In the shadow of the global financial crisis, the issue of the marketing of credit has become an increasing concern in the past 12 months. Outstanding personal debt in the UK currently stands at £1479 billion and is rising by £1 million every 10.6 min. In Australia, there is currently $44.6 billion worth of outstanding credit card debt, and in the US, $2596 billion was owed on credit cards in 2008. At present, the banking sector utilizes sophisticated research methods to profile consumers, including those who might be considered financially vulnerable. However, the policy frameworks in most industrialized countries do not account for this form of target marketing when considering how to protect vulnerable groups. This paper is an initial attempt to examine the different methods by which profiling is conducted and the policy implications of this sophisticated form of segmentation and targeting. We argue that current consumer policies are inadequate in protecting vulnerable consumers from these marketing techniques, and recent recommendations from the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States, and the Australian Law Reform Commission to allow banks and lenders to ‘pre-screen’ potential customers will exacerbate personal debt levels, rather than reducing them.
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