Payday complaints double in two years, says watchdog

interior of payday lender shop
Image caption Payday lenders have had to conform to new rules since 1 July

Complaints about payday loans have more than doubled in the last two years, according to the Financial Ombudsman.

The service took on 794 new complaints in the year to April 2014, compared with 296 in 2012.

The financial watchdog also warned that many other people might have been too ashamed to come forward and make a complaint.

The payday industry argued that the number of complaints was relatively small.

The most common complaint came from customers who claimed they had not taken out a loan in the first place.

In some cases, that was because of criminal fraud, said the ombudsman.

In other cases, someone else in the customer's family used their name to take out the loan without telling them.

'In context'

However, the number of complaints is still small, in comparison to the total number of loans.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently calculated that more than 10 million loans were taken out in 2012.

Last month, it ruled that a lack of competition between lenders could be costing customers up to £60 a year.

The Consumer Finance Association (CFA) - which represents some of the lenders - said there were far more complaints about other issues.

For example, it said there were more than 10,000 complaints to the ombudsman about credit cards.

"Of course, just a single complaint is one too many and anyone struggling with debt should seek out advice, but when looked at in context, payday lenders give customers little cause for complaint," said Russell Hamblin-Boone, the chief executive of the CFA.

Cap on credit

The CFA also said it was committed to new rules that came into force on 1 July.

Lenders can now extend - or "roll over"- a loan on a maximum of two occasions.

There is also a limit on how many times they can use a Continuous Payment Authority (CPA) to take money automatically from a borrower's account.

Unless a CPA is successful in extracting the money owed, it can only be used twice.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is expected to announce details of a proposed cap on the cost of credit provided by payday lenders next week.

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