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

© Reuters. Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s banks may need to consider introducing “sustainable forbearance” 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.

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 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 that a significant minority will 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 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’s statement said.

The call for input closes on Aug. 7. If responses show that further measures are needed, the FCA said it would publish a draft paper on mortgages in late August, followed by draft guidance on consumer credit in mid-September.

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