Doorstep lender harassed elderly stroke victim while she was recovering in hospital

Doorstep lenders are taking advantage of vulnerable people and putting them at risk of serious debt problems, warns Citizens Advice.

“Irresponsible” doorstep lenders are taking advantage of vulnerable people and putting them at risk of serious debt problems, the UK’s leading advice charity has warned today (Wednesday).

A new report published by Citizens Advice reveals the cruel, and sometimes unlawful tactics used by some doorstep lenders in retrieving outstanding debts.

One man with substantial doorstep loan debts was visited by a lender on the same day his son died. The lender, who was seemingly devoid of any compassion, refused to leave the property until a family member visited an ATM to withdraw cash and repay what was owed.

Another case saw a blind and elderly woman harassed for payments while she was in hospital receiving treatment for a stroke – despite the lender being repeatedly asked not to visit. The identity of the lender has not been revealed.

A third case involved a woman with very little money, who was bullied into entering into a £20,000 debt repayment plan to repay £20,000 in three outstanding loans owed to three separate lenders.

Doorstep lenders earn commission on collecting payments, which Citizens Advice says may be encouraging them to use intimidating tactics which are in breach of Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) rules.

The charity has also expressed concerns about lenders pressuring lenders who are already struggling with repayments to take out another doorstep loan. As well as the practice of cold-calling, where lenders turn up on people’s doorsteps and try to sell loans to the occupiers.

The latest estimates put the number of people with doorsteps in the UK at over 1.3 million, with the average debt being in the region of £700. Around a third of people have taken out more than one doorstep loan.

Citizens Advice has submitted evidence to the FCA as part of its review into the high cost credit market. They are calling on the FCA to extend its cap on payday loan interest rates and fees across the market to protect consumers.

The charity also wants the FCA to strengthen its affordability guidance to ensure doorstep lenders adopt responsible lending practices, with some lenders failing to carry out satisfactory checks on whether a person can afford to pay back a loan.

Other recommendations include:

  • New rules placing a limit on the number of times a doorstep loan can be refinanced
  • A review of the methods doorstep lenders use to collect repayments
  • A ban on cold call selling of doorstep loans
  • A requirement for doorstep lenders to disclose the commission they make on collecting repayments so borrowers understand what is driving lenders action.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy, said: “Some doorstep lenders are putting people at risk of escalating debts with their irresponsible actions.

“The personal nature of doorstep loan selling and debt collection can put customers in a vulnerable position.

“Our evidence shows some lenders are taking advantage of that relationship and causing serious harm to borrowers by turning up unannounced or putting clients under pressure to repay or take on more debt.

She added: “It’s important there is strong regulation of high cost credit markets to make sure companies put the needs and interests of consumers at the heart of their services.

“The FCA’s intervention drastically reduced problems in the payday loan market – we now want to see similar protections introduced for consumers using other high cost credit products, including doorstep loans.”