New Orleans Cred
it card scams are the bad penny perfected in the United States that is turning up now elsewhere in the world. These practices are not the foul play of bad actors as predatory lenders always claim, but intrinsic elements of corrupt, exploitive business models. The economic success stories in Brazil and Chile now seem threatened by the avarice of casual corporate corruption matched as usual with light to non-existent regulation and consumer protection regimes.
In Brazil the debt to income ratio has risen from 22% to 40% in only five years from 2006 to 2011 according to a study quoted by Alexei Barrionuevo in The New York Times. In Chile in 7 years the ratio has goen to 70% according to the Central Bank. There’s no question the model is predatory with interest annual interest rates reaching 220% in Brazil and no limits anywhere it seems. The situation is especially intense at retail chain, freely issuing cards to working and moderate income customers to access basic consumer goods, and then routinely adjusting the terms and levels of the interest rates on the debt without any notice to the customer.
These cards were supported by transnational banking big boys like UK’s HSBC and Spain’s Santander and Itau-Unibanco, all of which, especially HSBC, absolutely knew better, but couldn’t resist the rip-off, knowing that they could get away with it. When confronted by the prosecutor’s office in Brazil, the banks ignored appeals to fully compensate customers.
It was shocking to read that there are no only no limits to the level of interest rates in Chile, but also no way for an individual to be able to file for personal bankruptcy and get their act together. Unfortunately, when ripped, there’s no way for them to run – or reorganize. Stefan Larenas of the Organization of Consumers and Users of Chile, speaking about the Equifax-owned, unregulated Dicom credit score outfit in that country, was quoted ominously that, “If you are in Dicom, if you are not in hell, you are on the way there. It is a true social stigma here.” Seems a bad score not only bars you from any future loans, but is also seen as a legitimate reason to block you from future employment, creating a debtor’s prison without walls.
Predatory financial injustice is a global issue with most central banks simply burying their heads in the sand, just as our Remittance Justice Campaign has uncovered everywhere, and leaving workers and families nothing but fresh meet for corporate crime.