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Brown plans to crack down on loan sharks

Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs

The Government plans to push ahead with a crackdown on loan sharks, the home affairs minister said yesterday.

Walton Brown added the Ministry of Home Affairs also planned to introduce regulations for debt collection agencies through updates to the Consumer Protection Act.

Mr Brown said this was one of five initiatives outlined in the 2017 Speech from the Throne that his ministry planned to complete in the next year.

He said they would “introduce regulations for debt collection agencies and regulate payday lenders who lend money at extraordinary interest rates under the umbrella of an updated Consumer Protection Act. It will introduce legislation that will grant the Consumer Affairs section oversight within the financial marketplace such as banking, to ensure that consumer and financial service providers are held accountable for their actions and consumers are treated fairly”.

Mr Brown was speaking during the Budget debate on his ministry in the House of Assembly.

The last Progressive Labour Party government made a similar pledge in its November 2012 Throne Speech, but lost a General Election a few months later.

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, former One Bermuda Alliance home affairs minister, welcomed the announcement of regulation for debt collection agencies and payday lenders.

She said: “That is highly important for the protection of our consumers and it’s one that we support.

“There is nothing worse than somebody being exploited — if they need to have money, they go into the marketplace to try and find loans and the minister has indicated they are going to introduce legislation for debt collection agencies.”

Mr Brown said the other Throne Speech initiatives his ministry planned to complete included the creation of a bipartisan committee on immigration reform.

Updated labour legislation to ensure that labour disputes are handled better and labour rights are protected is also in the pipeline.

Mr Brown added the ministry would also introduce legislation to increase enforcement and introduce penalties for people who breach planning regulations then ask for retroactive approval.