The Commerce Commission says Harmoney will plead guilty to charges of misleading consumers after the regulator filed charges against New Zealand's first and biggest peer-to-peer lender under the Fair Trading Act.
In a media release, the commission said Harmoney faced six charges relating to a pre-approval letter sent in various forms to more than 500,000 New Zealanders between October 2014 and April 2015, which misled recipients by telling them they had been pre-approved to borrow money from Harmoney.
"The letters stated that in order to find out how much money the recipient had been approved for they needed to visit Harmoney's website," the commission said. "In fact, recipients of the letter had to go through the normal application process of lodging a loan request and passing the approval process. Only at that point would their loan request be presented to potential lenders via Harmoney's platform.
Company chief executive and founder Neil Roberts has been contacted this morning, but could not be immediately reached.
Peer-to-peer lending licences were introduced under the Financial Markets Conduct Act which came into effect in 2014, providing a regime to match lenders and borrowers, with a $2 million cap on the amount allowed to be borrowed.
Harmoney was the first to receive a licence and facilitated more than $100 million of loans through its peer-to-peer platform in its first year of operation.
Harmoney has cooperated with the investigation and has indicated it intends to plead guilty, the commission said.
In a separate statement, the peer-to-peer lender said it acknowledged the information wasn't clear enough to show customers still needed to go through the credit process, and that it had cooperated since the regulator first contacted it.
"Once Harmoney was made aware of the issue it took immediate action, stopping the campaign completely and ensuring a more robust process in the sign off of marketing campaigns," the company said.
In a statement this morning, Harmoney said:
"The recipients of the marketing material had been pre-selected through a credit screening process. Harmoney acknowledges that the information that qualified the offer wasn't sufficiently prominent so as to be clear there was still a credit process to go through. Once Harmoney was made aware of the issue it took immediate action, stopping the campaign completely and ensuring a more robust process in the sign off of marketing campaigns. Harmoney has co-operated fully from first contact with the Commerce Commission," it said.