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The Office of Fair Trading has announced it is giving the leading 50 payday lenders, accounting for 90 per cent of the payday market, 12 weeks to change their business practices or risk losing their licences.
It comes after a year-long investigation which uncovered evidence of widespread irresponsible lending and failure to comply with the industry standards.
Consumer group Which? recently found that 79% of people, equating to around 38.5 million adults, use some form of credit.
Its study found half of people who used a payday loan or dipped into an unauthorised overdraft said they had been rejected for credit in the past year.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said:
It's time for a crackdown on irresponsible lending, especially for high cost lenders who are exploiting consumers struggling in the current economic climate, so we're pleased to see the Government planning tough action.
We want to see the regulators immediately crack down on payday lenders who flout the rules and for new powers to be used to take strong, proactive action to clean up the whole of the credit market.
A new watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, will oversee the consumer credit market from next year.
Business Minister Jo Swinson, said of the new regulator:
– Business Minister Jo Swinson, speaking to BBC Breakfast
That's going to be a body that has much stronger powers to be able to ban certain products, to be able to stop lenders entering the market if they can't prove that they have a sound business model and they're going to act responsibly, and they've also got the power if necessary to set an interest rate cap.
This is going to be a very strong regulator.
Under current Office of Fair Trading guidelines governing consumer credit lending, credit brokers and intermediaries "should take appropriate steps" with a view to:
- Treating borrowers fairly – borrowers should not be targeted with credit products that are clearly unsuitable for them.
- Providing early disclosure of information relating to, and explanation of, key features of the credit agreement, including key risks to the borrower.
- Ensuring transparency in all dealings with borrowers and they should not use misleading or oppressive behaviour, including when advertising or otherwise promoting consumer credit or consumer hire agreements.
- Borrowers who may be particularly vulnerable by virtue of their current indebtedness, poor credit history, or by reason of age or health,or disability, or for any other reason, should, in particular, not be targeted or exploited.
Sajid Javid, Economic Secretary to the Treasury told Daybreak that there was "lots of irresponsible advertising" in the payday loans sector.
He said it needs to be addressed by an independent regulator, to make sure vulnerable consumers are not being targeted.
Payday lenders could be made to change the way they target customers under new laws to be revealed by the government.
The measures come as a report reveals serious problems in the market are harming consumers.
Ami Jarman took out a payday loan to pay for a new tyre for her car, initially borrowing £100, a week before her payday.
She told Daybreak that with interested she needed to payback £170, leaving her short for the next month, so she took out an additional loan to cover the cost of the first one.
By the end of three years Ami had borrowed £8,000, and because of £6,000 in interest, she paid back £14,000.
"It's hard to get out of the circle once you are in it," she said.
Payday loans are supposed to be a way of accessing cash to help people cope with an unexpected emergency, like an urgent household bill.
They are used as a short-term stop gaps to help the borrower, until their next wage, it allows the borrower to access cash for an unexpected emergency.
Many borrowers have problems with payday loans, because they are not using them in the way they are intended.
Borrowers are instead racking up expensive debts which will swamp the size of the original loan, because of annual interest rates charged by the lenders, of several hundred per cent.
A Government crackdown on payday lenders could see them facing new rules on how they advertise.
The new regulator of the credit market has committed to prioritise tighter rules on payday lending.
Overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the new rules will come into force from April 2014.
FCA rules will be binding, with regulators facing touch enforcement, including unlimited fines, if they are broken.
The Government is planning to do more to encourage greater communication within the payday loans industry, to stop consumers taking out multiple loans, from different lenders.
– Sajid Javid, Economic Secretary to the Treasury
The Government is introducing a fundamentally new approach to regulating consumer credit, which will ensure that irresponsible firms and bad practice will have no place in the consumer credit marketplace.
Consumers can have greater confidence that the new FCA will intervene early and decisively in their interests - thanks to its more focused remit, objectives and powers.
Charities are warning of increasing numbers of complaints about payday lenders from borrowers.
The Money Advice Trust (MAT) say complaints about payday loans have doubled year-on-year to reach a record of 20,000 across 2012.
As the Government plans to crackdown on payday lenders, a trading watchdog will publish the results of a probe into the payday lending industry.
Spot checks of 50 major lenders have been carried out by the The Office of Fair Trading (OFT), along with information gathered from all 240 lenders in the market.
The regulator said that in its interim report last autumn, formal investigations have been launched into several firms over debt collection methods.