The London local authority has barred online access to the country's 50 biggest payday lenders across its computer network
Hilary Osborne guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 26 June 2013
A London council has banned access to payday loan companies' websites from its entire IT network in a bid to protect residents from "the pitfalls of excessive interest rates".
The move by Haringey council means users of around 3,700 computers in libraries, community centres and other council buildings will not be able to load the websites of the biggest 50 payday loan firms in the UK.
The council said it would "help ensure residents avoid falling into spirals of ever-increasing debt".
Councillor Joe Goldberg, the cabinet member for finance, said the council "wanted to make it very difficult [for payday loan firms] to do business in our borough".
He said: "The biggest players are online and they are offering loans very quickly which, when people turn to payday lenders, is generally what they want.
"It didn't make sense that in the places where we were offering advice and help to residents, we had computers where they could access payday loans."
Goldberg said the council wanted to encourage residents to use the Haringey, Islington and City Credit Union instead of going to lenders that charge interest rates often in excess of 4,000% APR. In 2012, the council made £750,000 of loans available to the union, which it said could be passed on to up to 1,500 residents.
As in many areas, Haringey's high streets have seen a boom in payday loan shops in recent years, however Goldberg said the council did not have the powers it needed to fight their proliferation.
"I'm really worried that they are crowding out other businesses," he said. "We should have the power to shape our high street."
Goldberg said the council had written to London mayor, Boris Johnson, calling for a ban on payday loan advertising on Transport for London's network, but had been told that this was not going to be implemented.
The controversy around payday loan companies has been gathering pace as debt charities and other consumer groups report growing numbers of people struggling with high-cost debt.
Although advertised as short-term borrowing, costs very quickly add up if a borrower extends a loan or misses a payment.
Several universities have announced bans on payday loan advertising on campus, while football clubs Millwall, Bolton and Sheffield Wednesday have all rejected sponsorship deals with payday lenders.
On Thursday, the Office of Fair Trading is expected to refer the sector to the Competition Commission having found widespread evidence of irresponsible lending in a year-long review of the market, and on Monday lenders will attend a summit with MPs and consumer groups.