The requirement for the lenderscompared.org.uk website came from the findings of the Competition Commission inquiry into the home credit industry. The inquiry was initiated after a super complaint from the National Consumer Council.
After a thorough investigation into the home credit market, the Competition Commission found that the lack of competition in the home credit market from other credit products, new entrants or among the home credit providers themselves meant that on average customers paid higher prices for their loans than would be expected in a competitive market.
The Competition Commission put in place a package of measures to:
- require lenders to share data on customers’ payment records (to overcome the information disadvantages faced by lenders attempting to compete for customers’ business);
- require lenders to publish prices on a website where customers can compare the prices of loans on offer;
- ensure that the statements lenders will be required to provide under the new Consumer Credit Act contain information relevant to home credit customers; and
- ensure that those customers who repay loans early (around a third of all customers) get a fair rebate.
By providing customers with better and clearer price information the website remedy would help customers choose between providers.
Technophobia was commissioned to design and build a website that fulfilled all the requirements set out by the Competition Commission. The website is part of a package of measures designed to open up the market to greater competition and to provide more choice to consumers.
The website is overseen by a governance board that includes representatives of the Office of Fair Trading, the National Consumer Council, ABCUL (Association of British Credit Unions Ltd) and the home credit industry.
Working with the various stakeholders Technophobia designed and built the user-focused site from concept through to delivery. The site helps consumers choose between loans by showing which lenders provide home credit in a local area and how much they charge. The website also includes information on loans provided by some credit unions. Customers who wish to compare Home Credit loans can type in their postcode and the website will show loans available in their area. Customers can compare different loan amounts and different durations of loan.
Upon Technophobia’s commission Simon Withers, Director of Contracts & Procurement Services at Hedra (a Mouchel Group Company), said ‘TechnoPhobia were the unanimous choice of the evaluation panel, who looked not just at the standard criteria of price and technical capability but also for an innovative approach and a real understanding of the objectives of this project, the financial sector and particularly the needs of home credit customers’.
The new user-centric website was delivered on budget and on time and has been met by various accolades.
Consumer Affairs Minister Gareth Thomas said: “This website will help people to save money and get a good deal. Consumers will be able to shop around for loans from Home Credit providers and local Credit Unions that best meet their needs.”
Adam Land, Director of Remedies and Business Analysis at the Competition Commission, said: ’This website is a vital component of the package of remedies put in place following our market investigation. Along with other measures, such as data sharing, we expect that our remedy package will open up the market to greater competition, so that customers get more choice and lower prices. I have been impressed by the way in which the home credit industry has worked with other stakeholders to deliver this project.’
Technophobia has an ongoing and active role responsible for service delivery for the next five years.