Business

Websites offering loans flout EU credit rules

Wallet
Image caption A number of sites were targeted because there were already concerns about their credit offering

A sweep of websites across the EU that offer credit cards, loans and finance found that 70% were flouting the rules.

Authorities across 29 member countries checked 562 websites, including some they were already worried about, and found that 393 failed the checks.

The most common issue was the absence of an annual percentage rate (APR) that would allow consumers to compare the costs of credit.

All websites checked in Spain, Cyprus and Slovakia failed the test.

In the UK, 47 websites were checked and concerns were raised about 38 of them.

'Misleading'

The sweep was conducted in the light of complaints made by consumers about credit offers, excluding mortgages, and to check whether providers were keeping to rules set out in the Consumer Credit Directive.

This law aimed to ensure that the same information, such as an APR, was provided to consumers across the EU. This should allow them to shop around before settling on a credit card, personal loan, or finance when buying a new car.

"We know that the financial services market - including consumer credit - is underperforming for consumers," the EU report said.

Member states were free to decide how many websites to look at in the sweep and how targeted they wanted their investigation to be. Financial institutions and intermediaries were checked, with a greater proportion of problems found on intermediaries' sites.

Of the problematic websites, 65% of them were missing standard information such as the APR, and 62% of them did not outline other key information relating to the cost of the credit - such as whether the rate of interest to be paid was fixed or variable over time.

Some 29% gave a misleading impression of the costs.

Only 13 cross-border cases were identified. In all the other cases, enforcement and any possible fines are the responsibility of individual states.

"When people look for credit they sometimes discover that this credit turns out to be more expensive than it had originally appeared because important information was sometimes unclear or missing," said EU consumer commissioner John Dalli.

"Consumer credit is not always easy to understand, which is why there is European legislation in place to help consumers make informed decisions.

"It is therefore very important that businesses provide consumers with the correct and necessary information. It is the role of the Commission to work together with national enforcers to make this happen."

Previous EU sweeps have studied whether airlines and mobile phone download websites were keeping to laws.

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