Payday loans in the United Kingdom

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Payday loans in the United Kingdom are typically loans of up to £1000 to be repaid over a short term, or until "payday". Until the sector was more closely regulated by the FCA, interest rates were unregulated, with a typical loan costing as much as £25 for every £100 borrowed per month.

Shop window in Aberdeen August 2012 APR of 1410.33%

The payday loan industry in the United Kingdom has grown rapidly, with four times as many people using such loans in 2009 compared to 2006. In 2009 1.2 million people took out 4.1 million loans, with total lending amounting to £1.2 billion.[1] The average loan size is between £265 and £270,[2] and two-thirds of borrowers have annual incomes below £25,000. In 2009, the payday loan industry generated around £242m in revenue - accounting for around 20 percent of the total lending.[citation needed]

The largest payday lender in the United Kingdom was Wonga, which in August 2018 collapsed into administration due to overwhelming numbers of compensation claims[3]. In 2014 Wonga was estimated to have a market share of between 30% and 40%.[4] The second largest lender is Dollar Financial Group, which operates The Money Shop network, as well as online lending platforms Payday Express, Payday UK, and Ladder Loans.[5] Dollar Financial acquired PayDay UK in 2011, then the UK's largest online lender.[6] Days after it was announced that Wonga went into administration, The Money Shop also stopped offering new short term loans due to compensation complaints.[7]

In October 2019, a year after Wonga collapsed, the UK's biggest remaining payday loan provider QuickQuid's US owner Enova announced that it would leave UK markets.[8] Quickquid was hit by a surge of compensation claims lodged by customers who believe they were mis-sold loans they could not afford. Similar to the issues that triggered the collapse of the Wonga.[9][10]


Payday loans originated in the United States and have been growing quickly in the UK market over the last five years.[when?] They offer a relatively small amount of capital (usually up to £500) for a short term, often under two weeks on average (or until "payday").[11]

The number of people taking out payday loans in the UK in recent years has increased fourfold, to 1.2 million in 2009.[12][13][14] Borrowers took out around 4.1 million loans amounting to £1.2 billion in money lent.[15] Payday loan borrowers are taking out an average of six loans per year[16] and the average size of a payday loan in 2009 was an estimated £294.[12] 67% of borrowers had incomes below £25,000.[15]

A typical payday loan in the United Kingdom costs as much as £25 for every £100 borrowed per month, meaning a £300 loan would cost £375 to repay after one month.[17] The UK imposes no legal limit on rolling-over loans,[15] and there are no restrictions on the interest rates payday loan companies can charge: one UK payday lender charges a "typical APR" of 1,355%,[13] another lender advertises an APR of 2,225%.[18] Most companies charge 25% for an advance repayable at the end of the month, a few charge 30%, which is equivalent to an APR of over 2000%. Failure to repay a payday loan leads to spiraling APR.[19] According to Consumer Focus, "the cost of obtaining a loan online (often £25-£30 [per month] per £100) exceeds the costs of obtaining a loan on the High Street (often £13-£18 per £100)" because the lenders reject fewer applicants and face higher rates of fraud and default.[15] The providers charge a fee for the loan usually expressed as a flat fee per £100 borrowed for the stated short period, usually around £25.


Under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 lenders must have a licence from the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to offer consumer credit. The Consumer Credit Act 2006 explicitly requires the OFT to consider irresponsible lending in its evaluation of whether a lender is fit to hold a licence.[20] There are currently no restrictions on the interest rates payday loan companies can charge or on rolling over loans, however the government is pending new legislation to cap the costs of such loans.[21] Advertising of payday lending is subject to the Consumer Credit (Advertisements) Regulations 2004.[22] This means that the "typical APR" must be stated in adverts which meet certain criteria, such as adverts which indicate that credit will be given to customers who may otherwise find access to credit restricted.[23] Advertising is regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and there have been several cases of the ASA upholding complaints against advertising by payday lenders.[20]

In June 2010 the OFT published a "review of high-cost credit."[24] In this report they concluded that changes could be made to the industry itself, but that "more radical approaches would be required if the Government or others wanted to tackle the wider social, economic and financial context in which high-cost credit markets exist."[24]

To get a good idea of the size and range of payday loan companies operating in the UK, comparison sites are a useful tool, as recommended in the OFT report - "We recommend that the Government works with industry groups to provide information on high-cost credit loans to consumers through price comparison websites. If this cannot be undertaken on a voluntary basis, the Government should consider the case for introducing legislation to create a single website allowing consumers to compare the features of home credit, payday and pawnbroking loans alongside credit unions and other lenders in their local area."[24]

In March 2013 the OFT published a long-awaited update regarding the industry. It was very critical, giving the 50 leading lenders just 60 days to address the issues raised or risk losing their licences. In particular, it cited "a failure to work out whether people could afford the loans, aggressive debt collection practices, a failure to explain how repayments are collected, and a lack of sufficient forbearance for those who cannot afford the repayments." It referred the market to the Competition Commission for "deep-rooted problems in how payday loan companies compete"[25]

With the newly created agency, the Financial Conduct Authority, due to take over the regulation of the industry from the FSA in 2014, the government expects greater control and powers over rogue lenders. Critics of the industry, including Which? and debt charities, welcomed the developments.[25] Russell Hamblin-Boone of the Consumer Finance Association, a trade body that represents 70 percent of the payday lending market, dismissed the criticisms. He said the OFT's report was based on findings in summer 2012, when they visited the companies in question, and in the months between the research and the publication of their findings, the industry had done much to improve its practices. He expects all his members will satisfy the OFT within the 60-day period and retain their licences, and he further claimed that he does not believe the whole market is set up to profit on defaulters.[26]



Google declared that as of 13 July 2016, advertising of payday loans will no longer be possible. The new ad search policy also includes ads for loans with an annual percentage with 36% APR or higher as well as banning ads in which repayment is within 60 days of date of issue. However, as of December 2016 this policy is not being enforced. Furthermore, specific search queries with the term 'payday loans' (or similar terms) still show the options for payday loans.[27]


Until new FCA regulations was enforced on the industry in 2015, the brokers used to include a broker fee, which was often payable upfront; meaning the applicant must have paid a fee merely to apply for an advertised loan, in addition to the high rate of interest. The OFT has urged the government to tighten restrictions on payday loans.[28]


There has been considerable criticism of the short-term loans market in the UK. Vince Cable MP said in 2008 that "the growing popularity of these kinds of short-term loans highlights the problems stemming from the credit crunch and unsustainable levels of personal debt in the UK."[13] Chris Tapp of debt charity Credit Action said in mid-2008: "Over the past year, payday loans have become an issue in the UK, and the growth in people who have such a loan and have problems has been notable in the last six months."[13]

Credit Action made a complaint to the OFT that payday lenders were placing advertisements on social network website Facebook which broke advertising regulations. Its main complaint was that the APR was either not displayed at all or not displayed prominently enough, which is clearly required by UK advertising standards.[29]

In 2010 a campaign organised by pressure group Compass to "end legal loan sharking" and apply interest rate caps in the "high cost credit sector" saw over 100 MPs sign an Early Day Motion in September 2010,[30] and over 200 by April 2011.[31] Other motions on the subject have been made in previous years,[32][33][34] and groups such as Debt on our Doorstep have previously highlighted the issue.

The writer Carl Packman has criticised the regulation of the industry. Packman says: "given the regulatory landscape currently in force we have to trust [lenders] on their word that they follow a self-defeating business model ... Indeed payday lenders break their promise on responsible lending all the time."[35]

The widely criticized payday lender was one of the biggest finance firms in Britain. Wonga has faced widespread criticism over its interest rates, allegedly heavy-handed debt collection methods and its £24 million shirt sponsorship deal with Newcastle United football club [36] that some say will tempt impressionable young fans to get into debt. Another concern over evidence it had allowed children to borrow cash. Although under-18s are banned from taking out loans with the firm, young people are finding ways to convince Wonga’s "automated, real-time risk and decision system" that they are eligible for its 4,214 percent APR loans.[37] In 2012 the company became the target of identity thieves, with hundreds of cases of UK individuals being chased by the company for repayment of loans they have never applied for.[38]

In 2013 payday broker Cash Lady was widely criticised over an advertising campaign which featured Kerry Katona.[39] Following complaints to the ASA in May 2013, Cash Lady adverts were re-edited to remove the phrase 'Fast Cash for Fast Lives'. The ASA believed this implied that payday loans would help fund a high-flying celebrity lifestyle.[40] In July 2013, Katona declared bankruptcy for the second time, and was dropped by Cash Lady.[41] One month later the ASA ruled that Cash Lady could no longer use Katona in adverts, as she was too heavily associated in people's minds with debt.[42]

In January 2014 247Moneybox along with other payday lenders was accused by the consumer group Which? of using "excessive" default fees to cut their headline rates of interest.[43] Which? Found that "Ten of 17 leading payday lenders we looked at have default fees of £20 or more, and four charged £25 and above". Since January 2015 the FCA have capped default fees that can be charged for a missed payment to £15 and that the total amount a borrower has to repay cannot exceed 100% of the amount borrowed, inclusive of all fees and interest.[44]


  1. ^ Burton, Marie. "Keep the plates spinning: Perceptions of payday loans in Great Britain" (PDF). Consumer Focus. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  2. ^ "Payday Lending Compliance Review Final Report" (PDF). Office of Fair Trading. p. 9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 April 2014.
  3. ^ Collinson, Patrick; Jones, Rupert (30 August 2018). "Wonga collapses into administration". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  4. ^ Bachelor, Lisa (3 October 2014). "Payday lenders should wipe out loans in wake of Wonga ruling, experts say". the Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
  5. ^ Financial Conduct Authority (14 July 2014). "Payday firm Dollar agrees to improve lending practices and refund £700,000 to its customers". Retrieved 13 November 2015.
  6. ^ Walker, Peter (11 February 2011). "Money Personal loans US payday loan firms plan rapid expansion in cash-strapped Britain". London: The Guardian.
  7. ^ Hayward, Stephen (1 September 2018). "Payday loan firm Money Shop faces unclear future just days after Wonga goes bust". mirror. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  8. ^ "UK payday lending giant QuickQuid to close". 25 October 2019. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  9. ^ correspondent, Kalyeena Makortoff Banking (24 October 2019). "QuickQuid owner on brink of collapse as payday lender complaints surge". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  10. ^ "Payday lender QuickQuid to close after 3,000 complaints in six months". Metro. 25 October 2019. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  11. ^ "Payday Loans: Short-term money at a hefty price". CBC News. 4 October 2006. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  12. ^ a b Consumer Focus, 14 August 2010, Number of payday loan users has quadrupled – Consumer Focus research reveals
  13. ^ a b c d Between August 2007 and June 2008, the number of loans made grew by 130%.Gráinne Gilmore (26 June 2008). "Rise in payday loans show credit problems still to come". The Times. London. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  14. ^ Greenwood, Louise (13 September 2003). "Payday loans: Worrying trend?". Moneybox. BBC.
  15. ^ a b c d Marie Burton, Consumer Focus, Keeping the plates spinning: Perceptions of payday loans in Great Britain
  16. ^ "Payday loan firms not competitive, says CMA". BBC News Online. 11 June 2014. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  17. ^ "How do payday loans work?". Which?. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  18. ^ Bachelor, Lisa (29 May 2008). "You can settle the loan on payday - but the APR could be more than 2000 per cent". The Guardian. London.
  19. ^ Read, Simon (8 October 2012). "Payday loans firms raided by watchdog". London: Payday Loans news. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  20. ^ a b Damon Gibbons, Neha Malhotra, and Richard Bulmore (2010), Centre for Responsible Credit, Payday lending in the UK: a review of the debate and policy options Archived 12 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine, October 2010
  21. ^ Salfield, Alice (4 January 2014). "Credit union turns to west London community". BBC. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  22. ^ "The Consumer Credit (Advertisements) Regulations 2004". Office of Public Sector Information, UK. Retrieved 10 June 2008.
  23. ^ OPSI (2004), section 8.
  24. ^ a b c Office of Fair Trading, June 2010, Review of high-cost credit Archived 9 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ a b "Payday lenders told to improve by OFT". BBC News. 6 March 2013.
  26. ^ Osborne, Hilary (6 March 2013). "Payday lenders given reform ultimatum". The Guardian. London.
  27. ^ Google’s ban on payday & high-interest loan ads going into effect now
  28. ^ Sommerland, Nick (8 June 2011). "OFT urges Government to tackle loan broker scam". Mirror Opinion. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  29. ^ "Facebook users warned about ads". BBC News. 12 May 2008. Retrieved 10 June 2008.
  30. ^ Daily Mail, 21 September 2010, More than 100 MPs sign motion to end 'legal loan sharking'
  31. ^ House of Commons, 6 September 2010, Early day motion 660: LOAN SHARKS, accessed 7 April 2011.
  32. ^ House of Commons, 31 March 2008, Early day motion 1280: ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE CREDIT
  33. ^ House of Commons, 23 November 2009, Early day motion 152: PAYDAY LOANS
  34. ^ House of Commons, 29 March 2010, Early day motion 1194: 2,356 PER CENT. PAYDAY LOANS CAMPAIGN
  35. ^ Packman, Carl: "Loan Sharks: The Rise and Rise of the Payday Lenders" (Cambridge: Searching Finance, 2012) ISBN 1907720545, p. 62
  36. ^ Gibbs, Thom (9 October 2012). "Newcastle Uniteds Wonga sponsorship". Telegraph. London.
  37. ^ Simon Read, 8 October 2012 Payday loans firms raided by watchdog
  38. ^ The Mail - This is Money, 24 May 2012, Wonga took £1800 loan I never had twice
  39. ^ Simon, Emma (8 January 2013). "Ex-bankrupt Kerry Katona fronts payday loan ad campaign". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  40. ^ "Kerry Katona payday loan ad banned for being irresponsible". 8 May 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  41. ^ "Bankrupt Kerry Katona dropped by Cash Lady". 3 July 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  42. ^ Read, Simon (14 June 2014). "High-cost payday loan firms set to be exposed". The Independent. London.
  43. ^ Hannayfirst1=Mark. "Which? calls on payday lenders to cut high fees". Which?. External link in |website= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help)
  44. ^ Wheatley, Martin. "FCA confirms price cap rules for payday lenders". FCA. External link in |website= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help)