Mobile trader Bestdeals 4 You has been fined over $47,000 for failing to disclose key information about its credit contracts and layby sales agreements.
Bestdeals is one of 11 mobile traders, often referred to as "truck shops", to be prosecuted by the Commerce Commission as it seeks to improve the industry's compliance with consumer protection laws.
The company, which pleaded guilty to 19 charges under Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act and the Fair Trading Act, was sentenced in Auckland District Court yesterday.
According to the Commerce Commission, Bestdeals sold door-to-door in Auckland, Whangarei and Hastings under the name Easylayby. It also operated a physical store in south Auckland called Super Mobile, which offered layby sales.
"Bestdeals failed to provide customers with an accurate statement of their right to cancel the contract or their right to apply for relief from unforeseen hardship, in breach of the CCCFA," the Commission said in a statement.
"It also failed to provide over 100 customers with a copy of their layby sales agreement terms and conditions when they entered the contract, as required under the FTA."
Sentencing judge Ema Aitken said the company targeted the most vulnerable members of society, who she described as "the precariat" -- those living in precariously balanced circumstances, for whom a single event could tip an individual or family into poverty or at the very least create significant difficulty.
The company submitted that it was not aware of legal requirements and that it had simply used the same contracts as other providers.
But Judge Aitken said this was not a mitigating factor and described the offending as verging on gross negligence.
"I reject strenuously the notion that Bestdeals is less culpable because it failed to take legal advice," she said.
Commissioner Anna Rawlings said over 1000 debtors were affected by Bestdeals' offending.
"Some of the Bestdeals credit contracts failed to include basic information such as the total number of payments required and the amount of those payments," she said.
Rawlings added that businesses choosing to operate in the consumer credit market must be familiar with and follow consumer credit laws.
"Businesses should also make sure that they are complying with the FTA including laws applying to particular sales methods that they choose to use, such as layby sales."
The Commission prosecuted 11 mobile traders in 2016 following the identification of widespread compliance issues. They were Appenture Marketing Limited, Best Buy Limited, Bestdeals 4 You Limited, Ace Marketing Limited, Smart Shop Limited, Goodring Company Limited, Betterlife Corporation Limited, Flexi Buy Limited, Macful International Limited, Zee Shop Limited and Sales Concepts Limited.