A former used car salesman who was fined $ 1.2 million for repeatedly lending poor natives of far north Queensland exorbitant loans continues to work as a pawnshop at Cairns.
Colin Hulbert was hit with a lifetime ban from engaging in lending business by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission this week, but may continue to lend legally as it is outside the scope of application of national credit legislation.
Mr. Hulbert’s companies, Channic Pty Ltd and Cash Brokers, operated out of his used car dealership Super Cheap Car Sales, and charged brokerage fees of up to $ 990 to facilitate loans with an interest rate of $ 990. 48% interest to allow consumers to buy vehicles that are often in poor condition.
He and his businesses were fined $ 1.2 million, including costs, by Federal Court last year for breaching responsible lending obligations and engaging in unacceptable conduct.
The ABC understands that Colin Hulbert continued to work as a pawnshop in his wife’s business, Cash Lenders, in Cairns.
He transferred ownership of the company to his wife in July of last year and ceased to be a director in January of this year.
Neon signs on the storefront advertise cash advances, personal loans and pawn shops, but only “pawn shops” are lit.
Jon O’Mally, of the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (ICAN), said he first encountered Mr Hulbert in 2009 when they had an influx of people seeking help, mainly from the aboriginal community of Yarrabah, south of Cairns.
“Our customers were really facing serious hardship and stress due to harassment from Colin trying to collect payments and the threat of repossessing vehicles,” he said.
He said more than 100 people have complained to ICAN about Mr Hulbert, including from Cairns, Innisfail and Cape York.
“If we saw 100 people walking through our doors, I couldn’t imagine how many more [were impacted]. “
ICAN reported the case to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), which took legal action against Mr Hulbert and his companies in the Federal Court.
One of the witnesses was Rhonda Brim, an unemployed mother of eight from Cairns, who bought a van for Mr Hulbert so that she could take her sick newborn son to hospital for continued medical treatment.
She saw one of her flyers in a mall and took out the 48% interest loan for a $ 7,000 van that turned out to be a “lemon.”
“At that point, I thought it was reasonable for someone who couldn’t get financing from a bigger dealership because I wasn’t working, so I went to whoever I could to get a vehicle for my son, ”she said.
But Ms Brim said it was a heartwarming experience as the van broke down and she couldn’t afford the $ 200 fortnightly loan repayments.
Ms Brim said that one day her father needed a lift for Kuranda because her brother had just died, but the van would not start, prompting her to seek help from ICAN and she ultimately testified against Mr. Hulbert.
“ We have the impression that everything was for nothing ”
ASIC found that Mr. Hulbert knowingly violated credit laws at least 73 times between 2008 and 2012 and banned him from engaging in credit activity after finding he was likely to reoffend.
He avoided paying the $ 1.2 million fine and $ 47,699 in compensation to affected consumers after filing for bankruptcy earlier this year.
“ASIC won the case, but we have people who were witnesses who went to great lengths to make sure Colin was responsible for his mistakes but weren’t properly compensated,” Mr. O’Mally.
Ms Brim said it was frustrating and didn’t think Mr Hulbert should be allowed to continue operating as a pawnshop.
“I thought that was the point to bring it to justice in the first place, besides shutting it down,” she said.
“I have to walk past this place every day when I drop my kids off at school. It’s really, really frustrating that these doors are open every day.”
ASIC said it would continue to monitor Mr Hulbert’s activities.
“If he violates the prohibition order, ASIC will take appropriate action,” a spokesperson said.
‘Colin is not a lonely ranger’
Rhonda Brim said she now reads contracts carefully and is on the lookout for “warning signs” of these easy loan announcements, but said disadvantaged people would still struggle to find fair deals.
“Either they can’t get loans or they’re too afraid to try because they’re afraid of being rejected,” she said.
“Small pawn brokers and small car dealerships like Colin’s business were easier, and they … say if you’re a low-income worker, we’ll take you no matter if you have bad credit. . “
Mr O’Malley called for the scope of the Royal Commission of Banking Inquiry to be broadened to examine “fringe lenders” who could have a detrimental impact on the community.
“This is common. Colin is not a single ranger in the credit industry, especially in loans and small amounts of finance,” he said.
“It’s sad and unfortunately we’re looking at a $ 20 billion industry that probably targets mostly vulnerable or low-income people.”