Last week was a miserable one for payday loans.
Back in March, the Office of Fair Trading wrote to the 50 biggest payday lenders, warning that certain changes would need to be made or else their credit licences would be at risk.
Last week it was revealed that of the 28 that have responded so far, ten have either surrendered their credit licences or promised to no longer offer payday loans. It seems the thought of actually treating borrowers properly was simply too much for them to bear.
Next came a report from R3, the insolvency trade body, which suggested a fall in demand for payday loans. It found that just one in 14 adults was planning to take out such a loan, compared to one in nine when the study was last conducted last October. R3 suggested that one reason for the fall in demand may be the negative image payday loans now have.
And now comes the revelation that lender QuickQuid has sent out a host of emails demanding the repayment of loans, or else the debt collectors would be called in. The trouble is the recipients of the emails have never actually taken out a loan with QuickQuid.
Tougher measures coming
Things are likely to get even worse for some payday lenders. The High Cost Credit Bill is currently going through Parliament. It's a Bill which will make life even tougher for payday lenders, and introduce extra protection for borrowers and has the support of Lovemoney bloggers the StepChange Debt Charity.
The Bill would mean health warnings on payday loan adverts, more thorough credit checks before loans can be approved and improved transparency about the collection of payments. Lenders will also be required to advise borrowers where they can get free debt advice at certain trigger points (such as asking to extend the loan).
All of these measures will make life just a little more difficult for payday lenders. Coupled with the fact that the Government has just held its first payday summit, it's fair to say the payday loan industry is under the spotlight as never before.
Some believe that the bubble is about to burst for payday loans. But I'm not so sure.
The demand for payday loans
There is no doubt in my mind that one of the reasons for the huge growth in payday loans has been the sheer ease with which you can get your hands on the cash. For example, QuickQuid promises that your money will be on its way within ten minutes of the loan being approved.
You fill in a few details online – or even on an app on your phone – and before you know it there's a stack of cash sitting in your account.
But while the loans may be pushed as an option for all sorts of unnecessary spending (DoshLoans, for example, suggests its loans are an option for "that sale you simply cannot afford to miss"), for many borrowers payday loans are far more urgent.
According to research by the Consumer Finance Association, over half (54%) of payday loan borrowers felt their loan had made it easier to pay their bills on time. And 56% said that using a payday loan had stopped a financial difficulty becoming a crisis. These aren't people that want £300 to spend on a smartphone or some new clothes.
And that demand is not suddenly going to disappear just because lenders are forced to clean up their acts. It just means that people are less likely to be taken advantage of by the less scrupulous payday lenders.
It's easy to scoff that no-one should be 'crazy' enough to sign up for a loan with a four-figure APR. I know I'd never do it. And I'd prefer people to look elsewhere if they really need the cash, such as their local credit union. Read The best alternatives to payday loans for some more suggestions.
But there are plenty of borrowers who know exactly what they are getting into and are perfectly content with the experience.
Payday loans aren't going anywhere. The best we can do is clean up the market.
What do you think? Are payday loans on the way out? Or are they here to stay? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments box below.