the clawback clause – is discussed, Berrada said. As such, he believes it is not unfair and that he is entitled to be paid what he is owed.
“Mrs Lee is also a solicitor, and I explained everything to her about our services and what the repercussions would be if the loan was repaid within the first 18 months. This was all stipulated clearly on the application that she signed too. As a solicitor, you wouldn’t engage in a contract and sign a contract if you didn’t read, understand and reread the contract. A few questions were asked, which I answered clearly and then the document was signed.”
Most of all, Berrada said he is disheartened that his client didn’t come to him for advice. As a broker, he argued he only wants what is best for his clients.
“I am not here to rip people off. If they engaged my services to refinance then the clawback fee would be waived. Home Loan Experts never charge an existing client. Our aim is to keep our clients and keep them happy,” he said.
Home Loan Experts’ position on clawbacks echoes the position of many other mortgage brokers – it is unfair for brokers to wear the cost from the bank, particularly after the work brokers have put in for the client to get their mortgage approved.