March 12 2004. Proposals making it easier for consumers caught in unfair credit agreements to take lenders to court will apply to loans still running when they become law.

Under current law when a consumer wants to challenge a credit agreement they must prove that it is 'extortionate' before a court can look at their case. But under these new proposals there will be a broader new 'fairness' test which will make this process easier. The new test will apply to all new and existing credit agreements when it becomes law.

For agreements that are still running the court will only be able to make changes to the remaining period of the loan and award financial claims for unfair conduct such as imposing excessive fees and charges.

The paper proposed a range of legislative changes, the majority of which will form the Consumer Credit (Amendment) Bill, which the Government hopes will be introduced before the end of the year.

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