Royal commission targets lending first

by Manuelita Contreras12 Feb 2018

The royal commission’s first hearing on misconduct in the financial services industry will center on lending practices across home loans, car loans and credit cards.

The investigation will look into whether consumers are enjoying their right for honest and fair treatment in the lending space, said senior counsel assisting Rowena Orr at the commission's initial hearing yesterday (12 February).

Orr said the evidence the commission has reviewed so far suggests that consumers have not always enjoyed this right.

The commission identified inappropriate lending as of the themes that it said have already emerged in its review of the submissions.

Looking at the initial research the commission has done, home lending is likely to steal the spotlight in its investigation of lending misconduct. Among lenders, banks will inevitably get the most attention.

The commission has already lighlighted how housing loans comprise the largest asset on authorised deposit-taking institutions' books, and how most of housing finance is provided by banks.

The first round of hearing will start in one month’s time.

The commission said it has received about 385 submissions to date and that the number of submissions has been growing each week since the commission allowed the public to submit evidence online.

About 49% of the responses the commission has received relate to banking. The next big chunk – at 18% – relates to superannuation.

Of the nature of the responses’ dealings, 12% are on mortgage brokers.

The rest are on personal finance (31%), superannuation (17%), small business finance (13%), and financial advice (9%).

Commissioner Kenneth Hayne said at the start of the hearing that a number of major entities failed to provide more specific examples of misconduct over the last five years within the time set by the commission, citing the amout of material they needed to review and put together.

Hayne said public submissions are "very important" to the commission's work, but that the body will not have time to hear every case of alledged misconduct in the financial services industry.

The commission will produce an interim report not later than 30 September 2018 and submit its final report by 1 February 2019.

Related stories:
Royal commission paper suggests focus of inquiry
Group calls for scrutiny of trail commissions
Big banks not imposing gag orders for royal commission