Personal debt levels are high enough to merit the whole sector coming under the microscope of the UK’s financial regulator, the head of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has said.

FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey said that the cap on payday lending had protected consumers.

Now the whole of the high-cost credit market needed examination, rather than “picking off” specific issues, he said.

The FCA is launching its mission statement for this financial year.

The documents have considerable focus on personal finances – including plans to protect vulnerable customers, a study of long-term savings, and the completion of compensation for the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI).

The deadline for PPI claims is August 2019 and the FCA is overseeing an awareness campaign to ensure pay-outs are claimed.

Mr Bailey said there had been a big increase in consumer borrowing, such as loans, overdrafts, credit card debt and car finance.

This echoes concerns raised by the Bank of England. Its Financial Policy Committee said there had been an acceleration in debt last year.

Consumer credit lending is still less than 10% of all lending by UK banks to household borrowers. It is also far smaller than mortgage lending, which amounts to 70% of loans to households.

But UK lenders stand to lose much more on their consumer credit loans if there is an economic downturn and their borrowers default on their credit card and other personal loans.

A Lords committee also recently called for stronger controls such as a cap on “rent to own” products.

The FCA is already conducting is own inquiry into overdrafts, door-to-door lending and other forms of “guaranteed” loans.

This includes considering whether a compulsory limit should be placed on overdraft charges. Consumer groups have consistently argued there should be one in place.

Below: Andrew Bailey FCA CEO

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