Press release: Consumer Panel research finds potential consumer harm in early-stage credit journeys

Press release for early-stage consumer credit journeys research

Title: Consumer Panel research finds potential consumer harm in early-stage credit journeys

The Financial Services Consumer Panel has today published new research  which looks at consumers’ early experiences with credit products. The research shows that there are clear risks of harm for consumers that the FCA, working together with others including the Money and Pensions Service, should act to address. This is especially urgent in the context of the current cost-of-living crisis when people may be relying on credit more than ever.

The research, conducted by Britain Thinks on behalf of the Panel, found the use of credit products to be normalised amongst borrowers, with many not thinking of this type of borrowing as debt. Vouchers, discounts and low-friction purchase options all encouraged consumers to take on credit and potentially spend more. Consumers did not understand key features of the products they were taking on, including the interest rate and whether or not the product would help improve their credit score.

These findings gave rise to a number of potential harms including consumers not getting help with debt when they need it and taking on more debt by using one credit product to meet repayments on another. Consumers were also at risk of harm from lenders’ and Big Tech companies’ use of data and algorithms to develop targeted adverts for credit products and drive search engine results.

As a result, in a position paper also published today, the Panel has recommended the FCA build on its existing policy work, especially the new Consumer Duty, to help consumers keep control of their borrowing, better understand the products they already have, or are available to them, and make better payment decisions. The Panel also recommends further research on the key features of a good consumer journey and the impact of consumers taking on new credit products to finance existing commitments.

Helen Charlton, Panel Chair, said: “We all know that harmful debt problems can arise from excessive, prolonged or inappropriate use of credit. This new work shows that social influences and industry practices can sow the seeds of that harm right from people’s earliest use of credit. Trusted “dashboard-style” tools which bring consumers’ borrowing data into one place could help people take early control of their borrowing, while the Treasury’s review of the Consumer Credit Act and FCA’s implementation of their new Consumer Duty offer opportunities to redesign how choices and information are presented in the buying journey.”


Consumer Panel Secretariat telephone: 020 7066 9346  

Consumer Panel Secretariat email: [email protected]


  1. The Consumer Panel is a statutory body under the Financial Services and Market Act 2000.  The Financial Services Authority originally established it in December 1998. The Panel advises the FCA on the interests and concerns of consumers.  The Panel is independent. Its views do not represent those of the FCA.  
  2. The emphasis of the Panel's work is on activities that are regulated by the FCA, although it may also look at the impact on consumers of activities outside but related to the FCA's remit. More information about the Panel's work is available on its website: or via its Twitter account.
  3. The research was qualitative to give rich insights into consumer behaviour. 40 in-depth interviews were held with borrowers between March and May 2022. Participants held one or more product in the following categories: higher-cost credit, higher-cost retail credit, informal/unregulated loans and new forms of credit (including buy now pay later).
  4. The Panel published research calling out the harms of firms’ use of algorithms in targeted marketing in 2020.