Call for action on rent-to-own poverty premium

By agency reporter
November 10, 2017

New research from the End Child Poverty coalition has found that families using rent-to-own are paying up to three times as much for key household items, with little alternative to shop elsewhere if they are unable to pay upfront. An online price comparison found that families could face paying as much as £9,150 over three years for a set of ten consumer items (including a tv, sofa and washing machine), where similar items paid for upfront, could cost as little as £3,050.

The coalition is warning that many families who aren’t able to afford to pay up front for household goods and appliances, and who cannot access lower cost credit, often find themselves with little alternative but paying more by turning to a rent-to-own company.

Responding to a survey conducted for the report, more than 70 per cent of StepChange clients said that they used rent-to-own as they could not afford to pay for the product outright, and nearly a third thought they wouldn’t be able to access the products elsewhere.

The coalition is warning that the collapse of the availability of interest free credit through the Government’s Social Fund may be a significant factor contributing to families having to use high cost credit to pay for household essentials  – in 2010 nearly £800 million per year was available for families needing  help, compared to little more than £400 million in 2017.

The End Child Poverty coalition is calling for tighter regulation to ensure that the prices charged by rent-to-own providers are reasonable, and for better access to interest free credit from the Government to help low income families purchase household goods and appliances without having to resort to high cost credit. The coalition is also warning that a squeeze on living standards as a result of the four year benefit freeze is leaving many struggling.

Sam Royston, Chair of End Child Poverty said, “Faced with little alternative, many families turn to expensive rent-to-own suppliers in order to purchase items they cannot afford upfront.  This means that too many of those on a low income pay the highest prices for household items that they can least afford. 

“Tighter regulation of the rent-to-own sector, combined with better access to interest free credit for low income families, is needed in order to address the hefty “poverty premium” faced by too many families buying on credit."

The Campaign to End Child Poverty is made up of more than 100 organisations from civic society including children’s charities, child welfare organisations, social justice groups, faith groups, trade unions and others, united in a vision of a UK free of child poverty.

Download the report here

*StepChange https://www.stepchange.org/

* End Child Poverty http://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/

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