VetPay is a quick-access loan product that markets itself as an "affordable" service for caring animal owners who find themselves unable to cover the cost of vet bills.
All the user has to do is pay the vet a 10% deposit and repay the balance to VetPay in fortnightly payments… and cough up an astonishing array of fees in the process.
These include a yearly $49 fee to access the service and $2.50 every time you make a repayment. And that's on top of the extra costs you'll be slapped with courtesy of an eye-watering annual interest rate of 18.4%. All this makes it one of the more expensive credit products we've seen.
CHOICE campaigner Patrick Veyret says VetPay's exorbitant interest rates and numerous fees are unjustifiably high.
Why we think it's Shonky
For CHOICE campaigner Patrick Veyret, the cost of the service and its targeting of pet owners in a tight spot makes it one of the most reprehensible credit products on the market.
"The exorbitant interest rates and numerous fees charged by VetPay are unjustifiably high," he says. "It's profiting from people at a time when they're desperate and need to care for a beloved pet."
VetPay makes the process all the more easy for itself by not distracting website visitors with pesky credit guides and specific terms and conditions of its loans. There's limited information about its product and customer fees on the FAQ section of its website, with further details only available once users apply for a loan.
This lack of public-facing fine print, including any detailed information on VetPay's policy for helping customers in financial hardship, is another issue for Patrick: "This is a very basic step that most responsible lenders have publicly available on their website."
We asked VetPay for documentation on the terms and conditions of its loans and its hardship policies, but the company simply pointed us back to the scant information on its website.
What is clear from VetPay's site, though, is that its interest rate is higher than that of a low-rate credit card from one of the major banks (which hover around 10–13% a year). And that its yearly fee tops that of some low-fee cards, and isn't far behind what you'd pay on some rewards cards.
Many online reviewers of the service accuse it of preying on their emotional investment in their pets
VetPay's heavy financial toll isn't lost on consumers. Many online reviewers of the service accuse it of preying on their emotional investment in their pets, and complain that they've ended up spending hundreds more than their original vet bill.
We've also spoken to financial counsellors who say they've seen cases where customers have got into unaffordable debt from using VetPay.
In some cases, the loans appeared to be unsuitable, with one pet owner on government support payments and living in public housing racking up a thousand dollars of debt, which they had no way of repaying.
VetPay tells us that it receives lots of positive feedback from its customers and follows responsible lending laws, carrying out "extensive" analysis of an applicant's circumstances before giving out loans.
"Checks [of] credit history, expenses and disposable income etc. are performed to ensure our product is not unsuitable," says a spokesperson.
After repeated requests, VetPay did eventually give us a sample contract with more detailed terms and conditions of its loans, and a credit guide containing more information about its hardship policy.
But with these sorts of details only available once users apply for a loan, VetPay's lack of transparency makes its high cost all the more concerning.