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Payday Loan Firms Put In Spotlight At Summit
« on: July 02, 2013, 10:57:05 AM »
Bosses, ministers and regulators meet amid major concerns about how the ?2bn industry operates and treats consumers.

Campaigners warn the payday loan market is "toxic"

Payday loan companies have met ministers and regulators for talks to tackle "deep-rooted" problems in the industry.

 The summit looked at whether more can be done to clamp down on issues in the ?2bn sector, which has just been referred for investigation by the Competition Commission.

 Debt charities have sharply criticised the companies, accusing lenders of being "out of control" and branding the market "toxic".

 Ahead of the talks hosted by consumer affairs minister Jo Swinson, Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said the Government must take more action.

 He said: "We want new rules banning excessive charges, a restriction on the number of times a payday loan can roll over and clearer advertising to help people struggling with spiralling debt."

 Ms Swinson told Sky News the focus was consumers' problems, such as people being allowed to take out inappropriate loans.

 "We know that nearly half of payday loans go to people who are already in financial stress and there needs to be much more robust affordability assessments so that people who are in that kind of situation get debt advice instead of more debt," she said.

 The Competition Commission has the power to ban or limit products and shake up whole markets but its investigation could take up to 18 months.

The payday loan sector is now worth ?2bn

 The probe was sparked by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) which warned consumers who cannot afford to pay the money back on time are being trapped with one firm when the loans roll over.

 It is also concerned that firms emphasise the speed of the loan over its cost, and that lenders are encouraged to "skimp" on affordability checks because of the pressure to hand out cash quickly.

 Up to half of lenders' revenues were found by the OFT to come from the extra charges and interest coming from loans being rolled over.

 The watchdog has written to 50 lenders, giving them 12 weeks to prove they are up to scratch or face being put out of business.

 The companies insist they have taken steps to clean up their act, including a new code of practice to make sure loans are affordable and to help struggling borrowers.

 From next April, they are also set to be overseen by new regulator the Financial Conduct Authority which could cap interest rates and limit or ban the number of rollovers offered.

 The Government is also investing ?38m in credit unions to help them offer a more low-cost alternative option.

 Russell Hamblin-Boone, chief executive of the Consumer Finance Association, "We call for all payday lenders to step up and meet our standards. Those that don't need to either shape up or ship out."

 Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, added: "We need to see tough action on advertising, with new rules brought in which would end wall-to-wall advertising on daytime TV and stop the use of glossy celebrity endorsements which conceal the misery of life in debt.

 "Much more needs to be done to make the cost of loans and consequences of late repayments clear, and to end the focus on speed rather than affordability."

 Labour has accused the Government of "consistently ducked clamping down on predatory pricing and extortionate interest charges" and is also calling for urgent action.


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Payday Loan Firms Put In Spotlight At Summit
« on: July 02, 2013, 10:57:05 AM »

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