UK regulator turns cash saver with new credit card rules
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) reckons its new credit card rules will save consumers between £310 million and £1.3 billion a year in lower interest charges.
As reported in April 2017, credit card firms came in for a kicking as the FCA proposed such rules to help customers who are in persistent debt.
Now we have some action as today (27 February), the FCA published its final policy statement. The rules come into force on 1 March 2018, but firms have until 1 September 2018 to comply.
The FCA explains that the changes are being introduced following a comprehensive study of the credit card market. The study analysed the accounts of 34 million credit card customers over a period of five years, and surveyed almost 40,000 consumers.
Christopher Woolard, FCA’s director of strategy and competition, says firms “have to help customers to break the cycle of persistent debt and ensure customers who cannot afford to repay more quickly, are given help”.
According to the FCA, figures show that customers in persistent debt pay on average around £2.50 in interest and charges for every £1 that they repay of their borrowing. There are four million accounts in persistent debt and “firms have few incentives to help these customers because they are profitable”.
Under these new rules firms will be required to take a series of escalating steps to help customers who are making low repayments over a long period, beginning when the customer has been in persistent debt over 18 months.
After this time firms need to contact customers prompting them to change their repayment and informing them their card may ultimately be suspended if they do not change their repayment pattern.
Once a consumer has been in persistent debt for 36 months, their provider will have to offer them a way to repay their balance in a reasonable period. If they are unable to repay the firm “must show the customer forbearance”. This may include reducing, waiving or cancelling any interest, fees or charges.
Firms who do not comply could be subject to action by the FCA.
The FCA adds that credit card firms have also agreed to voluntary measures, which will give customers control over increases to their credit limit.
Under the measures agreed by such firms, customers can opt-out from receiving automatic credit limit increases. Customers in persistent debt for 12 months will not be offered credit limit increases, this should result in around 1.4 million accounts per year not receiving such offers.