Are payday lenders the only ones taking advantage of the lower-paid?
Wonga, and lenders of its ilk who prey on the low paid and often common-sense-challenged, are often considered financial bottom feeders, making money from those without it. Now it seems that high-interest lenders are not the only ones to cash in on those who can least afford it.
A recent report in the Guardian showed that over 300,000 of the poorest people in Britain live further than 1km from a cash machine. A free cash machine, that is. Pop-up ATM provider Link has graciously stepped in to fill the void, with its own figures showing 269 areas where people either needed to travel, or to pay between 75p and a whopping £10 to get at their own money.
It is estimated that more than 7 million people – who are often poor, disabled or unemployed – rely solely on cash, up from 6.5 million in 2011. Link and its confederates argue that this is why there are now a record number of cash machines, a massive 66,134 across the UK.
Labour MP Frank Field, who advises the Government on poverty, said: “If you are a single young man, unemployed on benefits, you are charged £3 to take out your £56 a week in local shops. That's a rip-off that makes Wonga look like Santa Claus.” He also described the practice of making the poor pay to get their own money as a “grotesque practice” which should “end immediately”.
Link boss John Howells, disagrees. He told the Guardian: “If lower-income people were forced to use surcharging machines then this would be a clear hardship and not tenable. However, Link's evidence is that this is not the case and most people can access cash on a free basis.” But then he would say that.
Field admitted there had been some progress since a Treasury select committee report in 2005 identified 309 cash machine black holes, but not enough had been done in poorer areas, accusing the main players of washing their hands of the problem.
But is it Link’s fault, or is this something else we can blame on the banks? After all, if they won’t pay to service free-to-use cash machines, why should Link do it for free? Surely Link is providing a service, without which, said low-income people would still need to travel in order to get their cash out?