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Debt worries feature payday loans, says StepChange

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Image caption Payday lending tends to have high levels of interest if debt is rolled over

Twice as many people who sought help with debts in 2012 had payday loans compared with 2011, a charity has said.

The StepChange debt charity helped 36,413 people last year who had payday loan debts, some 20,000 more than the previous year.

The average debt of those in trouble was £1,657, the advice charity said.

The increase shows the rapid rise of payday lending, although credit cards and unpaid bills are also concerns for those seeking help.

Typically, payday lenders make loans of several hundred pounds for a matter of weeks, at interest rates that can work out at well over 1,000% on an annual basis.

'Extreme pressure'

The charity, previously known as the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, said that the low-paid and young were most likely to be caught up by payday loan debts.

The average payday loan debt of people it helped was now higher than the average monthly income of these clients.

They included a 29-year-old teacher from Leeds who estimated that £6,000 of her £10,000 debt was owed to payday lenders.

She said that one payday loan of £350 escalated to £1,100 as a result of the interest and charges that were added.

Delroy Cornaldi of StepChange said: "These findings are yet more evidence of the scourge of payday loans. With household finances increasingly under extreme pressure and access credit far less available, many face the unenviable choice of using payday loans simply to make ends meet."

But Russell Hamblin Boone, chief executive of the Consumer Finance Association, which represents a number of payday lenders, said: "As responsible lenders, we work with all of the major debt charities, including StepChange, and our members actively refer customers to them as a part of our commitment to supporting people who find themselves in financial difficulty.

"So it is little surprise that they are seeing an increase in calls and it is encouraging because it means those customers who have payday loans, among their other debts, are able to get help with their finances."

Industry action

In March, the results of a review by the Office of Fair Trading described evidence of "widespread irresponsible lending" among payday lenders.

The regulator gave the biggest 50 firms 12 weeks to change their practices, or risk losing their licences.

It also plans to refer the market to the Competition Commission, after it found "deep-rooted" problems in how payday loan companies compete.

The payday loans industry said it had already made changes to the way it operated, including credit-checking all loan applications, and introducing a limit on the number of times a loan can be rolled over or extended.

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