Extending payday loan cap could stop thousands getting into spiral of debt
New research from Citizens Advice shows that extending the same rules that cover payday loans to the doorstep lending market could prevent their customers getting into problem debt, and save up to £123 million in interest payments on up to 540,000 loans each year.
It is calling on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to give consumers the same protections as payday loan customers by including home credit in its definition of high-cost short-term credit when it publishes its proposals for the high-cost credit market in the Spring. This would protect consumers by:
- Limiting the number of times each loan can be refinanced
- Ensuring they never repay more than twice what they borrowed.
Home credit is the most common form of high-cost credit problem Citizens Advice deals with, with lenders charging interest rates of up to 1557%. Its new ‘Doorway to Debt’ report reveals the people it helps with issues relating to these loans are more likely than its average debt clients to have a long-term health condition or be behind on essential household bills.
Of the estimated 30,000 people Citizens Advice helped with home credit debts in the last year:
- Nearly half (48%) have a long-term health condition or disability. This is higher than for all debt clients (40%) and more than twice the rate amongst the general population (18%).
- Only 32% are in employment. While lower than for Citizens Advice debt clients generally (40%), it is almost half that of the general population (62%).
- Half of clients are in council tax arrears and 43% are behind on water bills
- Clients with home credit debts have unsecured debt totalling nearly half (49%) of their annual income
- 1 in 10 have more than £2,500 in home credit debt, and a third (34%) had outstanding debt on two or more home credit loans.
Citizens Advice is concerned that irresponsible lending and the increased cost of borrowing due to refinancing is pushing home credit users into a spiral of debt. Its modelling found consumers end up paying back more than twice what they borrowed on up to 490,000 home credit loans each year due to refinancing.
More than 1.6 million people use home credit loans in the UK, making it one of the largest high-cost credit markets. By changing its definition of high-cost short-term credit to include home credit, the FCA would give these consumers the same protections as payday loan customers - a move which has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of people coming to Citizens Advice for help with payday loan problems.
Citizens Advice evidence also suggests some lenders are failing to protect consumers when proper affordability checks are not carried out. It is also asking the FCA to introduce rules and give high-cost credit providers clarity about what these checks should include to prevent people from being lent money they cannot afford to repay.
For example, one person with severe learning disabilities came to Citizens Advice with home credit debts of £3016, The lender offered their client further credit despite being advised by their social worker that an appropriate adult needed to be present for financial decisions.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said:
“There’s no questioning the evidence - the FCA’s cap on payday lending has been a success. But it’s time now to address the problems consumers are facing in the home credit market.
“Home credit customers need to be protected from getting into problem debt. They are susceptible to the high cost of these loans because of easy refinancing - and there is currently no total limit on what they repay.
“The FCA should build on the success of the payday loan cap and extend their definition of high-cost short-term credit to include home credit, making sure that no-one pays back more than double what they borrow.”
Notes to editors
The ‘Doorway to Debt' report is based on data collected from clients during specialist debt advice appointments with Citizens Advice advisors.
Citizens Advice also commissioned research modelling the impact of a total cost cap on existing home credit loans. Our model looks at the impact of a) a cost cap of 100% which means that customers cannot repay more than the amount they originally borrowed in interest, and b) an initial cost cap which limits the interest charged to a maximum of 0.8% per day.
Last year, Citizens Advice helped 340,000 people with debt problems. We estimate that we help 30,000 people a year with home credit or ‘doorstep’ loans. Citizens Advice does not currently record doorstep loans as a separate advice issue and so it not currently possible to give an exact figure of clients who received advice for doorstep loan problems. Our estimation is based on data from the first three quarters of the year from Q3 2016/17 to Q2 2017/18.
Home credit loans are provided directly to customers’ homes by lending agents who return each week to collect repayments. Loans are typically from £100 to £1,000. The APRs on these loans are variable, but can be as high as 1557.7%.
The FCA’s regulation of payday lending has been one of its big successes since it took over consumer credit regulation in 2014. Citizens Advice has seen a fall in people needing help with unaffordable payday loan debts by around half - from more than 16,000 people in 2013-14 to less than 9,000 last year.
The Financial Conduct Authority currently defines high-cost short term credit as any credit product with an APR over 100% which must be mostly repaid within 12 months. Despite meeting this criteria, home credit is excluded from this definition. An extension of this definition would afford the same protections to home credit users. The FCA is undertaking a review of high-cost credit products and will be releasing its findings in May 2018.
The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers.
The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales