7 November 2012
How ironic that Centrepay will not allow Rent 2 Own Cars to join there payment system yet they align themselves with rogue rip off companies such as this. And this is NOT the only one !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A rental company is under investigation after allegedly targeting indigenous communities with predatory loans that required one person to pay more than $4000 for a $500 laptop.
A financial counsellor working in Mildura a year ago identified many of her clients from the Dareton community in south-west New South Wales had taken out rental agreements with Zaam Rentals.
The company was established in 2010 and says it is ''expanding rapidly'', offering consumers the chance to loan plasma televisions, white goods and furniture in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
A spokesman for the Murray Mallee Community Legal Service said it had been advised that Zaam staff visited indigenous communities door-knocking homes offering to loan them goods. The contracts were for up to 24 months.
''We have information that suggests that our clients were asked to sign a Centrepay authority, which then enables Zaam Rentals to get direct access to people's Centrelink payments,'' the spokesman said.
The legal service wrote to a number of consumer regulators, all of whom said they would await the outcome of an investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
Community advocacy group Mallee Family Care is assisting about 30 clients who have fallen into financial trouble after renting from Zaam. All but three are indigenous.
Under one rental agreement signed in January 2011 the client will pay $4160 for a laptop worth about $500 through 52 fortnightly payments of $80. The renter's employer was listed as Centrelink.
The chief executive of Mildura Aboriginal Corporation, Rudy Kirby, said one client paid up to $2000 for a washing machine worth no more than $600.
ASIC would not comment on the case. The Age understands it is considering the use of new laws designed to stop lending to people unable to re-pay the debt or who would suffer substantial hardship if they did.
Zaam's director Akash Bhardwaj yesterday offered to have his lawyer call back but The Age received no reply.
''We are in touch with ASIC and with everyone,'' Mr Bhardwaj said. ''Everything is going on, that's why I can't give you comment at this moment.''
Mr Kirby said already disadvantaged communities were less able to sustain direct deductions from their age and disability pensions and other social security payments.
He said there were also reports of Zaam giving kick-backs.
''Within the Koori community a lot of it is built upon trust, knowing who's who,'' he said.
Zaam Rentals is registered to an address in Narre Warren North, the same address as Fair Dinkum Rentals, another company that was prosecuted by the Queensland Government Office of Fair Trading in February 2010. In that case 800 ''unfair'' contracts were cancelled and $10,000 refunded to customers.
The Narre Warren home belongs to George Theodorou, who until yesterday was Zaam's accountant.
Mr Theodorou runs a nearby business and said he had been visited by an ASIC officer about the Zaam case but had only met the company's director, Mr Bhardwaj, once. Yesterday morning, Mr Theodorou called Mr Bhardwaj and told him he no longer acted for Zaam Rentals.
Mr Theodorou said he had only known Mr Bhardwaj for about a year and had little involvement in Fair Dinkum Rentals.
''All I ever did for that company was just deregister it,'' he said. ''Fair Dinkum was under another shareholder's name. There's a few of the Indian boys forming companies and doing that.''