ASIC has launched legal action against Latitude Finance Australia and Harvey Norman over the promotion of interest free payment methods.
Latitude and Harvey Norman distributed and earned significant revenues from the GO Mastercard, which is available exclusively through Harvey Norman franchisees’ stores and Harvey Norman and Latitude websites. From around July 2020, the GO Mastercard credit card was rebranded the Latitude GO Mastercard.
ASIC alleges that from January 2020 to August 2021, advertisements promoting ‘no deposit’, ‘interest free’ payment methods over a specified term for purchases at Harvey Norman were misleading because they did not disclose that consumers could only use the interest free payment method if they applied for and used a Latitude GO Mastercard.
ASIC also alleges that the advertisements misrepresented the true cost of using the payment method because they failed to adequately disclose establishment fees and monthly account service fees.
ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court said, ‘ASIC is concerned the advertising did not provide consumers with the full picture, that they could only use the interest free payment method by applying for and using certain Latitude credit cards. These credit cards, ASIC alleges, attracted substantial fees over the course of the 60 month payment term, and exposed consumers to the risks of incurring further debts and charges, as well as potentially affecting their credit rating.’
Consumers who signed up to the GO Mastercard on or after 16 March 2021 and before 11 August 2021, and made a purchase at Harvey Norman using the 60 month interest free payment method and paid off their purchase over 60 months, would be liable to pay at least $537 in fees, on top of their purchase amount.
‘Consumers have a right to make informed choices. Credit providers and retail partners such as Latitude and Harvey Norman should ensure that their advertising clearly discloses all important information about payment methods and any fees,’ said Ms Court.
ASIC seeks declarations, pecuniary penalties, injunctions and other orders against Latitude and Harvey Norman. The date for the first case management hearing is yet to be scheduled by the Court.