02/09/2014 05:33 BST | Updated 02/09/2014 05:59 BST

Thousands More Struggling With Payday Loan Debts, Charity Warns

Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 01: A general view of a 'Speedy Cash' cash loans shop on Brixton High Street on November 1, 2012 in London, England. The recession has changed the face of the UK's high streets, which have seen a boom in bookmakers, discount stores, charity shops, cheque cashing (payday loans) and pawnbrokers as cash-strapped Brits struggled with their finances. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Payday loans are leaving thousands more people struggling with their debts in the past year, figures show.

Debt charity StepChange said they dealt with 43,716 people in the first six months of this year, compared with 30,762 for the same period last year.

The figures, showing that the charity has handled more than £72 million in debts in the first half of 2014, highlight the need for further action to ensure better protection for vulnerable people who might consider taking a loan, it said.

In July the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced proposals to introduce a cap on the fees and interest charged by payday lending firms in a bid to protect borrowers from escalating debts.

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The proposals, which include default fees capped at £15 and a limit of 0.8% per day on interest on unpaid balances, should mean those who cannot repay on time will never have to pay back more in charges than the amount borrowed.

The latest clampdown on the industry by the FCA is due to come into force in January, subject to a consultation period.

StepChange also said there should be stricter limits on how much firms can profit from default fees, encouraging more responsible lending, and makes the case for the proposed default charge of £15 to be brought in line with the £12 default charges for credit cards.

Chief executive Mike O'Connor said more can be done to protect those facing serious money worries. "Today's figures show that the payday market all too often fails to treat customers fairly, especially those in financial difficulty," he said.

"High-cost short-term credit is rarely the answer to financial difficulties. While the FCA's proposed price cap is a crucial step forward, there is still much work to be done to ensure that payday loans can no longer plunge people into a cycle of unsustainable borrowing and entrenched financial hardship.

"Consumers will continue to need access to short-term credit and FCA action should also stimulate the reform of this market. This needs to include problems in the adjacent markets including overdrafts, logbook loans and home credit where consumers also suffer detriment.

"The goal of an affordable lending market treating consumers fairly will also involve others but the FCA has a critical role to play in creating the right environment."

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