Thursday, 3 February 2011

Circling sharks

If you think you've got money problems, spare a thought for those with REAL money problems - the victims of ruthless loan sharks charging up to 450% interest.

With the recession and the rocketing cost of living leaving ever more people in chronic debt, the shady loan outfits are having a field day pulling thousands more victims into their net.

There are already 7 million Britons shut out of the high-street banks because they're too poor or they have dodgy credit records.

Maverick loan companies are happy to fill the gap by lending money to these desperate souls at extortionate interest rates - anything from 272% to 444%.

Predictably enough, the victims commonly default and get sucked into a permanent spiral of debt, interest on debt, late payment charges and interest on late payment charges.

The loan companies - all quite legal - are making a fortune out of the destitute while the government turns a blind eye and pretends it's not happening.

When they were in opposition, senior members of the current government pledged to stop these loan crooks from creating so much misery. They said they would cap the cost of credit for all borrowers at an affordable level.

Now they're in government, surprise surprise, they've forgotten their promise and done precisely nothing to cap credit costs. All they'll commit themselves to is "considering introducing" caps - politician-speak for "doing fuck-all."

Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow in East London, whose surgeries are chock-a-block with distraught loan-shark victims, is campaigning to get a credit cap introduced without delay. I sincerely hope she succeeds. This legalised skinning of the penniless is a national disgrace.

Excellent article about people drowning in debt here

34 comments:

Grannymar said...

I now treat everything a politician says with a grain of salt.

Nick said...

Grannymar - I treat it with a bucketload. And if it's during an election I assume it's mostly a pack of lies.

conortje said...

good grief - I read that first as 45% and was appalled - I had no idea how bad it was.

Nick said...

Conor - I know, you wonder how the hell they can get away with such surreal charges. And why the government takes no notice.

nursemyra said...

I agree the rates are criminal but why are these people taking out loans they have absolutely no hope of paying back?

Nick said...

Myra - Good question. Presumably because someone is pressuring them to pay back a debt and the only way they can do so is to borrow money from one of these scumbags.

Wisewebwoman said...

I did some homework on these kind of operations a few years ago and was not too astonished to find these shark operations are fronts for????

The wanker bankers! All the big banks control these pitiful places. This is why you won't see pols do anything to legislate the usurious interest rates.

It makes me heartsick for the downtrodden who have no other place to go.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

W3 - I've no idea who ultimately owns these loan companies, I don't think any journos have done the necessary digging. But Peter Crook of Provident, one of the biggest companies, used to work for two mainstream banks, Barclays and the Halifax.

Megan said...

"Right out here in the open, with everyone looking?"

Yep.

Hey, at least Sonny Corleone isn't going to come after you with a baseball bat if you don't pay up.

I've taken (and paid back) quite a few of those loans. The terms are right there on the paperwork, if you care to read them.

Suburbia said...

(Thanking my lucky stars)

Typical that nothing is done once they are in power, disgusting in fact.

Nick said...

Megan - No, no baseball bats (as far as I know), just endless pressure to pay back huge sums of money you can't afford. Yes, I'm sure the terms are there in the contract but are they fully explained at the start? And some of these companies start with modest repayments then ramp them up to Mickey Mouse levels.

Suburbia - The trail of broken promises from the government gets longer and longer. I've never seen such a cynical betrayal of the electorate.

rummuser said...

Legislation will simply drive the sharks underground like it has done here and the US and the borrowers suffer more.

Nick said...

Ramana - But isn't that an argument for not outlawing anything? By definition, anything that's outlawed is driven underground. It just means you have to rely on investigations and tip-offs.

Roses said...

When your back is against the wall and your cupboards are bare and you have children to feed, a loan could seem like a life-line.

How do you know if a politician is lying? Their lips are moving.

The trouble with stereotypes, they're true. And I think the present government needs to tread carefully. Everyone understand things are tight, however, don't make promises that can't be kept. And don't hang the most vulnerable in our society to dry.

Nick said...

Roses - Exactly, people take out these loans because they're desperate and they can't see any other way out. And the number of promises this government has already torn up is shameful.

Anonymous said...

I'll declare my vested interest first - I'm a self-employed agent for one of the major companies.

Which means I know what I'm talking about.
I wonder if Stella Creasy (writer of the Guardian article which you quote) has ever met any of the people who borrow from door-step lenders? Or, for that matter, Nick, have you met any of these people?
There is a middle class, left-leaning, assumption that the borrowers are the down-trodden poor. Not totally correct - these people are not well off, but they are often unable to borrow from the mainstream banks.
Many of my customers are working and, in theory, should be using a credit union for savings and loans.
The big problem is the fact that they lack discipline. They need someone calling every week to collect their repayments - a monthly direct debit would be useless, because the money wouldn't be there when needed, so incurring large bank charges.
The reputable door-step lenders may charge high interest, but there are no penalties when payments are missed. No late payment charges, no additional interest.

All paperwork has just been updated under the European Consumer Credit Directive. Terms and conditions are clearly laid out - but customers are only interested in how much the weekly repayments will be.

The people who need help are those who have borrowed from real loan sharks - the people who accompany their customers to the post office and take the loan repayments from the benefit money being withdrawn.

Sorry for such a long comment - and sorry that it is anonymous.

Nick said...

Anon - Thanks for taking the time to read my post, and thanks for the detailed reply. However, I can't say I'm convinced by your arguments.

Stella Creasy, as I say, is the MP for Walthamstow and has met many many of these borrowers. But no, I haven't met any myself.

Yes, they should probably be using credit unions, which lend on more civilised terms, and I don't know why they don't.

Of course customers are only interested in the weekly repayment charges, and don't realise the huge level of interest. But how can those extortionate levels of interest be justified, except by sheer greed?

Scarlet Blue said...

Tsk. I wish my savings could generate the same interest rates.

People say they care about other people but it's all a load of bollocks really.
Sorry, Nick, I was up very early this morning and I am tetchy. This sort of exploitation of people makes me angry. I really don't know how people in this industry can live with themselves. I don't suppose they ever think about the cycle of misery they help to perpetuate.

Jeez... better go back to bed.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - Yes, me too. Wouldn't 450% be lovely? I don't know how they can live with themselves either. Facing all those miserable, tortured faces and then demanding yet more money off them.

Roses said...

During last night's car crash tv viewing, there was an ad for Wonga.com.

Their APR had me sit up and spit.

It's funny how a discussion about this 'industry' leads to assumptions by anonymous, to fling 'left-wing, middle class' around, as if that automatically nullifies our opinions on the subject.

I've been the stereotype: single-parent, living on benefits in a council flat. Let me tell you about my existance: my cashflow was a precarious, delicate entity which could fall apart with any additional treats. By treats, I mean food and clothing.

Disposable income? Don't make me laugh. It was a question of shuffling the envelopes around and living on sardines on toast when I got it wrong. I've eaten so much pasta in my life, I refuse to pay for it now when I go out to eat.

Desperate? Oh yes. I can't tell you the times I sobbed in my bank, begging them for some leeway on my overdraft, or to just give me more time. Had someone come knocking on my door with a promise of cash, yes, I'd have taken it.

So, far better to be 'left-wing, middle class' than a person who sees an opportunity to make some cash off the back of someone elses' misfortune, and is cynical and dismissive about their clients.

Nick said...

Roses - I looked up Wonga.com. Interest rate 360%, APR 4214%. Unbelievable. And I know there are millions (yes, millions) who have the same sort of precarious existence that you used to have. The gap between rich and poor in Britain is shocking, and getting wider every day.

kylie said...

theres an interesting mix of comments here.
and there is no need for anyone to charge rates like that

Roses said...

*climbs off soapbox*

Sorry hon. I got carried away. I'll behave in future.

Nick said...

Kylie - No need whatever except for naked greed. And maybe a streak of wanton cruelty.

Roses - No need for apologies. Your past experiences are eye-opening. Lucky you avoided the temptation of an instant loan with no questions asked.

Quickroute said...

Article in the NY Times today about the aggressive nature of Credit Card companies offering no interest periods for 12 months followed by loan shark style rates after the suckers are hooked - all crooks I say

Nick said...

Quickie - That seems to be a common practice to lure people in, reasonable payments to start with and then a massive increase. A case of kicking people when they're down.

Kate said...

Hi Nick, I, like many others have crawled out of the financial mess that my ex husband left me in with two children to bring up.

We survived on my imaginative cooking skills and not buying anything that wasn't absolutely necessary.

Thankfully - my children learned to be careful with money and recognise that if you don't have any you cannot spend any - but even then the pressures of living in their own houses causes problems.

The root of all evil - its so true!

Nick said...

Kate - Long time no see! The familiar story of ex husbands leaving a big mess behind them. Good that you managed to keep your life on track and bring up your kids okay. And good that they learned to treat money with respect and not end up in a financial mess themselves.

Kate said...

Thanks nick - its good to have some time to catch up again...... i'm not saying they don't get into messes - everybody does in this crazy world - but they do talk about it and we still work out the best way to get through it without making things worse...

Liz said...

"Predictably enough, the victims commonly default and get sucked into a permanent spiral of debt, interest on debt, late payment charges and interest on late payment charges."
Sounds like some of the third world countries ...

Nick said...

Kate - That's the important thing, to talk a problem through and find a solution before it gets completely out of hand.

Liz - Very true. And Western governments aren't very sympathetic to third-world debts, mostly they just demand the money back and no excuses.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

This is incredibly low and altogether disgusting. Unfortunately, a politician is not legally obligated to honor campaign promises once elected, which is why they all sound like white noise to me. "Blah blah blah blah." They stand for nothing but election.

secret agent woman said...

Predatory lending is a huge problem here, victimizing those who can least afford and causing our bankruptcy rates to skyrocket.

Nick said...

Heart - Unfortunately that's also true in the UK, a politician is not obliged to fulfil election promises. There was actually a test case some years back which concluded exactly that.

Secret Agent - I know, the situation in the US is just as bad, if not worse. Of course that's where the whole sub-prime lending disaster began.