Westpac fined $35 million after breaching home loan lending obligations

Westpac fined $35 million after breaching home loan lending obligations
Westpac fined $35 million after breaching home loan lending obligations

Westpac has admitted breaching its responsible lending obligations when providing home loans and agreed to submit to a $35 million civil penalty to resolve Federal Court proceedings under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 (Cth) (the National Credit Act).

A three-week trial for this matter was due to commence in the Federal Court yesterday.

The parties have jointly approached the Federal Court seeking orders that Westpac contravened the responsible lending provisions of the National Credit Act because its automated decision system:

  • did not have regard to consumers’ declared living expenses when assessing their capacity to repay home loans, and instead used a benchmark (the Household Expenditure Measure); and
  • for home loans to owner occupiers with an interest-only period, failed to use the higher repayments at the end of the interest-only period when assessing a consumer’s capacity to repay the loan. For example, for a loan of $500,000 at 5.24% with a term of 30 years and a 10-year interest-only period, the assumed repayment using the incorrect method is $2,758 per month, whereas the actual repayment after the expiry of the interest-only period using the correct method is $3,366 per month.

The litigation related to Westpac’s home loan assessment process during the period December 2011 and March 2015, during which approximately 260,000 home loans were approved by Westpac’s automated decision system.

For approximately 50,000 home loans, Westpac received, and did not use, consumers’ actual expense information that was higher than the Household Expenditure Measure.

For approximately 50,000 home loans, Westpac used the incorrect method when assessing a consumer’s capacity to repay a home loan at the end of the interest-only period. Of these approximately 100,000 loans, Westpac should not have automatically approved approximately 10,500 loans.

If approved by the Federal Court, this will represent the largest civil penalty awarded under the National Credit Act.

The new ASIC chair James Shipton said it was "a very positive outcome and sends a strong regulatory message to industry that non-compliance with the responsible lending obligations will not be tolerated. Responsible lending in the home lending market is absolutely vital to consumers, banks and our economy." 

"This outcome is a warning to all lenders that they must comply with the responsible lending obligations. If they do not, ASIC will take action to enforce the law."

 

Joel Robinson

Joel Robinson

Joel Robinson is a property journalist based in Sydney. Joel has been writing about the residential real estate market for the last five years, specializing in market trends and the economics and finance behind buying and selling real estate.

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