Claire Smith: The writing’s on the wall for pay-day loans

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WHAT do Justine Roberts, founder of and Ken Guild, SNP leader of Dundee City Council have in common?

Not so much you might have thought – but both have taken action against companies offering pay-day loans.

This week Dundee announced it would be taking the unprecedented step of blocking companies which offer pay-day loans from the 4,000 computer terminals it owns in the city.

Guild said the move was part of the council’s anti-poverty initiative – saying: “It may not be illegal – but it is immoral.”

Dundee is the first council in Britain to take action against the lenders – who can charge up to 4,000 per cent interest and who are accused of driving people deeper and deeper into debt.

Earlier this year Mumsnet, the social networking site aimed at stay-at-home mothers, took a stance – refusing to accept any advertising from companies such as Wonga.

Founder Roberts says: “I have always said Mumsnet works to make lives easier for families. Judging from the discussions on our forums about pay-day loan companies and how people are getting into debt we decided to take a stand.

“Pay-day loans are very widely used and we see a lot of people talking about the mess they get into.”

Citizens Advice Scotland now see 50 new cases a day involving pay-day loans – and the situation is likely to get worse as families struggle to pay for Christmas and rising energy bills. According to some estimates as many as one in ten households have resorted to a pay-day loan.

Councillors, MPs and MSPs are all seeing a steady stream of constituents who are falling into debt trouble.

Gregg McClymont, Labour MP for Kirkintilloch, said: “These are desperate people and they are being exploited. Capping interest rates is the least we can do.”

A new regulatory body, the Finance Conduct Authority, comes into force in April and is said to be looking into the issue.

As Dundee City Council and Mumsnet have pointed out – it is undoubtedly time to take a stand.