Monday, 1 December 2014

Govan Law Centre welcomes FCA clamp down on payday loan 'brokers'

Govan Law Centre (GLC) has welcomed the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) new consumer credit rules for payday loan credit brokers as an essential measure to tackle the exploitation of consumers from a new breed of credit brokers  (the new rules will form part of the CONC rulebook with effect from 2 January 2015).

Customers across the UK looking for a payday loan online are regularly duped into thinking the company they are giving all of their personal information to is a payday loan company, when in fact it is a 'broker' who will typically charge a fee of £50 to £100 for passing on the customer's details to multiple third parties, who then often impose charges themselves.

GLC's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly said: "We believe payday loan brokers have been ripping people off for far too long in the UK. They mislead consumers into thinking they are the loan provider when in fact all they do is pass on data to the detriment of people who are then subjected to a series of unexpected charges taken from their bank account without informed consent, often from multiple third parties. We are confident the rules will protect most consumers - as once customers know the broker is proposing to charge them the equivalent of money for old rope, they will avoid these exploitative middlemen". 
Since July this year the Royal Bank of Scotland has reported that payday loan brokers have attempted to take money out of their customers accounts more than 1 million times - with 25,000 being successful - netting £1.1m, as against £60m if all attempts had been successful - for RBS/Natwest customers alone.  
The new FCA rules will ban credit brokers from charging fees to customers, and from requesting customers’ payment details for that purpose, unless they comply with new requirements ensuring that customers are given clear information about who they are dealing with, what fee will be payable, and when and how the fee will be payable.                                                 
The FCA’s concerns relate to:
  • a lack of transparency, resulting in consumers often not realising they are dealing with a broker rather than a lender;
  • fees being taken without informed consent, for example where terms and conditions are hidden or misleading;
  • consumers being misled as to the purpose of giving their payment details;
  • firms passing on consumers’ details, including their payment details, without informed consent, to other firms who also take a fee; and
  • consumers facing difficulty in identifying the firm that has taken a fee, and in obtaining a refund from the firm or a response to their complaint.
Thew new rules will also require credit brokers to:
  • include their legal name, not just their trading name, in all advertising and other communications with customers;
  • state prominently in all advertising that they are a credit broker and not a lender; and
  • report quarterly to the FCA listing their website domain names, if they charge fees to customers.
Consumers will also have a 14-day right of cancellation where credit broking contracts are entered into as distance contracts, for example online.
Over 40 per cent of consumer credit complaints received by the FCA relate to credit brokers, 80 per cent of which relate to firms who charge upfront fees. The FCA has also received relevant intelligence from consumer groups and others who are seeing increasing complaints from people who have had money taken from their accounts unexpectedly and often by more than one broker.
The FCA is investigating a number of credit broking firms; seven firms have been stopped from taking on new business and, to date, three further cases have been referred for enforcement action.

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