Payday lenders must use comparison sites
To ensure that they operate to appropriate standards, the CMA has recommended to the FCA that authorised PCWs should provide customers with clear, objective and comparable information on all potential loan costs, in particular the total amount payable, and have the ability for customers to compare different loans by searching easily on the most relevant features such as loan amount and duration.
The CMA believes that one or more commercial PCWs will emerge and be authorised by the FCA, but if this does not happen, lenders will be obliged to set up an FCA authorised PCW.
The CMA has also made recommendations to the FCA to take steps to improve the disclosure of late fees and other additional charges; help customers to shop around without unduly affecting their ability to access credit; improve real-time data sharing between lenders and credit reference agencies and ensure that lead generators – websites which sell potential borrowers’ details to lenders and through which 40% of first-time online borrowers access their loans – explain how they operate much more clearly to customers.
And online and high street payday lenders will be ordered by the CMA to provide existing customers with a summary of their cost of borrowing. The summary will tell borrowers what the total cost of their most recent loan was, as well as the cumulative cost of their borrowing with that lender over the previous 12 months and how late repayment affected their cost of borrowing.
The CMA’s remedies follow the FCA’s introduction of a price cap for the sector which came into force on 2 January 2015, which is in addition to a number of other FCA measures to increase customer protection that the FCA has introduced over the past year.
Simon Polito, chairman of the CMA’s Payday Lending Investigation Group, said: “The payday lending market is undergoing substantial change as a result of FCA initiatives to eradicate unacceptable practices. Our actions complement the FCA’s measures and are aimed at making the market more competitive and further driving down costs for borrowers.
“We expect that millions of customers will continue to rely on payday loans. Most customers take out several loans a year and the total cost of paying too much for payday loans can build up over time. During our investigation, we found that there was often a substantial difference in this market between the most expensive and cheapest deals.
“The FCA’s price cap will reduce the overall level of prices and the scale of the price differentials but we want to ensure more competition so that the cap does not simply become the benchmark price set by lenders for payday loans. We think costs can be driven lower and want to ensure that customers are able to take advantage of price competition to further reduce the cost of their loans. Only price competition will incentivise lenders to reduce the cost borrowers pay for their loans.
“Even where borrowers do shop around at present, it is difficult for them to compare prices between short-term loans given the differences between products and the limited usefulness of the APR in making comparisons. Few customers find their lender via existing price comparison websites, which suffer from a number of limitations.
“To help them, we are requiring lenders to be listed on price comparison websites authorised by the FCA and have recommended to the FCA that these websites should carry all the information customers need to compare easily the total cost of different lenders’ loans. This will promote competition and provide the incentive for new and existing lenders to compete to offer lower cost loans and win borrowers’ business. It will also make it easier for new entrants that offer lower cost loans to access customers.
“We have worked closely with the FCA throughout the investigation and are pleased that the FCA is fully supportive of the remedies in our final report.
“In developing these measures the CMA has carried out customer research to inform the design of its remedy package and has consulted extensively with consumer groups and debt charities, lenders, intermediaries, trade associations and a range of other market participants, as well as with the FCA. The CMA will publish an order within 6 months putting in place its requirements in relation to PCWs and borrowing summaries. The FCA will consult in the summer of 2015 on the measures to be introduced in response to the recommendations. The CMA will work closely with the FCA to implement the recommendations.”