Payday lender forced to repay £15.4 million to customers

Loadsa money

A payday lender has been ordered to pay £15.4 million redress to more than 147,000 customers by the UK’s financial regulator. 

Following an investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Dollar Financial, which trades as the Money Shop, Payday UK, Payday Express and Ladder Loans, was criticised for lending ‘many’ customers more than they could afford to repay, systems failures, and its debt collection practices.

The repayment relates to loans taken out between 1 April 2014 and 30 April 2015 in respect of affordability issues and 1 January 2013 and 30 April 2015 in relation to collection issues.

Around 65,000 customers will receive cash refunds and 67,000 will see their outstanding balances reduced. A further 15,000 will receive a combination of the two.

Jonathan Davidson, a director of supervision at the FCA, said: “The FCA expects all credit providers to carry out proper checks to ensure that borrowers don’t take on more than they can afford to pay back. We are encouraged that Dollar is committed to putting things right for its customers.”

Dollar Financial will start to contact customers in November and expects to complete all settlements by early 2016. Affected customers do not need to take any action but further information is available on the lender’s websites.

Stuart Howard, who has been Dollar Financial’s chief executive since November 2014, said: “As the new chief executive of Dollar Financial UK, I accept the findings of the review and apologise to anyone who may have suffered difficulties as a result.
“It is proper that we put things right where they have gone wrong and I have gone further than the review in reforming the way our business operates to reflect the company aim of being the most responsible lender in its marketplace.”

Moneywise met with Howard in September, where he discussed the steps he has taken to clean up the company’s act, including chasing customers before their payment is due – rather than once they’ve missed a payment – recording all calls, and working with the Money Advice Trust to identify vulnerable customers.

Howard says he agonises over being a responsible lender and at the time said: “I lend to people who can afford to pay it back.”

He is keen to distance himself from the competition and is particularly critical of smaller firms. “Check your watch after you’ve spoken to the smaller lenders. They roll in, roll out and move on to the next thing. I hope the FCA follows through and clears them out because they give us a bad image.”

Today’s announcement puts further pressure on a business that has recorded losses of more than £100 million over its last two reporting periods. Today’s announcement is the second redress scheme Dollar Financial has been forced to accept, having previous agreed to refund £700,000 after FCA intervention in July 2014.