Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Consumer Credit (Amendment) Bill 2022: Second Stage


1:40 pm

Photo of Martin KennyMartin Kenny (Sligo-Leitrim, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I am very glad to have the opportunity to speak on this Bill. Many people in my constituency have contacted me over the years after they got into serious difficulties dealing with moneylenders, including some of the companies that go around door-to-door offering loans to people. Usually these are vulnerable people in more poor circumstances and on working-class housing estates. An unfortunate housewife's washing machine could break down and she has to get a loan. She may find herself paying almost double the cost of a washing machine by the time it is paid for. I have come across numerous cases of that; all of us have. While elements of this legislation are welcome, such as the removal of the charge for door-to-door collection, the use of simple interest rates and the limit on collection of term loans of 12 months, the key thing that we need to deal with is the interest that moneylenders charge. Yet that is the thing that the Minister of State has avoided. It is most regrettable that he has not gone far enough on that. I do not understand why a Government that is in the throes of a crisis - as the cost of living is going through the roof and people are hardly able to manage even though they are out there working hard to try to pay their bills and their rent - that it does not recognise that it needs to act on the things that it can do that will cost the Exchequer nothing but will make a big difference to hard working, hard-pressed people who are in the clutches of these money lenders.

What about the alternatives? Deputy Doherty noted that the excuse used in the past was that if we go too hard on these licensed moneylenders that people will turn to illegal moneylenders but the alternative is that they could turn to other institutions such as the credit unions, which have long been the people's bank or the community bank, as it were. The credit union movement has been campaigning. It has contacted me and I am sure every other Deputy about getting some relief on the 10% regulator reserve that is in place and a number of other issues. Yet nothing has been done to assist them to enable the credit unions to be able to offer more services. Members of credit unions have received letters from the credit unions to say there is a limit on what can be deposited with them now. There are huge difficulties there. If the Minister of State is interested in doing something to look after ordinary people who are struggling he needs to look at the credit union movement and enable it to be the people's bank and to deliver for people in those circumstances.

Returning to this legislation, it is very clear the individuals who need the assistance are again going to be let down by this Government. Perhaps in his closing remarks the Minister of State could address the issue of why on earth the Government feels it is appropriate for a person borrowing €1,000 to have to repay €480, 12 months later. How can the Minister of State think that appropriate? How can he go round to his constituents and sell them that and tell them he thinks it is okay? I cannot sell it to my constituents and would not try to. I do not think anybody who is serious about delivering for their constituents, people in more difficult circumstances and hard-pressed people out there could possibly expect they would be able to convince people that is appropriate and is okay. I am aware the Minister of State has a measure there where that can be changed but there is no commitment to change it. There is no commitment from Government to press that down to ensure we bring it back to a level that is acceptable. In the proposals we have it would go to €180 after 12 months, which is 18%. Even that is very high. I think we all understand that. What is the block? The Minister of State should explain that. Why does the Government feel this is appropriate? Nobody in their right mind would consider it appropriate.

While it is welcome something is being done, the key thing that needs to be done is being avoided. The conclusion one would come to from looking at this is what the Government is doing is simply window-dressing the problem while leaving it there. Has the Government got a commitment to these people? Is that what is going on here? Somebody somewhere is lobbying or making sure the very wealthy companies making huge profits on the poorest people in our society are going to be enabled to continue to do that. There are, therefore, real questions to be asked about the Government's commitment to ensure it provides for the ordinary, decent people and to look after them as we move forward.


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