Rent to Own: a better deal for consumers?
Held on Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Yvonne Fovargue MP
Gareth Evans (co-director, Financial Inclusion Centre)
Angela Clements (CEO, Fair For You)
Vicky McCourt (CEO, Smarterbuys)
Christine Allison (Financial Inclusion Fellow, CSFI)
What should we be talking about at this round-table?
Email your suggestions for the agenda to Harry Atkinson.
We used to call it Hire Purchase – or, pejoratively, the “never-never”. But, even though we were a bit sniffy about it, HP was a major, and legitimate, part of the UK’s financial life in the 50s and 60s – making it possible for more (if not most) of us to endorse the Tories’ election slogan, “you've never had it so good”.
Well, it’s back. Now it’s called “rent-to-own”, and its supporters promote it as an alternative to the sleazier end of the short-term lending market – as well as a way for lower income families (especially those without credit cards, or who have exhausted existing lines of credit) to get their hands on higher quality white goods (in particular) that would otherwise be out of their price range.
But it is a controversial industry that is starting to attract attention at Westminster – not least on the Labour front benches. Hence, we are delighted that Yvonne Fovargue – MP for Makerfield and Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills – has agreed to come and share her thoughts with us.
I am also delighted that the two authors of a recent report on ‘socially-responsible’ alternatives to rent-to-own, Gareth Evans and Christine Allison, will join us to provide an overview of what is going on, and why a better approach is needed. Gareth is co-director (with Mick McAteer) of the Financial Inclusion Centre; Christine is our own Financial Inclusion Fellow. (The report, “Better and Brighter? Responsible Rent-to-Own Alternatives”, is available here).
As the report makes clear, the rent-to-own landscape is a potential minefield, but there are good guys out there, and, again, I am delighted that two have agreed to share their business models with us:
- Angela Clements is CEO of Fair For You, the first charity-owned alternative to high-cost weekly payment stores. Fair For You is a Community Interest Company, and works closely with the credit union movement.
- Vicky McCourt is CEO of The Smarterbuys Store and head of new business development at Derwentside Homes, which is one of several partners behind Smarterbuys.
We also hope to have at least one commercial rent-to-own company on the panel.
This may not be an area about which you know much (I didn’t). But some of the tales can make your hair stand on end, and it is an industry where a little imagination may go a long way.