Questions On The Mystery Shopper Essay

Questions On The Mystery Shopper Essay

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The ‘mystery shopper’ exercise in the ASIC Report revealed the most common fee types and structures in relation to each of the main service types provided by firms as discussed above. The ASIC Report noted that the fee structures used included upfront, ongoing costs, ‘success’ fees, and exit fees. The failure of firms to disclose or adequately explain fee structures is a common feature of debt management firms. With low levels of transparency, it is difficult for consumer to know what they are getting and how much they are paying for it. A description of the fee structure by service, average cost, and associated issues are discussed below.

The most common fee structure for credit repair services are upfront fees and ‘success’ fees, which are fees charged if the firm is successful in removing listings from that consumer’s credit report. Initial upfront fees were reported to be between $495 and $1,095. These fees were non-refundable and additional charges were made for successful removals and other ‘fixes’ of reports.

As discussed, the removal of incorrect or out of date listings on a credit report is free of charge to consumers. A consumer or a firm cannot remove legitimate listings, and so the consumer is liable for exorbitant amounts for removals that they could have achieved at no cost. That is to say, there is no advantage in engaging the credit repair services of a firm over the consumer removing listings themselves because there is no advantage in retaining the services of a credit repair firm.

The fees for debt agreement administration were either upfront fees or a fee based on the percentage of total debt owing. The upfront fees ranged from $500 to $660 and did not include...

... middle of paper ... in fees charged between firms and in the same firm. Consumers may not be aware and are not made aware by firms that the removal of incorrect entries on a credit report can be removed free of cost to consumers, but firms charge for each successful removal of negative entries. The lack of transparency and its implications on consumers is that they are essentially charged for free services that are available to them, which leaves them potentially worse off than before engaging the services of a firm.

While it is not illegal in itself to provide services that one can accomplish by one’s self, the promise of firms and fee structures are neither adequately explained nor capable of being achieved. It is for those reasons that debt management firms require greater regulation to protect consumers from predatory practices, and from suffering further financial hardship.

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