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Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 00:13 GMT
Credit cards to restrict lending
Credit card companies will keep a closer eye on your spending
Credit card companies are to monitor more closely the way their customers spend and repay money.

The plan is an attempt to counter the suggestion that the banks encourage people to borrow money irresponsibly.

The card lenders will use existing computer systems to watch how people use their cards and warn them if they appear to be getting into difficulties.

The plan, which is being started by four banks early next year, has been welcomed by Citizens Advice.

The increased data-gathering will help the lenders cut the amount of money they lose when they issue cards to people who then rack up too much debt.

But the credit card companies say their main aim is to help their customers.

Paul Gratton, the chief executive of Egg, said: "By sharing more information, we are better placed to help customers manage their borrowings and avoid financial difficulty."

Closer monitoring

Since the 1980s, all banks have shared information on customers who have failed to make repayments.

Most now share other details, such as cardholders' outstanding balances and their borrowing limits.

Typically, the information is held on computer files by credit reference agencies such as Experian, Equifax and Callcredit.

Now the data will be expanded to include:

  • How much is spent on the card each month
  • How much is repaid each month
  • How much cash has been taken out
  • Any recent changes to borrowing limits
  • Any repayment cheques which bounce.

This extra information, which will be monitored automatically by the banks computerised credit scoring systems, will help them weed out customers who cannot cope well with their debts.

There is too much Big Brother without encouraging more connections between data bases
James J, Epsom

Barclaycard, one of the lenders planning to use the new system, said it would contact such people to suggest a repayment plan, or that they have a conversation with a debt adviser at an organisation such as Citizens Advice.

Peter Tutton of Citizens Advice, which wants lenders to have a legal duty to lend responsibly, welcomed the new approach, but said the industry still had work to do.

"It doesn't deal with how lenders market other loans - for instance, offering to consolidate loans that just makes the problem worse," he said.

Severe criticism

Along with Egg, Abbey and the Co-op, Barclaycard is responding to severe criticism of the industry's business practices made in February this year by the Treasury Select Committee.

This is about demonstrating that we are serious when we say we lend money responsibly
Barclaycard spokesman

Its report demanded that credit card issuers offer their customers a better deal.

One of its main recommendations was that companies should share more data to help prevent consumers borrowing massive sums of money, spread across several cards.

Ian Barber, a Barclaycard spokesman, admitted they were trying to counter the accusation that credit card lenders were throwing money at borrowers irresponsibly.

"This is about demonstrating that we are serious when we say we lend money responsibly," he said.

The banks stressed that the extra information would not be used to target their marketing.

The new system should start early in the new year, with the industry body Apacs currently asking other banks to join in.


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