Jo Swinson MP writes…Consumers need to be protected from the predatory behaviour of payday lenders

Every MP has seen tragic cases of constituents struggling with debt problems.

Like Mrs S, whose daughter was granted hundreds of pounds of loans, despite not being in employment and suffering from mental health problems. That young woman is now in arrears with 2 different payday lenders. She is being charged high default fees and her situation is getting worse each day.

The Coalition Government is determined to make sure that consumers are properly protected and that payday lenders stop taking advantage of vulnerable people. The evidence of the scale of unscrupulous behaviour by payday lenders and the impact on consumers is deeply concerning.

The industry’s actions are completely unacceptable and we are taking serious steps to tackle the issue immediately as well as paving the way for tougher and more rigorous regulation in the future.

Last week we published the independent report we commissioned from the University of Bristol on the impacts of a possible cap on the total cost of credit.

The Office of Fair Trading have also published their payday lending review and has put the industry on notice – 12 weeks to change their business practices or risk losing their licences.

They also propose referring the whole payday lending market to the Competition Commission, after finding evidence of deep-rooted problems in how lenders compete.

The Government wants to see tough action to clamp down on the advertising of payday lending, and will start immediate work on this.

Working closely with the OFT, Advertising Standards Authority, Committees of Advertising Practice, and industry we’ll make sure advertising does not lure consumers into taking out payday loans that are not right for them.

For example, payday lenders could be made to include ‘wealth warnings’ on adverts – stating that there are risks as well as benefits to borrowing. Or we might limit the times they advertise. And I want to make sure the cost of loans is made very clear.

We will be working with the regulators as well as industry, to get changes in place as quickly as possible.

The new regulator the Financial Conduct Authority, which takes charge of consumer credit in 2014, is being given unprecedented new powers and real teeth to enforce them.

It has committed to prioritise payday lending right from the start. The FCA will be able to ban products, impose unlimited fines and order firms to compensate consumers.

The Bristol report research shows that a cap on credit is not the right answer at this time, but as this may change, we are giving the FCA powers to enforce a cap.

I am determined to bring this industry to book. Our strong regulators will make sure that lenders fully obey the law. I will be focusing on cleaning up advertising.

Our action will weed out rogue lenders. It will ensure consumers have the right tools to make the right borrowing decisions for them. And it will provide protection and help for people who find themselves in financial difficulty.

This industry needs to get its act together.

This Government will make sure that happens.

* Jo Swinson is Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire, and was a Minister in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Equalities Minister from 2012-15.

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  • Richard Dean 14th Mar '13 - 6:52am

    The OFT report suggests that payday loans cost “an average of £25 per £100 for 30 days”. This is an annualized rate of interest of well over a thousand percent. Daylight robbery!

    Such interest rates cannot surely be justified on the ground of the costs to lenders? Finding customers is surely not much harder than setting up a high street office and doing a bit of advertising? Responsible lending will surely not result in defaults at the rate of 1 in 4?

    Well I hope the OFT do something tough. Somehow a system needs to be developed to provide the service without the robbery. Can firms help? Maybe payday lending should be nationalized?

  • Paul in Twickenham 14th Mar '13 - 9:33am

    While bringing the payday lenders to heel is a good thing, what effort is being made to increase awareness of financial planning in the typical payday loan user? And (very much tied in with that) what further steps are being taken to encourage the creation and expansion of community-based credit unions?

  • James Sandbach 14th Mar '13 - 11:10am

    This is really excellent news that the OFT have acted on concerns put to them about this sector – they have also withdrawn the credit licences of some of the worst offenders – I hope FCA will be tougher still! There is a lof of anti-regulation mantra around, but with sectors like this tough regulatory action is the consumer’s only friend. It took a lot of work and lobbying from debt advice agencies to get the OFT to finally act on this..

  • Ian Sanderson 14th Mar '13 - 11:46am

    I think that the touchstone of who is selling something that is very profitable, and possibly the next mis-selling scandal is to see who is advertising extensively on day time TV.
    One of the main payday lenders has gone farther and is sponsoring whole segments of some cable/satellite channels.
    Apart from payday lenders, current advertisers include people who offer to recover PPI, sue to get compensation for some mishap, and take a monthly premium for the rest of your life to pay for your funeral. (The last is often fronted by TV stars of yesteryear who you thought were already deceased.)

  • David Wilkinson 14th Mar '13 - 6:30pm

    The control for these payday loan companies is sadly to little and too late for many of those finacialy abused by these firms.
    There needs to be a much tougher approach and the right to issue backdatedclaims against these firms.

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