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Government will go for the soft option

means more brokers can see the benefits of loans for clients, it will be good for everyone.”

Simon Mouncher, operations director at em-financial, says the regulation of the second charge market by the Financial Services Authority would benefit consumers as well as brokers.

He says: “First and second charge lending share a similar market and FSA regulation would make things clearer for the general public.”

But last week, the Commons Treasury Select Committee was told such regulation would overwhelm FSA resources. Consumer groups want the FSA to regulate lending under the Consumer Credit Act – an idea that conjures up visions of an FSA mystery shopping exercise on a south London sink estate to check out compliance with some rougher representatives of the trade.

It is easy to picture Ms Middle England disguised in a trackie and market trainers, questioning shaven headed Mr Dodgy Lender on the details of transactions.

“Cor blimey mate, that’s a bit rich ain’t it”? she exclaims. “That equates to an APR of 156%. That’s extortionate.”

No doubt in his book that’s 3% per week which wouldn’t sound such a bad deal.

But that’s not the point. At a recent Commons Treasury Select Committee hearing, the chairman of the FSA Sir Callum McCarthy said his organisation wasn’t right for the job.

“Giving the FSA responsibility for consumer credit means we would have to take on another 100,000 licensees”, he said, adding that because the FSA would have to deal with Trading Standards officers, it was “far from clear” such a move was appropriate.

All credit (pardon the pun) to the FSA for telling it like it is.

After all, it said lenders are not distributing documents outlining key information, which is obviously more important that protecting the less fortunate from out and out usury. Of course, it’s not the FSA that sets the agenda but the government, and it seems this is not dictated by the size of the problem but where you can get quick results.

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