Crackdown on high-interest lending announced by FCA

The rent-to-own sector faces a cap on prices similar to limits on the cost of payday loans, but the financial regulator has ruled out a similar restriction on overdrafts.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has spent nearly two years studying borrowing at high interest rates.

It has now outlined a package of plans for rent-to-own, doorstep lending and catalogue shopping.

High-cost credit is used by three million people in the UK.

Single-parents aged 18 to 34 are three times more likely to have a high-cost loan – such as a payday loan, doorstep loan or pawnbroking loan – than the national average.

“The proposals will benefit overdraft and high-cost credit users, rebalancing in the favour of the customer,” said FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey.

Campaigners had called for a cap on the interest and charges faced by those using high-cost credit, including overdrafts.

They said that cap on the cost of payday loans, introduced in 2015, should be a template for the rest of the high-cost credit market.

Some 400,000 people have outstanding debt with rent-to-own firms from which they buy household appliances, paying the money back over three years.

After interest, they can end up paying well over double the cost price.

The FCA said it had seen cases when people had paid more than £1,500 for essentials like an electric cooker that could be bought on the high street for less than £300.

“The FCA believes the harm identified in this market is sufficient in principle to consider a cap on rent-to-own prices. It will now carry out the detailed assessment of the impact that a cap could have on the rent-on-own sector and how it might be structured,” the regulator said.

Rent-to-own – a typical deal

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A typical deal for a fridge bought under a rent-to-own agreement means:

  • Price of the fridge: £200
  • Delivery and installation charge: £55
  • 156 weekly payments at APR of 69.9%: £3.25
  • Total cost: £507

Source: BrightHouse

More than three million people have dipped into an unauthorised overdraft in the course of a year, exceeding their agreed limit.

In 2016, firms made an estimated £2.3bn in revenue from overdrafts, with 30% of this from unarranged overdrafts.

Instead of a cap, the FCA is proposing that banks offer more information to customers about when and how they go into the red.

It is also considering a ban on fixed fees, which can lead to relatively high charges for a small unarranged overdraft.

Overdrafts in numbers

  • 3.1m have used an unauthorised overdraft in last 12 months
  • Those aged 35 to 44 are most likely to have some form of overdraft
  • A total of 10% of all 18 to 24-year-olds have exceeded their overdraft limit in the last 12 months

Source: FCA, Financial Lives, October 2017