• Payday lenders forced to share data to stop multiple loans
• Number of TV ads could be limited
• Unlimited fines for those who break the rules
Payday loan companies will face new restrictions on how they advertise, and be forced to share information about applicants, after a government-commissioned report found that consumers are being harmed by serious problems in the sector.
The market for high-cost short-term loans has boomed in recent years, driven by the recession and an increasing number of firms offering fast borrowing at interest rates of 4,000% and higher. As the industry has grown, so have concerns about debt, with one advice charity reporting it had seen problems with payday loans double in 2012.
The government, which has been under pressure to take action against payday lenders, will work with the Advertising Standards Authority and the industry to make sure adverts for the loans do not lure consumers into taking on borrowing that is not right for them.
Lenders could face limitations on the number of TV adverts they are allowed to screen in an hour and the times of day they can advertise. They could also be forced to make sure their annual interest rate (APR) is displayed properly on all advertising. Currently some payday lenders advertise in prime time slots during family shows.
The government will also force lenders to talk to each other and confidentially share data on applications so that people can’t take out several loans at once from different lenders. Recently, the charity National Debtline said it had heard from clients with more than 10 payday loans against their names.
The news comes ahead of the publication on Wednesday morning of the results of a year-long review of the market by the Office for Fair Trading and a report by the University of Bristol on whether a cap in the cost of credit could protect consumers.
Some campaigners have suggested that such a cap would prevent some of the worse practices in the industry, while others have called for better affordability checks, and a ban on the use of continuous payment authorities, which allow lenders to keep trying to collect missed repayments from a borrower’s debit card.
The University of Bristol report suggests that a cap on credit is not the right approach now, but the government has committed to allowing the new financial regulator to introduce a cost cap at a later date.
A consultation on the other powers the new Financial Conduct Authority will have when it takes over regulation of the sector from the OFT in April 2014 will also be published on Wednesday morning. It will be able to impose unlimited fines on companies which break the rules, and to get consumers’ money back where they have been mistreated.
The prime minister is still confusing the interests of the City with those of the nation
It sounds like the stuff of satire. On Thursday, RBS, the bank that taxpayers were forced to buy, posted 2012 losses of more than £5bn. That was after paying out more than £600m in bonuses. On the very same day, an EU draft agreement to cap bank bonuses emerged – and the prime minister immediately signalled that Britain would resist.
There are of course questions about the detailed design of the bonus cap, although to the citizen on the street the first of these is why it needs to be set as high as 100% of salary, with exceptional provision for double that. Then there are deeper doubts about whether or not internationally footloose financiers can be forced to wear a cap made in Brussels. The most obvious danger is that the restriction on lavish top-ups would be answered by a dramatic increase in basic pay. Certainly, the experience of the bonus tax suggests that this would happen to some extent. To assume things would be different this time, is to assume that the City is becoming more sensitive to shame. That may sound like a naive hope, although with Antony Jenkins’s new regime at Barclays staking its reputation on respect and responsibility, and with so much banking in state hands, with political will there ought now to be scope to challenge the culture. And let’s be clear: for a bank to agree to boost the salary of someone like Bob Diamond several dozen times over – which is what would be required to compensate for the loss of the bonuses he got in his heyday – would not be a decision a publicity-conscious business could take lightly.
All things considered, attempting to do something – as the EU proposes – is surely better than sitting back and doing nothing. Even if the worst happens, and the bankers claw back all their bonuses in increased pay, the reform would at least succeed in pushing their avarice into the open. Whereas bonuses calculated by incomprehensible formulae allow the money men to hide behind the misty idea that they are being paid to perform on some intricate criterion which the rest of us cannot hope to understand, higher salaries would make plain that their vast rewards are in fact automatic with the job; this transparency could catalyse outrage and eventually further change, even if there was little immediate effect.
But it is being far too kind to David Cameron to imagine that his resistance flows from any fear that the measure wouldn’t have immediate effect. Shielded by a Labour party which continues to hug the City too close – “it shouldn’t take the EU to get a grip on bonuses”, the opposition disingenuously carped as it sought to evade revealing that it too was against – the PM is simply continuing with the great British tradition of confusing the interests of the City with those of the nation.
The EU’s proposed cap on banker bonuses will drive business away from London, says Boris Johnson, the mayor of Europe’s biggest financial centre.
Continued here: EU banker bonus cap ‘self-defeating’
Negotiations to introduce a bonus cap in the European Union have stalled after EU countries and the bloc’s parliament clashed over how far to go in curbing pay for the industry’s top earners.
Read more: AUDIO: Bank bonus cap ‘will not reduce risk’
The government says it is unfair for benefits to rise at a faster rate than wages, but Labour opposes plans to cap rises to 1%, ahead of a key Commons vote.
See the rest here: Battle over plan to cap benefits