Advertising of credit facilities and authorisation of credit intermediaries
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) shares responsibility for the advertising of credit facilities with the Central Bank and has specific responsibility for the authorisation of credit intermediaries and for maintaining the Register of Credit Intermediaries. The register is an online list of all such companies holding a valid authorisation at the time of enquiry.
The register details those authorised by the CCPC to act as credit intermediaries under the terms of the Consumer Credit Act, 1995 (as amended). This Act regulates most areas of consumer credit except credit unions.
If you offer to arrange credit for your goods or services
A credit intermediary is defined in the Consumer Credit Act, 1995 (as amended) as:
“Credit intermediary means a person, other than a credit institution or a mortgage lender, who in the course of his business arranges or offers to arrange for a consumer the provision of credit or the letting of goods in return for a commission, payment or consideration of any kind from the provider of the credit or the owner, as the case may be”.
Examples of credit intermediaries are garages and high street retailers (such as furniture and electrical retailers) leasing or hiring out goods or selling on credit or arranging credit finance provided by credit institutions.
Advertising credit sales
There are strict rules governing how you advertise consumer credit in Ireland. Advertisements must conform to the Consumer Credit Act 1995 and must include:
- The APR (annual percentage rate). The display of any other rate of interest is not allowed. The APR must be as prominent as any other figure shown
- The period over which payments are required
- The total cost of credit
- Details of the deposit required (or confirmation that none is required)
- Whether the required payments are payable monthly, bi-monthly etc.
- The total number of payments required
- Details of any other payments required (for example an arrangement fee or a documents fee)
- An indication of any restriction that apply to the availability of credit
The Consumer Credit Act, 1995 (amended) also specifies how hire purchase and consumer hire deals must be advertised.
Contents of credit agreements
Whenever you act as a credit intermediary and offer your customer credit, you should always ensure the following:
- That the agreement is in writing
- It has the names and addresses of both parties
- It is signed by the consumer and by or on behalf of others in the agreement
- A copy is handed to the consumer and any guarantors
- The agreement includes the cooling off period
- It includes details of any penalties
If these conditions are not observed the loan may be unenforceable. Generally the following should also appear in the agreement
- The type of agreement
- The amount of credit advanced
- The length of the agreement
- The number of instalments
- Amount of each instalment
- Total amount repayable
- Cost of this credit
- Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of the charge
- Interest rate
If any of these requirements are omitted, again the agreement may be unenforceable.
However, a court has discretion in the matter and would take into account whether or not the omission of a term would adversely affect the consumer.
How to become a credit intermediary
The CCPC is responsible for the authorisation of credit intermediaries
If you are applying to the CCPC to act as a credit intermediary you must complete an application form and supply copies of:
- Your Certificate of Incorporation if you are a limited company
- Your Business Name Registration Certificate
- Your Tax Clearance Certificate
Your application should also include letters of appointment as a credit intermediary from all the financial institutions for which you act as a credit intermediary (if not already submitted to the CCPC).
Your application should be accompanied by the application fee:
- €315 (if you are a sole trader)
- €630 (a company or partnership)
Tax Clearance Certificate
A Tax Clearance Certificate (TCC) is a written confirmation from the Revenue Commissioners that your tax affairs are in order at the date of issue of the certificate.
In some instances Revenue may issue certificates to businesses with tax arrears, provided the arrears are covered by an instalment arrangement that has been agreed with Revenue.
Revenue has an online verification facility which allows a third party to confirm that you are in possession of a current TCC by quoting your Tax reference number/PPSN and the Tax Clearance Access Code, which are on the certificate. This allows the third party to access the information via the Revenue Online Service to confirm the position.
Your other responsibilities
Consumer legislation gives your customers various rights when they enter into various financial agreements.
For instance, if they have a credit agreement, the lender must not contact them about it without their consent between 9pm and 9am weekdays, or at any time on a Sunday or public holidays.
As a credit intermediary, you should pay particular attention to the cooling off period. Under the Consumer Credit Act, a consumer has the right to reconsider a credit agreement within 10 days and to cancel it in writing without obligation.
If they do not avail of this waiver within the 10 days, then the agreement comes into effect. But if the consumer chooses to waive their entitlement to the 10-day cooling off period, then the agreement comes into effect immediately.