A major UK payday lender has exited the single instalment payday loan market (i.e. loans that must be repaid in one lump sum) and promised to change the way it offers loans and treats customers struggling to repay their debts, following an agreement with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
As well as no longer selling single instalment payday loans, Cheque Centres Limited (Cheque Centre) has also stopped its debt collection telephone calls to customers until it demonstrates to the FCA that improvements have been made. Cheque Centre has agreed a number of other actions with the FCA so it can meet the new regulatory regime, and the FCA will appoint a skilled person to test the changes.
Martin Wheatley, the FCA’s chief executive, said:
“This is an early victory for people that use payday lenders. We made our tougher expectations clear to Cheque Centre and they have wasted no time in making changes. I have said before that firms would need to dramatically improve their operation or exit the market, and we are now seeing that happening.
“This is an important step in the right direction and other payday lenders should take note.”
If Cheque Centre customers have any questions about what this means for them and their loan, the firm’s consumer helpline number is 0800 243028. Those who have outstanding loans will not need to do anything differently and will still have to repay their loan.
Cheque Centre has 451 branches nationwide. As part of its agreement with the FCA, the firm:
- has voluntarily stopped selling single instalment payday loans altogether
- has suspended debt collection telephone calls to customers until it has reviewed and improved its processes, although the firm will continue to take payments from customers in line with pre-agreed payment dates
- will rework its policies and procedures so that they are fully aligned with FCA rules and requirements
- will re-train its staff to instil a customer-comes-first culture
The FCA took over regulation of payday lending on 1 April 2014 and, in line with its objective of securing an appropriate degree of protection for consumers, has been quick to ensure changes are made so that customers are put at the heart of each business.
The poor practice was uncovered by the former consumer credit regulator Office of Fair Trading (OFT), and FCA staff on secondment at the OFT. In late March Cheque Centre was sent a letter setting out the regulators’ serious concerns. Following that letter, Cheque Centre realised that there were areas of its business that needed dramatic improvement and moved to make immediate changes.
Notes for editors
- The changes Cheque Centres Limited has agreed with the FCA are set out in a Voluntary Requirement (VREQ).
- The skilled person will be appointed under section 166 of the Financial Services and Markets Act as amended by the 2012 Act.
- 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).
- 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.
- Find out more information about the FCA.