Justin Tomlinson is the MP for the Swindon North and Robin Walker is the MP for Worcester
We have all watched TV when the adverts come on. Quick cash quid in your pocket now, just text, call, go online, money in minutes. 5853 per cent APR representative pops up in the small print at the end. Most baulk at the high APR, yet in the 2011/12 an estimated £8 million payday loans were taken out in the UK. Recent debate has painted these borrowers as financially excluded vulnerable people, lured into borrowing money that they cannot afford to pay back.
It is important to put payday lending in perspective. A recent Consumer Finance Association survey of payday loan customers found that they fall into three main ‘groups’. Young, technology-savvy people who borrow to cover short term emergency costs; middle aged parents who borrow to cover family costs; and those aged 45-50 who borrow to support their grown up children. In each group, over 75 per cent of borrowers are employed.
What the report does not show however, are the vulnerable borrowers within each group and those that do not fit the ‘model’. Yes, they may be the minority, but they are a vulnerable minority. and it is crucial that we ensure
that they are protected. They do not go to payday lenders through choice, but because they are the lender of last resort.
It is for this reason that we support of Paul Blomfield’s Private Members’ Bill
on High Cost Credit, and the protections it seeks for our most vulnerable consumers.
On an issue as important as this, cross-party support is vital. We will
also be producing our own report into the changes needed in the industry.
We will be looking at:
- Displaying the costs of a loan in cash terms. It costs in the UK, on average, £25 to borrow £100, but one lender has it at
£51. This is all hidden in the APR, and even Treasury Ministers have
struggled to translate this into cash terms. We need to look at a change
in the law to require all lenders, from banks to payday lenders, to display the
real costs of their loans in cash terms so that consumers can make a simple
- Roll Over Limit. Limit the number of roll-overs to three, preventing the debt from growing
- Real-Time Credit Checking. In 2012, the debt charity StepChange saw over 7000 people come to them for help who
had five payday loans or more. Real-time credit checking is needed to
prevent multiple loans being taken over a short period of time by those who
cannot afford them.
- Restoring Credit Rating. This is key in ending the ‘lender of last resort’ trap that forces those with
poor credit ratings to payday lenders. As consumers repay their
short-term loans, they should have this recognised on their credit rating,
helping open up access to alternative forms of credit.
- Independent Advice. We should not be judging those who take payday loans, or dismissing payday
loans as universally bad. Instead we need to make sure that consumers can
always make an informed decision in taking on credit, which is where face to
face independent advice would be invaluable, perhaps funded through an
increased licence cost, or industry levy. 91 per cent of consumers who get into
financial difficulty believe they could have avoided doing so if they had known
better. Financial education is therefore key too and it is good news for
tomorrow’s consumers that Justin’s campaign has seen its inclusion on the new
- Mystery Shoppers. The report into Consumer Credit Regulation produced by the Public Accounts
Committee found that the OFT were slow to respond to poor practice.
Reliant on customer complaints, the OFT risks excluding the very vulnerable
consumers it is there to protect. Mystery shoppers should be used to
pro-actively identify and address poor practice and could play an important
role in building up the evidence base for successful regulation
- Savings Culture. Many consumers choose payday loans in distress situations – job loss,
bereavement, relationship break-up, poor health – and do so because they have
no savings to call upon to cover unforeseen costs. Where possible we need
to encourage a savings culture where consumers have savings set aside for
unexpected events. Credit unions can play a vital role in this and in providing
more affordable credit, two reasons why the Government has been right to
support their growth
- Total Cost of Loan. Perhaps the most controversial proposal is a cap on the total cost of a loan,
limiting the money a lender can make from its customers. The challenge is
getting this cap right. Too low and you close down a market that some
consumers rely on, driving them into the arms of illegal loan sharks. Too
high and it is irrelevant. A potential suggestion would be to explore
current high-street profit margins. For example, high street retailers
such as M&S make a profit, with a mark up on their goods and
services. Identifying these mark ups would be a good benchmark for the
high street payday lenders.
We will be exploring all these options in greater depth with the aim of
producing a report. We are keen to ensure that policy is evidence based
rather than based on assumptions about the payday lending industry and to
contribute to an informed debate about how we best protect the most vulnerable
consumers in society.
Paul Blomfield is right to champion this campaign in Parliament, and we hope that
the Government will look to utilise the skills, knowledge and experience of
both MPs and supporting organisations to make sure when we do make changes, we
make the right ones for the consumer. It is vital that we protect
those who turn to payday lenders through lack of choice without excluding those
who access high cost credit through conscious decision.