The Guardian: MPs and charities urge car leasers to publish sub-prime loan figures

Fears over lending grow as 85% of new cars are financed using loans but car leasing lacks industry-wide figures for arrears and defaults…

MPs and debt charities have called on the car leasing industry to reveal the number of people in arrears and defaulting on loans, amid fears that consumer lending is returning to levels seen before the 2008 financial crash.

More than 85% of new cars in the UK are financed using loans – up from just over half in 2009 – but a lack of industry-wide figures sets car leasing apart from other sectors in the financial services industry that publish figures for arrears and defaults.

The MPs said they were concerned that the car leasing industry could not publish figures on the level of sub-prime lending to people with low incomes or who have poor credit histories.

Last week the Bank of England said it was concerned about rising consumer debt, warning that this posed a risk to the stability of the banking sector.

In its financial stability report, the central bank, which is the main regulator for the financial services industry, said that over the past 10 years the banking sector’s total write-offs on consumer credit were 10 times higher than on mortgages, and that figure was likely to increase should the UK suffer an economic downturn.

The Bank forced high street lenders to set aside an extra £11bn to protect themselves against a rise in defaults. However, the Bank was unable to publish figures about the level of distress among car leasing customers in its report or estimate the potential for a rise in defaults.

Total car registrations were 30% higher in 2016 than in 2012, mainly due to ultra-cheap “personal contract purchase (PCP)” leasing agreements.

The leasing industry body, the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA), said its members only lent to customers with an ability to pay. However, it has never collected data on defaults and arrears using a standard measure that would allow parliament or debt charities to assess the level of risk taken by the industry.

John Penrose, Conservative MP for Weston, Worle and The Villages, told The Guardian: “Unless we have pitiless transparency in the car loans market, with industry standards to measure and report the risks in this fast-growing area, we won’t be able to spot problems in advance, or fix them before customers or banks get hurt.

“The finance industry has a great opportunity to show it can be responsible here, and that prevention is better than cure.”

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