Business

Credit cards: Cap on interest in the pipeline

Credit cards
Image caption Plans could make it easier to switch credit cards for a better deal

A cap on excessive interest rates charged on credit and store cards is being considered as part of a review of consumer borrowing.

The government wants experts' views on how consumer credit, such as credit cards and store cards, can be fairer.

This includes discussion on whether the regulator will be able to put a limit on high interest rates charged to those who might have difficulty repaying.

Bank charges and personal insolvencies are also covered by the review.

The review will inform government proposals on changes to the industry to be published next year.

'Responsible'

The Treasury and Department for Business want to know how people can better manage borrowing, and improve the help available for those who get into difficulty.

Areas of review include:

  • Dealing with unfair bank charges
  • A seven-day cooling off period that would allow people to return store cards without charges
  • Powers for the regulator to cap interest rates on credit cards and store cards
  • Electronic statements from credit card providers so customers can decide whether to switch to a better deal

"I want to encourage both [customers and lenders] to take responsible decisions and to strengthen protection where necessary - particularly for the most vulnerable," said Consumer Minister Ed Davey.

"If things go wrong people face a confusing array of debt remedies, so I also want to examine how the existing insolvency regime can be made to work better."

Write-offs

In recent years, banks have been writing off about 10% of all money spent on credit cards because people have been unable to repay.

This has pushed up credit card costs even though the Bank rate has been at a record low.

And in June, the Office of Fair Trading backed away from recommending interest rate caps on short-term borrowing such as pawnbroking, payday loan and home credit.

It said that imposing formal price controls would not only be very complex and difficult, but might be against the interests of potential borrowers.

These loans filled a gap in the market for people who could not borrow elsewhere, it said.

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