UK Regulator Reigns-In Credit Card Ads

21 February 2002

Britain's Office of Fair Trading has leaned on credit card issuers to change the way in which they promote their introductory interest rates.

Special introductory offers – for which the usual term is six months – will no longer advertise the APR (annual percentage rate) which the OFT judges to be misleading to readers and in breach of consumer law.

APR, insists the OFT, should measure the overall charge for credit, including interest and other charges, over the lifetime of an agreement. Therefore an introductory or temporary rate cannot be called an APR.

The card issuers are not best pleased by the ruling, which according to the Finance and Leasing Association will make it harder for the public to compare rates. Some card providers, says the FLA, might quote the APR paid when the introductory offer ran out, while others could use a ‘blended rate’ which included both the initial offer and the standard the rate.

“In the longer run the OFT may make it not worth the candle for lenders to offer zero introductory rates and consumers would lose out and new entrants would find it harder to enter the market place,” argues FLA director general Martin Hall.

Consumer affairs minister Melanie Hall disagrees: “With the multitude of credit offers today, consumers need to be able to compare different products with ease to decide on the best deal for them. Currently, APRs quoted for credit cards are confusing and do not allow consumers to compare products like for like. This needs to change.”

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff