An investigation has been launched into a pawnbrokers offering customers whopping Christmas loans of up to £50,000.
H&T Pawnbrokers in Chatham, Kent, put up an A-board offering the up-front cash on a poster with watches and rings dangling from a Christmas tree.
The firm claimed the poster was advertising business loans, but Medway Council fears it was targeting vulnerable families in run up to Christmas.
The Christmas loan, which has been advertised outside the shop since the start of November, was being offered with an interest rate of between three and four per cent over a six month period.
That means families would have until just June to repay the £50,000 sum and £2,000 interest.
H&T Pawnbrokers said the advert was “100 per cent compliant” with OFT regulations and the loan is mainly used by business owners.
A spokeswoman said the H&T Pawnbrokers’ Christmas loan is not classed as a pay day loan and their maximum pay day loan is just over £600.
She said: “The poster is advertising pawnbroking where we offer loans of a much higher value which attracts a lower interest rate and is 100 per cent compliant with the OFT regulations.
“We find these short-term, large loans are generally utilised by our business customers who have been unable to borrow from their bank or other form of mainstream lender, often because there is little or no flexibility.
“The short-term nature of these loans means the cost is comparable with other forms of borrowing, in reality, customers use much-needed cash, secured against an asset, to invest, expand, grow or stay afloat in these times of austerity.
“A pawnbroking loan is for 6 months, although the repayment terms are full flexible allowing our customer to repay on their own terms with no early redemption fees.”
H&T Pawnbrokers offer loans of up to £50,000 at all of its 183 stores across the UK.
Borrowers secure the value of the loan against any assets.
Earlier this month it was reported that the high-cost credit industry has quadrupled in size during the recession and is now worth £3.5 billion a year.
Half of borrowers who take out payday loans are unable to repay them and one third said they had been hassled by debt collectors in the past year.
The #50,000 loan almost twice as much as the UK average annual salary of £26,664.
Chatham and Gillingham have 23 payday loan shops – the highest concentration of such business anywhere in the UK.