FCA confirms updated guidance for consumer credit customers

The FCA has confirmed the updated guidance it is providing firms about offering support to consumer credit customers who are experiencing payment difficulties resulting from COVID-19.

The guidance, due to come into force on 25 November, covers users of personal loans, credit cards, store cards, catalogue credit, rent to own, buy now pay later, pawnbroking, motor finance and high-cost short-term credit.

The regulator has announced that borrowers who have not yet had a payment deferral will be eligible to apply for payment deferrals of up to six months in total. Those who currently have a payment deferral will be eligible to apply for a further deferral – as long as the total length of deferrals doesn’t exceed a maximum of six months in total.

The FCA also confirmed that those who have previously had a payment deferral of less than six months will also be eligible to apply for a further payment deferral, again as long as the deferrals don’t exceed six months in total.

Firms may assess that a payment deferral is “obviously not in a customer’s interest”, the FCA stated. In such cases, the regulator said the firm should instead provide tailored support appropriate to the customer’s circumstances.

However, consumers who have already had six months of payment deferrals or who are in arrears or receiving tailored support, will not be eligible for a further payment deferral, and the FCA will urge firms to provide tailored support appropriate to their circumstances instead.

The FCA also revealed that a payment deferral under its latest finalised guidance would not be reported as missed payments on a consumer’s credit file.

However, the regulator highlighted this does not mean that a consumer’s ability to access credit will be unaffected, as lenders may take into account a range of information when making lending decisions. Tailored support may be reported on a consumer’s credit file, and lenders should inform consumers where this will be the case, the FCA also suggested.

FCA interim executive director of strategy and competition, Sheldon Mills, commented: “It is in a consumer’s best interest to only take a payment deferral when absolutely necessary. Those that are able to keep paying should do so.

“However, for those continuing to face payment difficulties as a result of coronavirus, these measures will ensure they continue to be able to access much needed support during this crisis. We also want to highlight that tailored support will still be offered and remains the most appropriate option for many borrowers.”

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