A charity has called for a ban on providers increasing the credit limit of cardholders with out their explicit consent.
New research by Citizen Advice suggests credit card lenders are targeting consumers who are already struggling with debts.
A poll of 2,000 UK adults showed that one in five people were in debt and found it hard to pay off credit.
Of these, 18% of card users who were struggling to meet monthly payments had an unrequested credit limit raise compared to just 12% of all credit card holders.
Earlier this year the Bank of England issued a warning to lenders about granting credit to consumers, however the checks of affordability have been described as ‘poor’ and making consumers’ financial situations worse.
Research by Citizens Advice shows that in the UK borrowing is currently over £200bn. Credit cards account for more than a third of this amount with £67bn.
Citizen Advice are appealing to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to outline and uphold guidelines that prohibit lenders from taking advantage of their customers who are already struggling with debt and must check that consumers are able to repay it.
Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice chief executive, said: “It’s clear that irresponsible behaviour by some lenders is making people’s debt situation worse – such as offering more credit when they already have thousands of pounds of unpaid debt.
“The regulator must ensure that lenders are taking into account people’s whole financial and personal situation before agreeing further credit.
“Banning firms from raising existing customers’ credit limits without seeking their express permission first would also help people take more control over their finances.”
Experts at Citizen Advice are concerned about the lack of support and information available from credit lenders in helping users pay off their debts.
The FCA have acknowledged that there is a problem with lenders targeting vulnerable consumers and will be publishing proposals to clarify its rules on creditworthiness and affordability.
Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the FCA, said: “There is more that we can do, and this review is about identifying the areas where consumers may be suffering harm so that we can focus our efforts accordingly.”
Whilst credit card holders are having their limits increased it appears the overall rate of borrowing has fallen.
Figures released by the Bank of England show in July the annual growth rate of consumer credit fell to 9.8%, the lowest since April 2016.