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17-301MR ASIC bans flex commissions in car finance market

Thursday 7 September 2017

ASIC Media Release

ASIC has formally banned flex commissions in the car finance market, with the legislative instrument to ban these commissions registered on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments today.


Flex commissions are paid by lenders to car finance brokers (typically car dealers), allowing the dealers to set the interest rate on the car loan. The higher the interest rate, the larger the commission earnt by the dealer.


ASIC is banning these commissions because it has found that they lead to consumers paying excessive interest rates on their car loans. The ban comes after ASIC led a public consultation on banning these commissions (refer: 17-049MR).

"We found that flex commissions resulted in consumers paying very high interest rates on their car loans. We were particularly concerned about the impact on less financially experienced consumers," ASIC Deputy Chair Peter Kell said.

Mr Kell thanked those who had provided feedback to ASIC's consultation: "The feedback we received from stakeholders provided us with helpful insights, and we thank all stakeholders for their cooperation."


Background
The legislative instrument operates so that:

  • The lender not the car dealer has responsibility for determining the interest rate that applies to a particular loan. The car dealer cannot suggest a different rate that earns them more commissions.
  • Car dealers will have a limited capacity to discount the interest rate and receive lower commissions, leading to lower costs for credit.
The legislative instrument and the Explanatory Statement can be found here.

Lenders and dealerships will have until November 2018 to update their business models, and implement new commission arrangements that comply with the new law.

Under flex commissions:

  • The lender and the dealer agree that a range of interest rates will be available to any consumer (from a 'base rate' up to a prescribed maximum rate)
  • The dealer can set the interest rate for a particular loan within that range and will earn a greater upfront commission from the lender the higher the interest rate
  • There is no criteria used to set the interest rate which has been shown to  result in opportunistic pricing arrangements
The commission paid on a loan is determined by the ‘flex amount’ – which is the difference between the base rate and the interest rate of the loan sold to the consumer.

The lender and dealer share the flex amount. The percentage of the flex amount kept by the dealer varies significantly and can be up to 80 per cent of the interest charges.