ASIC released its guidance on marketplace lending (aka peer-to-peer lending) yesterday to assist providers of marketplace lending products; it includes information about legal obligations for operators of peer-to-peer lending in Australia. Entities looking to provide marketplace lending are encouraged to use the information sheet to help them understand current regulatory requirements.
What is marketplace lending?
Marketplace lending in the context of ASIC’s guidance is an arrangement through which retail or wholesale investors invest money, seeking to make a return, which is in turn lent to borrowers.
Marketplace lending arrangements commonly involve the use of an online platform, such as a website, on which loan requests are made. The loan request will then typically be matched against offers to invest. Under some arrangements, investors may be exposed to a loan, or a pool of loans; multiple investors may also fund a single loan.
Key obligations that may apply to marketplace lending business models
Under Australia’s current financial services and credit laws, providers of marketplace lending products and related services will generally need to hold:
- For fundraising – an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL), and
- For lending – an Australian Credit Licence (ACL) if loans made through the platform are consumer loans.
Fundraising – key obligations
Under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (Corporations Act), there are requirements to ensure that retail investors have access to sufficient information to make an informed decision about whether to invest. There are also strict requirements regulating disclosure and promotional material, to ensure that there are no misleading or deceptive representation made.
There are generally two alternatives for fundraising mechanisms under the Corporations Act:
- Registered or unregistered managed investment schemes (MIS); or