Consumers still suffer from irresponsible lending, says Leeds debt charity boss

Mike O'Connor, chief executive of Leeds-based debt charity Stepchange.
Mike O'Connor, chief executive of Leeds-based debt charity Stepchange.
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THE boss of a Leeds debt charity has warned that some consumers are still suffering at the hands of “irresponsible lending” after new figures revealed a worrying rise in complaints about payday loans in Yorkshire.

Mike O’Connor, the chief executive of Leeds-based StepChange, said that inadequate affordability checking was still a problem in parts of the payday loans market.

Complaints about payday lending across the UK increased by a fifth during 2016 to around 5,100.

In the last six months of 2016, the financial ombudsman received around 380 payday lending complaints from Yorkshire, which is up by more than a third (36 per cent) when compared with the first half of last year.

Sixty per cent of the total payday lending complaints from Yorkshire and the Humber came from West Yorkshire. Payday lending complaints came from a wide variety of people, ranging from nurses and teachers to engineers and business analysts.

“Most of the complaints we receive involving payday loans are about affordability – and a consumer coming to us with 10-20 loans is a typical example of a two-year ‘relationship’ with a payday lender,’’ a spokesman for the Financial Ombudsman said.

Caroline Wayman, the chief ombudsman, said the Financial Conduct Authority has imposed new rules on payday lending and “hopefully we will see improvement as a result of that”.

In April 2014, the FCA put the spotlight on higher risk products, such as payday loans. Around 800,000 fewer people took out a payday loan over the following 18 months.

There has been a 20 per cent drop in the number of approvals for payday loans since April 2014.

Ms Wayman added: “It’s really important to try and help people feel comfortable talking about it.”

The StepChange debt charity works with a range of clients who have complaints about payday lenders.

A StepChange spokesman said: “A payday lender, to whom a StepChange client owed money, contacted the person’s line manager at work and disclosed information about the debt in an effort to place pressure on them to repay.

“This is despite the fact that the lender was aware of the client’s financial situation and efforts to address their debt problems via StepChange.”