Financially-stressed consumers


The recent Senate inquiry into credit and financial hardship highlights challenges faced by households with limited access to mainstream finance in Australia. Our research investigates ‘fringe’ financial products and their implications for vulnerable consumers.


Project background and aims

Consumers on low incomes or with poor credit records often encounter significant difficulties obtaining financial services from mainstream banks. In the face of financial stress, many consumers resort to ‘fringe’ financial products with high interest rates. Increasing debt and the lack of available alternatives often propels vulnerable consumers towards such financial products despite a sense of being ‘ripped off’. Repeated used of these harmful financial products further entrenches vulnerable consumers in a debt spiral, resulting in them becoming increasingly marginalised.

The research is part of the Harmful Financial Products (Melbourne Law School) project. The researchers investigate the impact of harmful financial products on Australian consumers, with a focus on financially excluded and marginalised communities. The project examines the marketing of harmful financial products, documenting the financial and social impact on consumers. The project is carried out with partner organisations Consumer Action Law Centre, Financial Counselling Australia Incorporated, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand, Mallee Family Care and WEstjustice.


The project uses legal analysis with empirical studies to investigate and analyse the impact of harmful financial products on marginalised and disadvantaged communities. The research considers the adequacy of existing legal frameworks and enforcement practices, proposing reforms where necessary.