Apart from maybe the big six energy companies, I don't know any type of business which gets more bad press than payday loan companies. Anyone you speak to - in the pub, on the school run or in the office - has an extremely negative view of them, yet as much as £1.8 billion is being lent a year by payday loan companies and some (yes you Wonga!) have interest rates as high as 5,853% APR. Disgraceful!
With Christmas just around the corner, it's that time of year when statistics emerge to tell us how many people will fund their annual festivities with some form of short-term credit. This year, the Government-backed Money Advice Service has said that over a million people are considering using a payday loan to fund Christmas; a worrying indication of how deeply ingrained this form of high-cost credit has become in British life.
This week's announcement that a future Labour Government would not only cap the total cost of credit but also introduce a new levy on payday loan companies in order to provide greater support to credit unions is great news and a testament to the hard campaigning of Co-operative Party representatives - like Stella Creasy MP and Kezia Dugdale MSP - and activists up and down the country. Credit unions are a great example of the difference that co-operative solutions can make.
The much reported research by Pew Charitable Trusts, Payday Lending in America: How Borrowers Choose and Repay Payday Loans, notes that some fifty-eight percent of payday loan borrowers have trouble meeting monthly expenses at least half the time, and a worrying seventy-eight percent of borrowers rely on information from lenders, not independent market analysts or comparison sites, when choosing to borrow money.