State Mercantile is an organisation that believes in treating all people with dignity and respect. This policy has been developed to assist customers in relation to their debt position. We have implemented this policy believing it to be in line with our ethos, and to meet the requirements of the National Consumer Credit Protection Act.
What is Financial Difficulty?
Our customers who are experiencing Financial Difficulty are those unable to meet their present financial commitments without sacrificing their ability to meet basic living needs (such as rent and food).
Financial Difficulty is different for everyone, some contributing factors could be:
- Employment situation;
- Illness or injury;
- Family circumstances;
- Addiction in all its forms;
- Natural disaster; or
Options should be discussed with the customer if any of the above contributing factors are identified during a conversation or through other means.
Customers have the right to request hardship orally (informally) or in writing.
- To assist customers in identifying their financial circumstances and options;
- To deliver consistent, fair options, delivered with integrity and respect;
- To respond to individual customer needs;
- To assist customers to proactively manage their accounts;
- To provide incentives to encourage customers to establish and maintain agreed payment plans;
- To identify that for some customers experiencing financial difficulty may require additional assistance;
- To fulfil and exceed the statutory requirements of the ASIC and ACCC Guidelines, ASIC Guidelines and Hardship Guidelines in the development of a Hardship Policy in consultation with relevant customer; and
- To effectively manage debt on behalf of our customers and their stakeholders.
If a customer informs State Mercantile that they are experiencing payment difficulties, State Mercantile will discuss their ability to service their debt.
When undertaking this conversation, we will be mindful of:
- The customer’s present debt position;
- Information that will assist both the customer and the business come to an agreement regarding payments;
- Number of children and/or dependants (financial responsibility);
- Contributing factors to current position;
- Information that might be useful for customer in present circumstances e.g. eligibility for Government funded concessions (health care card, social security benefit, pensioner);
- Recommendations given by financial counsellor or relevant consumer representative organisation; and
- Other issues that will be considered include: any previous dealings with State Mercantile, medical conditions, disability, family circumstances and domestic violence as contributing factors.
Rights of Customers
Each customer experiencing Financial Difficulty or Hardship will be treated with sensitivity on a case-by-case basis and will have the right to:
- Receive information on State Mercantile’s Hardship Policy;
- Be informed of the various payment methods available;
- Renegotiate the amount of their instalment if their circumstances change;
- Be provided with information regarding any independent financial and other counselling services that are available to them;
- Not be subject to any legal action or any additional debt recovery costs, whilst continuing to make payments according to our agreement;
- Make an offer to pay by instalments based on what they are able to afford, while meeting their individual and family needs.
Staff Capability and Training
State Mercantile will ensure its employees are supported and trained to support customers experiencing financial difficulty or hardship with sensitivity and respect. They will be informed about State Mercantile legal responsibilities when working with customers.
We will on an annual basis review policies, processes and training to be confident we are living our vision and meeting the needs of our staff, our customers and business partners.