By Daniel Hunter

Business Minister Norman Lamb today (Wednesday) welcomed the progress made by payday lenders as they published newly revised Codes of Practice to increase transparency and better help vulnerable borrowers, but warned that they need to maintain their focus on protecting consumers and tackling bad practice.

The revised Codes of Practice were published by the four Trade Associations which represent over 90 per cent of the payday and short-term loan industry. They follow on from the Government’s Response to the BIS Select Committee’s Report into Debt Management, when new commitments were agreed to help deliver increased protection for consumers.

The payday lenders have committed to:

· a good practice customer charter explaining how loans work and the costs involved;

· increased transparency about loan repayment so that consumers can make informed decisions and are not surprised by hidden payments;

· more help for customers in financial difficulty by freezing charges and interest;

· robust credit and affordability assessments to ensure loans are suitable for the customer’s situation; and

· effective compliance monitoring by the Trade Associations to root out poor practice in the industry.

“The new Codes of Practice published today represent a positive and important step forward by the payday lending industry," Business Minister Norman Lamb said.

"They will have a real impact helping consumers to make the right decisions when they opt for a payday loan, ensuring they do so fully informed and are not caught out by hidden charges.

“I welcome the hard work and commitment of the four Trade Associations to deliver better consumer protections. But, at a time when more consumers may turn to payday loans to manage spending, this is no time for complacency. The industry must continue its commitment to root out rogue lenders and tackle bad practice. I expect to see real results on the ground coming out of these additions to the lenders’ codes of practice and that the Trade Associations will undertake a proper assessment of how well they are working.

“I also want to see further action particularly on the use of continuous payment authority. I know the OFT is consulting on this and I expect the industry to respond effectively to any recommendations emerging out of this work.

“Payday loans should only ever be used as a short-term financial fix, not as a long-term solution to financial difficulties. I would urge people to think carefully before taking out a short term loan and to consider affordable alternatives such as their local Credit Union.”

The Government is also strengthening enforcement powers across the whole of consumer credit by giving the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) the authority to suspend a consumer credit licence with immediate effect where there is an urgent need to do so to protect the interest of consumers. Currently the OFT has the power to suspend or revoke a consumer credit licence but businesses can appeal the decision which can take up to two years to deal with. These businesses can currently continue to trade during this time, leaving consumers vulnerable.

The new power will help clamp down on rogue companies that provide goods or services on credit, lend money, collect debts or help people with debt problems.

The Department for Business will continue to work with the OFT to drive up standards in the payday lending industry and continue close working with the Trade Associations as they implement their new codes of practice.

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