A Corrupt Credit Business Model Travels to Chile and Brazil

New Orleans Cred

ODECU of Chile

ODECU of Chile

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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Banks Silently Step up on Remittances

24basic.1.600Atlanta On ACORN International’s Remittance Justice Campaign (www.remittancejustice.org) we have had difficulty getting any response from the big banks except in the most cursory terms.  Wells Fargo did finally reply and told us they were doing great within a small footprint of countries.  Bank of America and JP Morgan/Chase were stone silent.  Not surprisingly given the predatory nature of their pricing.

A story broke yesterday on the wire and NPR which might more clearly indicate that the big boys can actually hear the footprints coming up behind them even as they stick to stonefaced spinning.   These three banks got together on something called ClearXchange in order to try and retain some of their customers exhausted with the constant fee rip-offs and increasingly inventing other alternatives including hand-to-hand transfers through prepaid debit cards within families or utilization of the PayPal if folks are sophisticated.

Frankly, this is a Band-Aid the banks are applying when a tourniquet is called for.  They may keep a couple of their more inept and lazy customers, but folks are leaving this train station and demanding other tools that reflect modern technology, rather than ancient and pervasive greed.

The NPR report seemed to hint that Google was talking about moving into the space of money transfer utilizing phones and mobile devices.  Talking about “doing good” or something like that which used to be their motto, I could fall in love again!  I couldn’t track down the whole story on a Google search (sounds contradictory doesn’t it?) but I did find that it has been possible to move money between various Google accounts fairly seamlessly using something called Google Checkout for the last two or three years.  Obviously not widely recognized or publicized, but they could also be knocking on the right door.

In Citizen Wealth I argued that companies, even big bad boys like Wal-Mart and H&R Block could create business models with huge returns by delivering service that low-to-moderate income families need and demand.  Money transfer of remittances is precisely the service that will see the game change fundamentally in a short time.  The banks and credit unions are trying to hold on to old models that are predatory and not realizing that you can’t leave $22 billion in profits out there and not have other, easier and cheaper services eventually suck them dry.

It’s past time for remittance justice.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail