Cheshire East Council is helping to protect people from falling into a high-interest debt trap by blocking access to payday loan websites in libraries and public buildings.
The authority’s Cabinet agreed to restrict access to residents on public PCs in the Borough after reports of irresponsible lending and harassment.
A report by the regulator, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), has revealed ‘widespread irresponsible lending’, with the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) claiming the industry has spiralled ‘out of control’.
The OFT has threatened to revoke the licences of the top 50 pay day lenders in the UK if they do not change their practices, warning that they need to fully comply with law and guidance.
Cheshire East is one of the first councils in the country to take a stand and block access to these lenders’ websites.
Councillor David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East and Cabinet member in charge of strategic communities, said: “We have taken this action after complaints that payday loan companies are charging ridiculous rates of interest.
“We have received reports from the CAB that they are advising people under the age of 18 who have been given loans and some who may have been intoxicated when they took out a loan. This is causing serious domestic problems.
“I am hearing that one company is charging 5,863 per cent interest on loans. This is astronomical. It is all well and good if the person can pay the loan back in two weeks but if they go a day over they are subject to this rate.
“I advise anybody who needs to borrow money to speak with their local CAB branch or the credit unions and we can signpost people to the right places.
“Do not fall into the trap of using a payday lender to make ends meet, as it can quite easily lead to a downward spiral and financial misery.”
Council leader Michael Jones added: “This is an issue about protecting the people of Cheshire East from companies which are charging astronomical levels of interest that are well above acceptable levels. These companies are targeting vulnerable people and it is obscene.”
Payday loans have increased in popularity as banks draw back from lending. People often borrow a few hundred pounds over a short period to tide them over until they receive their next wage.
Councils in Dundee and Renfrewshire have already taken similar action and Cheshire East hopes other authorities will follow suit.