Call for ‘smoking style’ warnings on moneylending services

Advertising from moneylenders should carry ‘high cost-loan’ warnings, SVP say

The SVP says it routinely comes across moneylenders giving loans to vulnerable households. Photograph: Getty Images

The SVP says it routinely comes across moneylenders giving loans to vulnerable households. Photograph: Getty Images

 

All moneylending services should have to carry warnings about the high costs of loan repayments on any advertisements, the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has told the Government.

Similar to packaging introduced for tobacco carrying health warnings, any moneylending advertisements or literature should include a clear warning of the high cost of the loan, according to an SVP submission made to the Department of Finance.

The charity suggested messaging such as “Warning: This is a high cost loan,” be placed on moneylender advertisements.

SVP, which supports people in poverty and homelessness, has consistently called for more regulation of moneylender services in recent years.

The charity said an estimated 330,000 people use moneylenders in Ireland.

In the charity’s submission to department officials, it called for a statutory maximum cost of credit which can be charged by a moneylender. The State could introduce an interest rate cap on loans, the submission said.

Information

Currently moneylenders must provide information on the high-cost nature of loans to prospective customers, under Central Bank rules. But this is typically laid out in the moneylending agreement signed by the customer, and not required to be included in advertisements.

Caroline Fahey, SVP head of social justice, said stronger measures were needed to protect vulnerable customers availing of moneylender loans.

“Other measures should include better access to sources of low cost credit for low income households, enforcement of the Consumer Protection Code for Moneylenders, and better protection of customers of moneylenders, including better information, financial education and more inclusive mainstream banking services,” she said.

From February 2013, cigarette packets were required to carry graphic images, alongside health warnings, informing customers of the harms of smoking. In early 2017 further legislation introduced standard plain packaging for tobacco products, removing branding and making the health warnings more prominent.

Vulnerable

Kieran Stafford, SVP president, said charity volunteers routinely came across moneylenders giving loans to vulnerable households, who did not have the capacity to repay the loan.

“People tend to use moneylenders when they have limited access to other sources of credit and they may be worried about cutting themselves off from this source of credit by reporting abuses within the sector,” he said.

Households on low incomes may have poor credit ratings, which limits where they can access loans from, Mr Stafford said.

“Repaying a high cost loan is a very heavy burden for households that are struggling and can lock them into a cycle of debt and poverty,” he said.

“Moneylenders tend to engage in heavy advertising at times when low income households are under financial pressure, for example back to school and Christmas, and it is important that customers know at first glance that the adverts they are seeing are for high cost credit,” Mr Stafford said.