Financial Conduct Authority sets out agenda and priorities for consumer credit

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has published the outcome of its review into high-cost credit, which includes its assessment of the effectiveness of the payday loan price cap.

The review provides clear evidence that FCA regulation of high-cost short-term credit (often known as ‘payday lending’) has delivered substantial benefits to consumers. The review found that 760,000 borrowers in this market are saving a total of £150m per year, firms are much less likely to lend to customers who cannot afford to repay and debt charities are seeing far fewer clients with debt problems linked to high-cost short-term credit.

The FCA has therefore decided to leave the existing payday loan price cap in place, and to review it again in 2020. 

However, the review has also established clear concerns with other forms of high-cost credit. In particular, the FCA believes that fundamental changes in the way that unarranged overdrafts are provided may be necessary. Charges for unarranged overdrafts are often high after taking into account the risks to lenders, and can be complex and thus hard for consumers to understand.

The FCA also identified particular concerns in the rent-to-own, home-collected credit and catalogue credit sectors.  While there are similarities between high-cost credit markets and products, there are also significant differences in how they work and how people use them.  The FCA is developing tailored solutions to these issues, and will consult on action to address these concerns in Spring 2018.

Andrew Bailey, Chief Executive of the FCA, said:

“High-cost credit products remain a key focus for us because of the risks they pose to potentially vulnerable customers.  We are pleased to see clear evidence of improvement in  the payday lending market after a period when firms’ treatment of customers and their business models were often unacceptable. 

“However, there is more that we can do, and this review is about identifying the areas where consumers may be suffering harm so that we can focus our efforts accordingly.

“In particular, the nature and extent of the problems that we have found with unarranged overdrafts mean that maintaining the status quo is not an option.  We are now working to resolve these issues while preserving the parts of the market that consumers find useful.”

Alongside the review, the FCA is publishing proposals to clarify its rules on creditworthiness and affordability. Most credit firms understand the FCA’s rules regarding checks on prospective customers’ creditworthiness, including whether they can afford consumer credit products. However, there is some uncertainty in parts of the market, so the FCA is proposing a number of changes to clarify its expectations.

The FCA has also published more detail on its work on motor finance, setting out the issues that it is considering and the steps it is taking to develop its understanding of the market.  The FCA will publish an update on this work in the first quarter of 2018.

Notes to editors

  1. Feedback statement on high-cost credit market
  2. Infographic – FCA regulation of high-cost short-term credit (PDF)
  3. Consultation paper on creditworthiness
  4. Webpage on motor finance
  5. The FCA requests responses to the creditworthiness consultation by 31 October 2017
  6. The requirement to assess creditworthiness applies to all consumer credit firms (including those involved in payday and logbook loans, retailers, motor dealers selling finance products and pawnbrokers). The amount of credit and the risks to the borrower are likely to be relevant factors in deciding on the extent and scope of an assessment. Firms should take a common sense approach and decide what is appropriate and proportionate in the circumstances.
  7. On 1 April 2013, the FCA became responsible for the conduct supervision of all regulated financial firms and the prudential supervision of those not supervised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).
  8. The FCA has an overarching strategic objective of ensuring the relevant markets function well. To support this it has three operational objectives: to secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers; to protect and enhance the integrity of the UK financial system; and to promote effective competition in the interests of consumers.
  9. Find out more information about the FCA.