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Financial Conduct Authority proposes package of consumer credit relief measures

The Financial Conduct Authority has proposed temporary measures to support users of certain consumer credit products who are facing financial problems as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The regulator’s proposals are intended to complement measures already announced by the Government to support mortgage holders (and renters), furloughed employees and the self-employed.

The proposals are as follows:

  • Offer a temporary payment freeze on loans and credit cards where consumers face difficulties with their finances as a result of coronavirus, for up to three months.
  • Ensure that for customers who have been hit financially by the coronavirus and already have an arranged overdraft on their main personal current account of up to £500 will be charged zero interest for up to three months.
  • Require firms to make sure that all overdraft customers are no worse off on price when compared to the prices they were charged before the recent overdraft changes came into force.
  • Ensure consumers using any of these temporary measures should not have their credit rating affected because of this.

Given the national emergency and the significant impact on consumer finances already, the FCA is asking all stakeholders to respond to a brief consultation on the proposals by next Monday (April 6).

Christopher Woolard, interim chief executive of the FCA, said: “Coronavirus has caused an unprecedented financial shock with far-reaching consequences for consumers in every corner of the UK.

“If confirmed, this package of measures we are proposing today will help provide affected consumers with the temporary financial support they need to help them weather the storm during this challenging time.”

Jenny Clayton, financial services partner at EY, added: “This morning’s proposed relief package from the regulator will do just that; provide relief to scores of people now relying on credit cards to pull through in this time of financial downturn without fear of mounting interest bills.

“The package crystallises formally into regulation some of the good practices that leading firms have already been putting in place to support the fight and protect those who have temporarily lost some or all of their income.

“Customer requests and queries will now likely start to flood in, putting pressure on credit providers to rapidly operationalise processes to support the measures.

“This will add to already stretched helplines and customer service centres, but since the start, the industry has shown that it is part of the financial solution to this crisis, and is anticipated to back this regulatory package to support customers.”