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Rugby league star Jones targeted over finance promotion

Jun 29th, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Article, News

C'MON STACEY: Campaigner Clare Choi collects a protest letter from Thomas Davey in Newtown.

TRUST ME: One of the Instant Finance billboards in Wellington.

A GROUP working to fight debt in low income communities is challenging former rugby league star Stacey Jones to reconsider his promotion of loan company Instant Finance.

 Debt-free Newtown launched its campaign – “C’mon Stacey, lets tackle debt!” – in Newtown with a stall, music and free food.

The public was invited to sign letters to Mr Jones asking him to consider the impact of his endorsement of the finance company.

However, Instant Finance rejects suggestions it is a loan shark and says targeting Stacey Jones does a disservice to the people it is trying to help.

The Debt-Free Newtown group spokesperson Mark Barnard says while they want to celebrate Stacey Jones as a role model, they also want to challenge him on his support of high interest loans and make him aware of the debt-slavery many poor families experience.

“We’re asking him: ‘Why are you using your charisma and your mana to promote high interest loans which don’t help people – they hinder people’.”

They want him to withdraw his support for Instant Finance but realise that debt through high interest loans is a much bigger issue than one advertising campaign.

“We think by Stacey fronting such a campaign there’s a legitimising effect.

“His presence says that this practice is okay, that it’s okay to take out really high interest loans.

“So people who respect Stacey will think: ‘Sweet as, that’s a good way to get money’,” says Mr Barnard.

He says the problem of high interest loan companies specifically targeting low income communities is widespread across New Zealand.

STRATEGICALLY PLACED: Stacey Jones on the Instance Finance website.

Instant Finance has strategically placed retail branches in areas like Porirua and Newtown in Wellington, and Otahuhu and Onehunga in Auckland.

“They’re not in Devonport, they’re not in Remuera, they’re not in Khandallah – they’re in Porirua and Newtown. So they’re not targeting the wealthy.

“… it seems if you’re wealthy you can access low interest loans and if you’re poor you can only access high interest loans, and to me that’s an injustice,” he says.

Instant Finance CEO Richard de Lautour says being debt free is a worthy cause, but Debt-free Newtown is not helping those in debt by going after Instant Finance.

If they were to look at the company’s record they would conclude that Instant Finance is not a loan shark.

“What they should be doing is promoting Instant Finance, as opposed to trying to use our reasonably high profile brand and Stacey to push their agenda, which is actually doing the very people they are trying to protect a disservice.”

Mr de Lautour says because of the company’s high profile they are a victim of the tall poppy syndrome.

“The reason we used Stacey is the very reason that they used him – he represents all the values that we believe in. So why wouldn’t we strike up a relationship with him?”

Debt-free Newtown also wants to set up an alternative loan scheme through public budget services to make loans with low or no interest accessible to people in legitimate need.

Finance companies charge interest anywhere from 29% to 500%, compared to bank loans which are around 15%.

Stacey Jones has declined to comment on Debt Free Newtown’s campaign.


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