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Last Updated: Monday, 7 March, 2005, 10:53 GMT
Online UK loans exchange launched
Zopa website
Zopa charges a 1% fee on the value of the loans
The world's first online lending and borrowing exchange has been launched.

The website, Zopa, puts borrowers in touch with people who are willing to lend them money, charging a fee equivalent to 1% of any loan made.

Richard Duvall, Zopa's chief executive, said that it allowed people to take control of their borrowing rather than "deal with faceless corporations."

But there is growing concern that UK consumers are already overburdened with mortgage and credit card debts.

Credit worthy

Lenders set their own rate of interest, and choose which borrowers they want to lend to depending on what risk they want to take.

With so much debt around people should approach this with extreme caution
Francis Walker, Consumer Credit Counselling Service

In theory, the less credit worthy the borrower the higher the rate of interest on the loan.

"Zopa is for people looking to be in control of their money, people looking for the rate that's right for them, people looking for a better rate and people keen to cut out the middleman," Mr Duvall said.

Risk for the lender is reduced as Zopa spreads loans to at least fifty borrowers and caps the lender's exposure to any one borrower at 200.

The website is authorised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and has been granted a credit licence by the Office of Fair Trading.

In recent times, there has been growing concern over UK personal debt.

Last year, UK personal debt broke through the 1 trillion mark for the first time.

"With so much debt around, people should approach this with extreme caution," Francis Walker, spokeswoman for debt charity the Consumer Credit Counselling Service told BBC News.

"With any form of credit it is essential to look at what you repay back each month."

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