RBS delays new credit card launch on consumer credit fears



RBS
CEO Ross McEwan.

Getty

LONDON — Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has delayed the launch of a
new low-interest rate credit card, citing worries about
ballooning consumer debts in the UK.

RBS, which is almost 70% owned by the British taxpayer, was due
to launch a new card with lower rates than its standard cards,
but CEO Ross McEwan said the bank does not “think now is the
right time” given the current UK consumer credit market,
according to a piece in the Guardian.

“We just don’t think now is the right time, with consumer debt
having grown so much,” McEwan said.

Consumer borrowing has grown by more than 10% a year over the
last few years and the household savings rate hit an all-time low
at the start of this year, raising concerns about consumers’
ability to pay back the large amount of debt that has been
accumulated.

The Bank of England’s
warned in July about the risks of spiralling consumer debts.

The bank’s Financial Policy Committee said: “Consumer credit has
increased rapidly. Lending conditions in the mortgage market are
becoming easier. Lenders may be placing undue weight on the
recent performance of loans in benign conditions.”

With inflation surging over the last year and wage growth failing
to keep pace, many British households are starting to feel an
acute squeeze on their finances — something that could encourage
even more borrowing.

Just last week,
the Financial Conduct Authority made worried noises about
consumer credit,
with the regulator’s Chief Executive Andrew
Bailey saying he is “concerned about the sheer number of people
who need loans to make ends meet.”

McEwan, however, believes that Brits should be using the fact
that interest rates are at record lows to pay off their debts,
rather than taking on more.

“I think financial institutions should be encouraging people to
get their debts paid down and when you’re on zero balance that is
the best time as it’s costing you nothing.”

“Look, call me old-fashioned, but I like people paying back. Call
me old-fashioned, but I think we should be giving customers a lot
more warning about the issues around them,”
McEwan said in an interview with the Scotsman newspaper over the
weekend.

RBS’ postponement of its new credit card comes as the Labour
Party’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is set to propose a cap
on credit card interest repayments during the party’s Autumn
conference.

“I am calling upon the Government to act now to apply the same
rules on payday loans to credit card debt. It means that no-one
will ever pay more in interest than their original loan,”

McDonnell will say in a speech later on Monday.

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