Category Archives: FCA

FCA Warning: Senseless Housing Policy Fueling High-cost Credit Rip-off

FCA boss Andrew Bailey has called out ministers for “forcing” tenants to take costly loans. According to Bailey, the social housing policy offering tenants unfurnished council homes has pushed many Brits to take high-cost loans. Bailey doesn’t see sense in offering tenants homes with no essential furnishing.

In a recent speech, The FCA Chief Executive hinted that social housing was driving tenants to take expensive debt to buy washing machines, cookers, and other household goods at three to four times the actual cost of the goods. Bailey doesn’t see sense in creating a good social housing system without providing essential fittings and furnishings. He also hinted that the FCA might fail to extend the payday loan cap to cover rent-to-own goods and doorstep lenders.

As an alternative, Bailey stated that the FCA was examining a wide range of approaches to dealing with the harm experienced by borrowers using these products. The FCA will elaborate on its views in June 2018. Bailey insists that the regulator will not necessarily use the same approaches to regulate different markets. In his speech, Bailey affirmed that the FCA is aware of the problems facing Britain’s poorest households depending on rent-to-own firms like PerfectHome and BrightHouse.

PerfectHomes is among the rent-to-own firms guilty of charging Britons exorbitant interest fees for household goods.

Brits who use high-cost credit pay more than twice the loan amount in interest and additional costs like insurance. In some cases, the cost can be five times the loan amount according to investigations by UK newspaper, The Sun.

These findings have prompted The Sun to launch a campaign meant to stop credit rip-off. The Sun is pushing for payday loan regulation to be extended to other high-cost loans. The payday loan cap has proved to be very effective according to Citizens Advice statistics which show a 50% reduction in problematic payday loans.

The FCA seems to be shifting focus on public awareness rather than cap policies given Mr. Bailey commented on the need for charities to focus on educating the public on the options available for borrowers struggling to get by.

In an interview with The Sun, Citizens Advice C.E.O., Gillian Guy stated that the FCA needs to do more to protect vulnerable Brits from falling into debt. According to her, giving vulnerable borrowers alternative credit options doesn’t help everyone or replace the urgent need for more borrower protections especially for doorstep and rent-to-own loan customers.

Landlords should be part of the solution

Sara Williams from popular money blog, Debt Camel, believes landlords can contribute to the solution by offering tenants a chance to purchase some household goods like washing machines at discounted prices or with affordable repayments. Williams recognises the possibility of doorstep and rent-to-own loans becoming difficult to manage in cases of defaults which is why she stresses on the importance of the FCA stepping in to cap total repayments when borrowers face repayment problems.

Williams insists on the need for the regulator to give lenders better guidelines i.e., on affordability to ensure those who get loans are capable of repaying them.

The C.E.O. of Joseph Rowntree Foundations, Campbell Robb shares similar sentiments. Robb sees it as unethical for low-income earners to be exploited by high-cost lenders stating that this is how people are trapped in poverty. He sees the need for more to be done to make affordable credit accessible given the UK has experienced long periods of low wages, frozen benefits and rising prices, factors which are landing many into poverty.

The Sun campaign

The Sun is demanding an end to credit rip-off. The newspaper’s demands for rent-to-own credit include; repayable costs to be capped to twice the item list prices. The Sun is also calling for a ban on sales staff incentives and discounts for existing clients to discourage them from taking more credit. Credit companies should also publish examples highlighting all costs.

For doorstep lending, The Sun wants stricter affordability checks and a cap on total fees and interest paid to match the payday loan cap, i.e., cost of loan should never exceed the amount borrowed. The Sun is also calling for a ban on discounts offered to existing doorstep loan borrowers in an attempt to lure them to take more credit.

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

The FCA is Preparing For Cryptocurrencies Adoption

Traditional financial institutions in the UK and most countries in the world haven’t been very supportive of cryptocurrencies in the past several years. However, 2018 has seen a widespread “change of heart”. Institutions that were thought to be against cryptocurrency adoption and integration are now softening their stand.

The FCA is one of those institutions that have begun making significant steps towards positive cryptocurrency regulation. In March 2018, The FCA, in conjunction with the Bank of England launched a cryptocurrency taskforce aimed at regulating and fostering the rapidly expanding sector. The regulator also launched a fintech sandbox meant to boost fintech development by attracting tech companies from all over the world.

According to the FCA’s 2018/2019 business plan, [1] the regulator will give a detailed report on cryptocurrencies late 2018. However, the FCA has already released a guideline for financial institutions interested in launching cryptocurrency derivative offerings.

There has been a longstanding apathetic attitude about Bitcoin among other Cryptocurrencies from traditional financial institutions like the BOE (Bank of England).

BOE governor, Mark Carney has been on record condemning Bitcoin in an address he made in February 2018 at Regent University. [2] In his remarks, Carney stated that Bitcoin had failed miserably as a store of value and medium of exchange.

Some renowned economists have also been on record saying it was unlikely that traditional financial institutions would “warm up” to Cryptocurrencies. One such economist is John Van Reenen, Professor of Economics at MIT.

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However, the latest move by the FCA suggests otherwise. There is a strong indication that the regulator is taking steps that will see England become the most attractive destination for Blockchain start-ups and tech companies. [3]

Volatility has been the primary concern about Cryptocurrencies globally. However, these concerns seem to be reduced currently given the interest generated by the sector in the past year. The FCA seems to be following in the footsteps of American exchange operators. The CBOE (Chicago Board Options Exchange) and the CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange) were the 1st to float Bitcoin Future contracts. The move boosted Bitcoin’s price to peak at $20,000 a week later before a price correction.

This wouldn’t have been possible if the CFTC hadn’t authorised the move to launch cryptocurrency futures options. The CFTC has gone further and promised regulatory guidelines which are expected to boost cryptocurrency ICOs and Blockchain technology.

Cryptocurrency trading options

Similarly, the FCA has acknowledged demand for cryptocurrency derivatives in the UK. [4] The regulator has issued a statement to companies launching cryptocurrency derivatives. Although there is no cryptocurrency regulation in the UK currency, the FCA requires firms interested in offering contracts for differences, future and crypto options to follow the existing FCA regulations.

Blockchain

Since cryptocurrencies appear to be an unstoppable force that still raises suspicion among traditional financial players, it is difficult to predict how the pending cryptocurrency review will unfold. However, the FCA is likely to focus on lucrative Blockchain technology applications.

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Legislators such as Matt Hancock have already been on record predicting an unmatched impact of the technology in the future. In recent remarks, Hancock highlighted how the British government has already set aside 10 million pounds to fund different Blockchain projects on energy and voting systems among other projects.

In his remarks, Hancock stated that the cryptocurrency task force will create an approach that matches the need for growth and innovation while managing the risks presented by the sector.

According to Nigel Green, Founder and C.E.O. of Financial consultancy firm deVere Group, the growth of cryptocurrencies in the recent past can only be expected to soar over the next 10 years as more businesses adopt the main cryptocurrencies into their activities to meet growing customer demands.

Green expects the FCA, being one of the most respected and influential financial regulators globally to be at the forefront of shaping as well as defining cryptocurrency policies for regulators globally. He also expects the FCA to define the thinking behind cryptocurrencies since most leading economies in the world are already paying close attention to the cryptocurrency market.

If the FCA follows the CFTC and SEC move, support for cryptocurrencies in the UK and Europe at large would surge. Positive news from the FCA would give the cryptocurrency market a much-needed boost. The regulator has come a long way from issuing cryptocurrency related warnings to investors to showing signs of adoption.

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

The FCA Poised to Protect UK Consumers from High-Cost Credit

Since 2017, the FCA has been demonstrating an urgency to come up with new rules aimed at protecting Britons from high-cost credit. According to the latest reports from the regulator, UK borrowers could soon have better laws protecting them from doorstep lenders as well as household appliance rental companies. According to a statement released by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) on 31st January 2018, the regulator has concluded a review of the financial market. The review which has been ongoing since July 2017 shows an urgent need for intervention.

The FCA has promised to intervene although it will take actions that don’t compromise access to credit to individuals who can afford repayments. The regulator is planning to publish proposals and conclusions in Spring.

The Regulator’s take

According to Christopher Woolard, Executive Director for Strategy & Competition at the FCA, the regulator must address the variety and availability of credit. The regulator also needs to find ways in which the credit market works better for consumers.

Besides proposing new rules/laws where there is clear evidence of consumer exploitation, the FCA is also looking at solutions revolving around alternatives to high cost loans.

The FCA has identified specific consumer segments that are most vulnerable. One such segment is the rent-to-own consumer segment. The FCA’s analysis finds this particular segment extremely vulnerable given the outstanding debt of this segment doubled in the recent past from November 2014 to November 2016 (£2,000 to £4,300 respectively). Customers most affected are those who pay for household goods such as television sets and fridges over time.

The FCA is also concerned with customers who use overdraft facilities. The regulator is concerned about the high fees associated with unarranged overdrafts especially in comparison to the amount lent. The FCA is seeking more data from lenders who offer doorstep loans (loans offered in people’s homes).

According to the latest statistics, 700,000 Britons took out home-collected credit loans in 2016. The same statistics show that 1.6 million Britons had outstanding home-collected loans by the end of 2016 which translates to a record $1.1 billion pounds.

Doorstep loans aside, the FCA is also concerned about catalogue credit particularly, the complexity of fees/charges structure as well as the variety of repayment options available. Catalogue credit is offered to people buying things from catalogues on credit.

FCA efforts

Back in 2015, the FCA introduces a cap on the amount of interest charged on payday loans. The move has had a positive impact on the payday loan industry. Payday loan borrowers no longer have to pay more than the loan amount total in fees/charges. The cap has been deemed effective in getting rid of unscrupulous lenders who were thriving in a poorly regulated environment. Borrowers can now rest assured they won’t be exploited when taking payday loans which are supposed to assist in times of emergency and not act as a gateway to debt. The payday loan cap was introduced after widespread complaints and criticism from legislators, the clergy and public on the high interest charged on payday loans taken by the most vulnerable customers.

Protecting yourself from high cost loans

Although the FCA has done a lot, more needs to be done. The FCA will review the current payday loan cap in 2020. In the meantime, you need to protect yourself from high cost loan segments that are yet to be regulated adequately. Here are some tips to consider.

  1. Shop around: Although most people who consider taking out short term loans are usually in financial distress, it is advisable to shop around just to make sure you are getting fair terms. Shopping for loans in the UK is easy today. You can use loan comparison websites to find suitable and affordable loans fast and easy.
  1. Start an emergency fund: The main reason why people turn to lending institutions when in distress is because they don’t have their own funds to use in emergency situations. An emergency fund will reduce your overreliance on short term loans which will in turn reduce your exposure to high cost credit risks.
  1. Borrow from reputable lenders only: Lastly, borrowing from licensed and regulated lenders only can shield you from unfair fees and charges. The short-term lender you choose should be regulated by the appropriate body such as the FCA. You should also check online reviews to see what existing customers are saying about a lender before you take out any loan.

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

The FCA Has Published Its Future Approach to Consumers

Back in April 2017, the FCA launched its mission and committed to publishing documents explaining its approach to regulation in-depth. The ”FCA Mission: Our Future Approach to Consumers” is the first of a series of documents explaining the FCA’s approach in more detail.

The FCA mission explained how/why the FCA prioritises, protects and intervenes in financial markets. Its publication was a milestone in the FCA’s efforts to be more transparent about its role and accountability while discharging its mandate. The regulators ”Approach to Customers” is the first of a series of documents. This particular publication explains the FCA’s approach to regulating for customers.

Background FCA Mission:

it’s important to note that the FCA exists to serve the public’s interest as far as financial services are concerned. The regulator does this through regulation. The UK parliament has given the FCA one strategic objective which is; ensuring financial markets function well. The FCA also has three operational objectives. The first one is to secure the relevant protection to consumers of financial services. The FCA is also charged with the responsibility of protecting as well as enhancing integrity in the UK financial system. Lastly, the FCA must ensure fair competition (consumer interests must be protected).

The FCA’s wish list in regards to consumers:

The FCA focuses on seeing financial markets where;

1. There are adequate high-quality financial products and services which meet the needs of consumers.

2. Consumers can buy financial products and services which are sold in a manner that is clear and fair (not misleading).

3. The needs of vulnerable consumers are considered. How was the approach was developed?

Before looking at the core ideas that informed the FCA’s approach to consumers, it’s important to understand how the approach was developed. The FCA’s approach to consumers considered the diverse characteristics of consumers and the external environment where firms and consumers operate. The approach explored vast research as well as the real experiences of 12,865 persons in the regulator’s Financial Lives Survey published on 18th October 2017. Core ideasThe FCA’s approach to consumers is based on the following core ideas;

1. Firm/consumer responsibility – According to the FCA, firms must treat their customers fairly. Financial services firms must provide products and services that customers need. Those products and services must also be marketed and sold in a manner that allows customers to make informed decisions. The FCA acknowledges the fact that some customers may not be able to make the best decisions when choosing products/services. Firms must exercise extreme caution where customers stand to be vulnerable. They should not exploit vulnerable customers in any way. However, the FCA also expects customers to assume reasonable responsibility for decisions made when buying financial products/services.

2. Regulation for vulnerable consumers – The FCA sees a need to have special regulation for vulnerable consumers i.e., consumers who are seriously ill or in financial distress. The FCA expects firms to pay special attention to the signs/indicators of customer vulnerability and have policies to deal with such customers. Firms must ensure vulnerable consumers are protected and helped.

3. Keeping up with changing environments – The FCA acknowledges that changes like new technologies have an impact on how firms and consumers make decisions. As a result, the FCA makes regulation while factoring in consumer needs based on changing circumstances while also ensuring adequate certainty to firms. The regulator uses Data Sciences and behavioural economics to ensure regulation approaches are great today and in the future.

4. Access and Inclusion – The FCA acknowledges the fact that some consumers are unintentionally excluded from enjoying some financial products/services because of their circumstances or specific characteristics. As a result, the regulator seeks to develop strategies for tackling access and inclusion problems. The FCA is working with financial services firms among other industry stakeholders to ensure there is fair access and inclusion. The regulator is also looking at its own rules currently and making efforts to ensure industry players interpret its rules correctly.

5. Delivering better outcomes for consumers – The FCA has a variety of tools it deploys to diagnose as well as remedy all types of ”harm” to guarantee better outcomes for all kinds of consumers. The regulator uses all types of interventions from harder to more prescriptive interventions such as issuing formal communication to imposing new rules. The FCA also uses its convening powers to bring all stakeholders together if need be when there is need to solve issues without formal regulatory intervention. According to Andrew Bailey, the C.E.O. of the FCA, the regulator’s mission is to act in situations where the greatest public value is added.

The FCA’s approach to consumers focuses on how the regulator can offer better consumer outcomes via interventions. The approach also highlights the regulator’s stance in tackling consumer problems. According to Bailey, the regulator will work with the Government and industry stakeholders among other players to address complex consumer issues such as financial exclusion and vulnerability. This is precisely why the regulator has opened consultation on its approach document. The consultation closes on 5th February 2018 after which a final approach will be published.

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

FCA UPDATE on Fintech

The FCA regulates over 56,000 firms which employ over 2 million people in the UK. The financial services industry is obviously an important industry in UK’s economy given this statistic. This highlights the need for Fintech initiatives going forward (technology initiatives supporting or enabling the financial industry). One such initiative is Project Innovate. The initiative was developed back in 2014 to promote competition and growth in UK’s financial services industry. The initiative has been supporting small and large businesses which make new products and services that benefit customers genuinely. In the first year of operation, Project Innovate helped over 175 businesses. Currently, the project has helped over 358 businesses.

The latest FCA update on Fintech as of April 2017 focuses on a few main points. First and foremost, the FCA continues to tackle regulatory barriers to allow firms to continue innovating for the benefit of their clients. The FCA is doing so given the fact that the demand for its support is increasing. Project Innovate is also entering a new phase. As a forward-looking regulator, the FCA sees the need to continue evolving its approach. The FCA has seen an emergence of Fintech hubs in the UK and has reaffirmed its commitment to support these hubs by offering more/better local assistance.

The FCA’s approach to innovation

In an effort to highlight the importance of innovation in the financial services industry, the FCA continues to educate the public on why innovation is important. According to Christopher Woolard, the FCA’s Executive Director of Strategy and Competition, the FCA has an obligation to make UK’s financial services work well. To do this, the FCA continues to assess the integrity of financial markets and consumer protection issues. The FCA also has the duty to continue promoting the interest of consumers.

According to Woolard, the FCA is increasingly focused on using innovation to promote competition going forward. The FCA has completed its second round of testing innovative products/services, business models and well as delivery mechanisms in practice through its Regulatory Sandbox program. The FCA is also continuing to support technologies that will facilitate the delivery of regulatory requirements better than existing capabilities. The regulator has already held successful initiatives aimed at bringing market participants together to solve crucial problems in the financial services industry.

Priority areas going forward

The FCA is increasingly focused on expanding the scope of its Advice Unit which has been making automated advice models in the investment, pension and protection space. The FCA’s Advice Unit has a broader scope now. The unit is currently engaging the general insurance, mortgage, and debt sectors as well as many other firms that are keen on providing guidance, instead of advice. According to Woolard, the FCA will do more to spearhead the conversation about emerging innovations and trends. The regulator has already started a conversation about the risks and advantages of Distributed Ledger Technology.

The FCA also intends to take an international approach to innovation i.e. restarting its commitment to supporting innovation globally by signing cooperation agreements. The FCA has already signed such agreements with China, Hong Kong, Japan and Canada and is also working with other global regulators to foster a common understanding on good innovation. The regulator is working towards this via international bodies such as the IOSCO and the G20.

In early April 2017, the FCA hosted the first ever International Innovate Seminar featuring over 90 regulators from 56 countries globally.
According to Woolard, this will foster stronger international cooperation as well as help to secure the future of the industry in the long-term. Woolard, however, insists that the FCA is still focused more on supporting emerging Fintech hubs in the UK.

In his latest remarks, London has experienced the most Fintech emergence regionally. This emergence is however expected to spread beyond London. The FCA sees numerous exciting Fintech developments across the UK from Liverpool to Bristol which is why the regulator has promised to work with numerous organisations across the UK. The FCA is focusing on areas with a technological presence as well as strong financial centers. The FCA is also looking at areas where it has established strong relationships with local learning institutions like universities.

The regulator has mapped out the Leeds-Manchester and Edinburgh-Glasgow areas as promising emerging Fintech hubs and is focused on offering such areas the same access to regulatory support as key areas like London. The FCA is committed to ensuring good Fintech ideas in the financial services industry come to fruition regardless of where they are conceived.

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

An Overview of FCA Payday Loan Regulations Today 

Background

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the body charged with regulating the payday loan industry in the UK. The FCA began regulating payday loans among other forms of high-cost short-term credit on 1st April 2014. Initially, the regulator focused on tackling poor conduct present in the industry.

The FCA began by introducing new rules on affordability, rollovers, advertising as well as the use of recurring payments (continuous payment authorities). The regulator then took a supervisory role focusing on payday loan lenders breaching the new regulations/requirements.
The UK parliament gave the FCA the duty to cap prices of short-term loans/credit products like payday loans to protect borrowers from unfair lending practices in December 2013. The rules, however, came into effect two years later (on 2nd January 2015). The regulator was involved in the entire process. The main aim of the regulatory changes was to see the price of high-cost short term loans/credit like payday loans come down and make sure borrowers never pay back more than double the amount borrowed.

According to the then FCA chief executive officer, Martin Wheatley, the new rules were meant to put an end to increasing payday debts and offer borrowers effective protections without affecting the viability of the market.

FCA stance on payday loans today: Price structure/levels

The FCA published new payday loan price caps in July 2014. The price cap structure/levels remain unchanged to date after taking effect on 2nd January 2015. They include;

• Lower costs for most borrowers. The FCA set the initial cost cap to 0.8% per day. All high cost short term loans, fees and interest should not exceed 0.8% (per day) of the amount borrowed. The initial cost cap remains unchanged to date and applies to the outstanding principal, all interest, and fees charged per day during the loan term as well as when refinancing. Payday loan lenders are however free to structure charges as they wish provided they don’t exceed the 0.8% cap.

• New protection from borrowers struggling to pay: The FCA also set default fees at £15. If a borrower has a hard time repaying their payday loan, default fees (default charges as well as interest on unpaid balances) can’t exceed £15. Interest can increase but can’t exceed the initial cost cap.

• Cost cap on escalating debts: The FCA also set a 100% cost cap ensuring that borrowers never pay back more in interest and fees than the initial amount borrowed. The cap covers debt administration, debt collection, and other ancillary charges as well as credit broking charges.
From 2nd January 2015, no UK payday loan borrower has been charged twice what they borrowed, more than £15 in default fees or more than 0.8% in interest and fees per day of the amount borrowed. The price cap structure/levels will be reviewed in 2017.
FCA payday loan regulation today on: Repeat borrowing, data sharing, supervision, and E-commerce directive

Repeat borrowing

FCA regulations remain the same for repeat borrowing. All price cap structure/levels remain the same as for the 1st loan. The FCA is however in the process of assessing the impact of repeat borrowing.

Data sharing

The FCA requires all lenders in the UK payday loan industry to participate in real-time data sharing to ensure majority of the payday loans are reported real-time. Although this regulation hasn’t been fully implemented, the current progress is in line with the regulator’s expectations.

Supervision

The FCA is currently following its standard model supervisory approach
E-Commerce Directive (ECD)
The FCA currently prohibits UK-based debt collectors from collecting debts that arise under high-cost short term credit agreements entered into by incoming e-commerce directive lenders who charge more than the set price caps. Also, UK-based debt administrators are prohibited from enforcing or exercising rights on behalf of lenders under such high-cost short term credit agreements.

The FCA is in the process of gaining powers to take action against incoming lenders who avoid rules by abusing freedom of movement rules.

Other FCA regulation stances today

Insider dealing: The FCA has powers to investigate as well as prosecute insider dealing in the UK payday loan industry as stipulated in the 1993 Criminal Justice Act.
Supervision: The FCA also has the right to supervise all regulated payday loan lenders as well as all other regulated financial firms.

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.