July 31, 2020 / 9:28 AM / 7 days ago

UK watchdog says bank customers may need longer-term crisis support

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s banks may need to consider longer-lasting support for customers who continue to face difficulties with loan repayments after COVID-19 relief measures end in the autumn, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past the Bank of England, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the financial district of London, Britain July 17, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

The watchdog launched a “call for input” to determine what further measures may be needed when repayment holidays introduced after the pandemic lockdown for home loans and credit cards - and renewed once already - come to an end on Oct. 31.

Banks have provided more than 1.8 million mortgage payment deferrals and in excess of 1.6 million personal loan and credit card payment holidays, the FCA said.

Though the FCA expects most borrowers to be able to resume payments, it said a significant minority would need further support after many also borrowed from family and friends to keep up payments on other loans.

“We consider that the appropriate time for firms to move beyond blanket deferrals is at the end of the customer’s second deferral,” the FCA said.

Many borrowers will need a longer-lasting form of support, which could include deferring payments of capital, interest, fees and charges, it added.

The FCA has said payment holidays to date should not affect a person’s credit rating, but on Friday noted that further support or forbearance should be reported as normal on a credit file.

UK Finance, which represents banks, said delivering ongoing support for customers whose finances have been hit by the pandemic was a priority for the banking and finance industry.

The call for input closes on Aug. 7.

“The responses to this call for input will inform our assessment of what further guidance may be needed on how firms should support customers that have already been provided temporary support under our guidance,” the FCA said.

If responses show further measures are needed, the FCA said it would publish a draft paper on mortgages in late August, followed by draft guidance on consumer credit in mid September.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by David Goodman and Mark Potter

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