Thousands still struggling with payday loan debts
Many people are still struggling with problem payday loan debts despite a clampdown on irresponsible lending in the sector, a charity has warned.
StepChange Debt Charity said it helped 28,000 people with payday loan debts in the first six months of 2016 - and over a third (37%) of them had three or more such debts. The average amount owed was £1,380.
The charity has urged the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to "finish the job" of tackling the problems.
In January 2015, the overall cost of a payday loan was capped, as part of moves to stop fees spiralling out of control and make costs clearer to consumers.
But StepChange said its evidence suggests some borrowers are being given loans without a full understanding of whether or not they can afford them.
A survey of 500 of its clients who had taken out payday loans after the regulations found more than a quarter (26%) did not think their lender took reasonable steps to check they were able to afford to repay. Only 19% had only a rough idea of how much they would have to repay, while 6% claimed they did not know.
After telling their lender they were struggling to repay, 21% said they continued to have charges and interest added to their debt and less than a third (29%) said they were given an affordable repayment plan.
More than one in 10 (11%) said they were threatened with legal action and 4% said they were offered another loan.
StepChange said it is also concerned by the growth of instalment loans, which last for longer than a typical payday loan of up to a month.
It said instalment loans are lent over periods of two months to a year and also carry very high rates of interest.
The charity said the proportion of people coming to it with payday loan debts has fallen overall, from a peak of 23% in 2013 to 16% this year.
It wants to see people being given greater access to more affordable credit.
Mike O'Connor, chief executive of StepChange Debt Charity, said: "FCA action over the last few years has gone some way to fixing the worst excesses of payday lending, but there is clearly still work to be done.
"Poor lending practices and the poor treatment of people in financial difficulty have serious consequences. They trap people in a cycle of repeated borrowing and as their balances continue to mount, so does the stress and anxiety that comes with severe problem debt."
Last week, the FCA said it was putting high cost loans under the spotlight, including payday loans, overdrafts, door-to-door lending and logbook loans - where someone's car may be put up as security for a loan.
Russell Hamblin-Boone, chief executive of the Consumer Finance Association, whose members are short-term lenders, said: "This report is based on a microcosm of self-selected customers by StepChange Debt Charity.
"It clearly shows they are out of step with the changes in the market. The regulations introduced achieved their objectives and have driven up standards across the sector.
"Only 7% of applications are approved and this small study does not reflect the experience of most borrowers.
"The instalment loan has been introduced in response to customer demand and is a sign of a well-functioning market providing increased customer choice.
"The overall costs of a loan are down and only a small percentage of customers pay any additional fees."
An FCA spokeswoman said: "The FCA will be inviting views on high cost credit, including the cap on high cost short-term lending, and more details of work that may follow will be published later this year.
"We welcome feedback from StepChange Debt Charity and other interested organisations as part of this call for input."