10 financial issues NZ needs to fix. By Janine Starks

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A $3 scratchie ticket.  Have you bought one recently?  Me neither, not in the last ten years.  But I relented.  It’s what you do on a weekend away – get a Lotto from another town and chuck in a scratchie.  ‘Lucky Fortune’ it was enticingly called.  To celebrate the Chinese New Year, you could play using an app. 

Up pops a 3-D Chinese Village like a Pokemon.  There was Paula sitting opposite me with buildings beside her cappuccino.  I pushed “PLAY” with much anticipation.  Golden balloons began to float down Paula’s blouse.  What do I do? What do I do? “Pop them,” said Jane, finger to the ready. 

Away we went, pop, pop, pop, jabbing the screen.  Ten seconds later it was all over.  Finished, your ticket is not a winner.  Huh?  No, no, no.  Where are the symbols and numbers to match?  They’re not known for their intellect, but come on!

Quiet observer Lynne had a wry look on her face.  She’d clocked I now had an unscratched scratchie that was a confirmed loser.  Perhaps she’d also spotted the obvious clue – Year of the Dog.  My advice; scratch first. 

Venting over financial matters is not restricted to instant kiwi tickets.  Far more serious issues hang over New Zealand and here are ten worth woofing about.

1. Kiwisaver performance fees: The ‘I’m so special fee’ and I need more money when I outperform cash or an index.  The two big culprits are Milford Asset Management and Fisher Funds.  These fees have absolutely no place in a long-term retirement savings scheme for ordinary New Zealanders.  Only legislation will get rid of the practice. They are not special.  They do not have skills that others don’t.  They out-perform and under-perform just like everyone.  Every manager is paid to try and beat the market.  We’d buy the index at a fraction of the cost otherwise.   

2. Charges to pay by credit card: Air New Zealand charged $6 last week to put a flight on my credit card.  That’s now illegal all over Europe and the UK.  It doesn’t suit airlines to fall into line, because they can make prices appear more competitive.  Again only legislation will nail it. 

3. Booking fees: Been to a concert lately?  Booking fees, delivery fees and payment processing fees all layer up at the end.  Just put a price on the ticket for consumers, it’s not difficult.  Ban them.

4. Rental car excess waiver fee: $12 a day to $30 a day to get rid of the $3,000 excess if you crash a rental car. There should be mandatory emails reminding consumers they could be covered by their own local car insurance or a travel policy.  We simply need to clear space on our credit card incase a $3000 excess charge occurs.  This will give 30 days of free credit to reclaim from a personal policy.  Rip-off charges should come with a responsibility to inform.

5. Diesel road user charges: Why?  We are the only country in the world to run such a confusing system for consumers.  Just charge tax at the pump on both fuel types.  Restrict the complicated structure to heavy vehicles and trucks.  

6. Compulsory insurance on cars: In most other countries you can’t renew your car rego without a valid insurance policy (the systems are electronically linked).  Not us, we’re crazy.  We’ll just put up with 10 percent of people driving around with no third party cover.  Compliance costs are too high and we have ACC.  That doesn’t make it acceptable. 

7. Online instant kiwi tickets: The Ministry of Health advised against it due to problem gambling, but we did it anyway. It’s easy to feed an addiction with no human interaction.  I’ve tried one called ‘Cash King’.  It was deflating.  Ban them like the Aussies did. 

8. Airline compensation scheme: The hours I’ve wasted at airports this summer as hapless Brits fall into the orange trap of Jetstar.  They’re not bothered what day they deliver you, let alone the time.  In Europe there’s a compensation payment.  Apparently I’m owed 300 Euros by easyJet for touching down 3.5 hours late in Crete two years ago. While the European claims system is currently a mess, it’s the law and it’s getting legs.  We need a simplified equivalent.

9. Loan application fees: Ban them.  Why should we pay to let a financial provider decide to do business with us?  They’ve long been negotiable, so just wipe them out.

10. Default interest rates: Did I read that correctly on ASB’s website?  Seriously, 22.5 percent for missing a home loan repayment?  BNZ seem to say they’ll charge your loan rate plus a 2% penalty.  That’s got to be a third of the cost ASB are applying.  Yet the Commerce Commission website says default interest must be a genuine reflection of the losses a lender will suffer.  Hmmm.  How do two big banks come up with such different rates?  This area needs scrutiny. 

Janine Starks is a financial commentator with expertise in banking, personal finance and funds management.  Opinions in this column represent her personal views.  They are general in nature and are not a recommendation, opinion or guidance to any individuals in relation to acquiring or disposing of a financial product.  Readers should not rely on these opinions and should always seek specific independent financial advice appropriate to their own individual circumstances.