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Thursday, 12 September 2013

P2P Lending: Need FCA Interim Permission But Don't Offer Consumer Credit?

As mentioned earlier, this is a question on which I've have seen no official guidance on, but I have since followed up. 

In order to operate certain types of peer-to-peer lending platform after 1 April 2014, new regulations will requre you to be either fully authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, or to have received 'interim permission' that is only available to operators who hold a consumer credit licence issued by the Office of Fair Trading.

But the scope of activity within the FCA regime is broader than the activities currently within scope of the OFT's consumer credit licensing regime. 

Whether your platform is 'in scope' for FCA purposes essentially depends on whether the platform enables loans to which individuals are a party as lenders and/or borrowers (either on their own or as a member of an unincorporated association or a partnerships of two or three). There is an exception in the case of borrowers, where either the lender provides the borrower with credit of more than £25,000 or the loan is entered into by the borrower wholly or predominantly for the purposes of a business carried on, or intended to be carried on, by the borrower.

So, for example, platforms that only enable individuals to lend money to companies would not need a consumer credit licence, but would fall within the FCA's peer-to-peer lending regime.

However, I am reliably informed by the FCA that although the OFT would not normally grant licences to firms that may not necessarily require them, it is aware of the interim permission issue and is prepared to grant consumer credit licences to P2P platform operators who need one for interim permission purposes, provided they otherwise satisfy the licence criteria. Such operators should contact the Head of Credit Licensing at the OFT in advance of submitting the application. The application should cover all the activities the platform will undertake from 1 April 2014, including ‘debt administration’.