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Action Sought for Toyota's High Finance Costs

Action Sought for Toyota's High Finance Costs

A Melbourne-based legal outfit, Echo Law, has officially initiated legal proceedings against Toyota Finance in response to allegations of excessive interest rates on car loans.
The crux of the issue lies in a practice known as "flex commissions" deemed unfair due to a lack of transparency, potentially impacting a multitude of consumers.

The legal challenge claims that from 2010 to 2018, Toyota Finance Australia and its affiliated dealers engaged in secretive practices allowing dealers to inflate interest rates, thereby earning higher commissions. This scheme, according to the firm’s analysis, resulted in customers paying more than what was necessary for their vehicle purchases, without their knowledge.

A flex commission structure worked on a basic level, wherein the finance company set a base rate, but permitted the dealer to hike that rate at their discretion. Consequently, the higher the interest and the longer the repayment term, the more lucrative the commission for the dealership. Importantly, this mechanism was employed without the customer's informed consent.

The outlawing of flex commissions in 2018 was a step forward in consumer protection. However, the legacy of their use has led to various class actions aimed at recovering undue expenses borne by customers, with Echo Law's decision to sue Toyota as its latest instance.

Joining Echo Law are fellow claimants represented by Maurice Blackburn lawyers, who have taken action against numerous finance institutions including ANZ and Macquarie Leasing, suggesting a widespread need for consumer redress affecting over a million Australians to date.

Car owners who financed their vehicle through Toyota Finance within specified periods and had their loan facilitated by a dealership may qualify for this recourse. Echo Law’s Andrew Paull expressed that the financial repercussions for those subjected to these commissions are substantial, running into the substantial sums.

While registration for the class action is complimentary via Echo Law's portal, the broader sentiment within the industry remains cautious regarding dealership-facilitated loans. Founding expert Julian Finch of Finch Financial Services warned that dealers often bypass stringent lending parameters, which could disadvantage buyers in various forms. These could include a slew of service charges and marketing-related fees that inflate the cost of borrowing directly from dealerships.

In contrast, competitive financial offers from other lenders are spotlighted for their straightforward and cost-effective car loan terms—featuring interest rates as low as 4.99% and devoid of numerous ancillary costs typically levied with such loans.

Published:Saturday, 24th Feb 2024
Source: Paige Estritori

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