Payday lender Nimble forced to refund customers $1.5 million

29 March 2016 | ASIC investigation finds Nimble breached responsible lending laws with more than 700 customers.

Having a lend

Payday lender Nimble (best known for its ads starring a rabbit with the catch phrase "Just Nimble it") has been ordered to refund more than $1.5 million to over 7000 customers.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission's (ASIC) investigation found the payday lender breached responsible lending laws by:

  • not appropriately assessing the financial situation of many customers before providing them with loans
  • failing to consistently recognise where consumers had been given repeat loans from payday lenders within a short period of time, and when repeat loans were properly identified, Nimble did not take proper steps required by law before providing a loan to a customer
  • failing to inquire about consumer's requirements and objectives for the loan, resulting in not enough information for Nimble to fully understand consumers' needs.

Nimble is also required to make a $50,000 contribution to Financial Counselling Australia and review their business operations and compliance with the consumer credit regime.

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Nimble targets young people

Nimble's tagline "smart little loans" offers quick loans from $500 to $5000 with very high interest rates. Its ads target young people, encouraging them to take out repeat loans for day-to-day living expenses.

Scott Pape, an independent financial adviser known as The Barefoot Investor, referred to the payday lending industry as "incredibly dangerous" for consumers, in an interview with CHOICE.

"In my view, you've got Nimble trying to be hip and cool and acting like a tech start-up, [but] they're not. Bankers have been ripping off people for hundreds of years. There's nothing new in what they're doing, they're just exploiting people who have low financial literacy," says Pape.

Payday lending industry shonky

CHOICE campaigns manager Erin Turner says the payday lenders' business model is making money by taking advantage of people in desperate situations.

"Last year CHOICE gave the whole payday industry a Shonky for their dodgy high-cost products and predatory behaviour. The ASIC action has resulted in a strong fine against a major lender and will see money directed to independent, free financial counselling for people struggling with debt," says Turner.

ASIC deputy chair Peter Kell says the payday lending industry remains a high priority area for the Commission.

"This is a significant outcome for financially vulnerable consumers," says Kell.

Nimble response

Nimble chief executive Sami Malia says Nimble regrets inconveniences caused to the affected customers.

"Nimble has identified and promptly resolved these issues. They affected around 1.2% of loans written during the period from 1 July 2013 to 22 July 2015," says Malia.

"These application assessment issues were entirely unintended and were resolved in collaboration with ASIC. There has been no adverse findings against Nimble."

Next steps for Nimble customers

Consumers are encouraged to contact Nimble if they think they've been given an unsuitable loan. If they're not satisfied with the response, consumers can lodge a complaint with the Credit and Investments Ombudsman.