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Are consumers turning away from credit?

Are consumers turning away from credit?

Category: Money

Updated: 24/02/2011
First Published: 24/02/2011

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

The amount of credit given to consumers fell in 2010, with only car finance increasing last year.

Credit card spending fell by 7% in 2010, while the value of unsecured loans approved by lenders dropped by almost a quarter (24%), figures from the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA).

Spending on store cards also fell last year, with shoppers reducing their use of the products by 7% compared with 2009.

The only area of consumer credit that expanded last year was the car finance market.

The area was buoyant last year, growing by 9%, helping to inflate the overall figures. Without the positive figures in the car finance market, consumer credit would have fallen by 10% during 2010.

In December - traditionally a month when more customers use credit for some of their Christmas spending – there was a fall in credit sales. Credit card spending was down by 5%, whilst store cards and store installment credit fell by more than a quarter each.

The figures reflect a difficult month on the High Street with poorer than expected Christmas sales.

For the second consecutive month, the take-up of personal loans increased annually, although lending in this area was very low in December 2009.

"These figures confirm that there is no such thing as easy credit," Fiona Hoyle, FLA head of consumer finance, said.

"Stricter lending requirements under the new EU Consumer Credit Directive mean that some consumers are finding it harder to access credit. Low consumer confidence is also a major factor in this fall in lending.

"Against this background of reduced lending and declining consumer confidence, the Government needs to be careful not to regulate some kinds of credit out of the market.

"For example, current proposals to restrict the store card sector could have serious repercussions for a High Street recovery and adversely affect customers with modest credit needs."

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