On 31st July 2017, the FCA published the results of a review it had done on high-cost credit which included an assessment of the effectiveness of its recent payday loan price cap.
The review offers undisputed evidence that the FCA regulation on payday loan lending has worked in favour of consumers as intended given that approximately 760,000 payday loan borrowers in the UK are saving over £150m every year. The review also shows that payday loan firms are now seeing fewer borrowers and debt charities with debt problems arising from expensive short-term credit. For these reasons, the FCA has decided to leave the current payday loan regulation unchanged until 2020.
Other forms of high-cost short-term loans
Besides clearing concerns on payday loans, the review also addresses concerns on other high-cost credit such as overdrafts. According to the review, The FCA feels fundamental changes on overdrafts are necessary in the future. Fees charged on unarranged overdrafts remain high and complex.
Home-collected credit, Rent-to-own credit as well as catalogue credit sectors are also on the spot. Although high-cost products and markets have many similarities, there are significant differences on how these products and markets work as well as how borrowers use them. The FCA is in the process of making tailored solutions to address these issues and is set to give a way forward in spring 2018.
According to the C.E.O. of the FCA, Andrew Bailey, high-cost credit products are a key focus for the regulator given the risks they expose to vulnerable customers. Bailey is pleased with the current evidence showing a clear improvement in the payday loan market after a period where payday loan firms used unacceptable business models. Besides the obvious improvement, he feels there is more to be done in terms of identifying other areas where short-term credit consumers may be suffering. Bailey’s focus is now on the nature as well as the extent of problems surrounding unarranged overdrafts without touching on the positive that customers find useful.
Alongside the review are proposals published to clarify FCA rules on affordability and creditworthiness. Most lenders understand the regulator’s rules concerning checks on prospective borrower’s creditworthiness including the products they can afford, however, there are uncertainties in parts of the credit market. For this reason, the FCA is proposing to effect some changes to make its expectations clearer.
The regulator has also published additional details on its motor finance work highlighting the issues it is considering as well as the steps it will take to develop an understanding on the market. An update is expected to be issued in 2018 during the first quarter.
The FCA review results and comments have been received well in the industry. According to Eric Leenders, Managing Director, ”UK Finance members are committed to responsible lending and serving better those clients who need access to credit regardless of the type of credit product they need.” Leenders affirms the importance of consumer credit in promoting economic growth when used sustainably and recognises the importance of lenders working hard to balance between helping customers and ensuring long-term affordability. Leenders also agrees that transparency is an important issue and UK Finance is doing everything necessary to make overdraft fees clearer. Leenders also stresses the fact that UK Finance members are open to help customers struggling with repayments and welcomes efforts by the FCA to work closely with lenders.
Stephen Sklaroff, Director General of the FLA (Finance and Leasing Association) is of the same opinion. According to Sklaroff, ”the FLA is working tirelessly to make sure its members lend responsibly as well as treat customers fairly. We are aware that the FCA has found that most lenders are addressing affordability appropriately and we look forward to engaging the FCA on affordability assessments as the regulator does more exploratory work in motor markets.”
Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice C.E.O. attests to the fact that the payday loan price cap has protected many borrowers from unmanageable debt. According to Guy, ”many people were subject to extortionate charges trapping them into debt. Since the price cap among other new measures, fewer people are seeking our help.” Guy, however, states that things have improved for payday loans only. ”Other high-cost loans such as guarantor loans, doorstep loans, rent-to-own services and overdrafts are experiencing problems. It’s good to see the regulator recognise this and take the necessary action. We think a similar price cap will help safeguard consumers of these other forms of high-cost credit.”