A legal advocate has labelled mobile traders "thieves in the night" harming vulnerable Whanganui people and local businesses.

Bronwyn Rogers from Community Legal Advice Whanganui (CLAW) has urged Whanganui District Council to support any crackdown on the industry.

At council's public forum, Rogers said CLAW were aware of at least eight truck shops or door-to-door sales outfits operating in Whanganui and she and community budget advisers were dealing with the fallout.

Mobile traders often sell households items such as electronics, whiteware and furniture on credit.


"The one thing in common amongst all of them is that they're selling poor quality goods at heavily inflated prices," she said.

"I've had clients tell me that they've pushed their way in the door, they're ignoring 'do not knock stickers' ... they feel like they're under duress to sign contracts which they know they can't afford."

Rogers said the customers that did pay were often revisited within a short space of time which caused an "endless debt cycle".

"Vulnerable people are being hammered on a daily basis in ways most of us wouldn't be able to tolerate."

Rogers has been with CLAW for 15 years and said 35 per cent of the work with its 5000-6000 annual clients was around finance and consumer matters.

"So I've seen this landscape change and grow and I see the number of contracts that come in and they are extremely onerous, set up to fail ..."

Rogers made a "conservative" estimate that $1.65 million was being spent with mobile traders in Whanganui.

"There's economic harm to the vulnerable ... but there's also economic discrimination to existing businesses who have committed to Whanganui," she said.


"They're putting back, they're paying their rates, they're contributing to the economic growth of Whanganui.

"(But) these sales teams that come in, they're like thieves in the night. They come in, they get signatures on contracts and they leave.

"They're not from Whanganui, they're faceless."

The Government is looking at changes to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act and a Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment discussion paper was released earlier this year.

"This community needs help and what I'm asking you is; what can you as a council do to support the current consumer reforms ... and address the harm and support local businesses?

"The time is right. All the stars are aligned. Central government is open, we've got a Minister of Consumer Affairs who is very concerned about vulnerable people and he's doing massive consultation around consumer and credit."

Councillors voted to refer the issue to council's strategy and finance committee.