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One in eight Britons is being bombarded with nuisance calls every day offering high-risk financial products like payday loans, a charity has warned.

More than half (59%) of people surveyed for StepChange Debt Charity said they had received an unsolicited telephone call offering them high cost credit such as a payday loan, or the services of a fee-charging debt management company in the last 12 months.

Meanwhile, 12% of people said they receive calls like this every day. Some 4% of people said they receive this type of call around once a day and another 8% said they receive more than one call a day.

The survey was carried out among more than 2,000 people across Britain. StepChange also surveyed more than 1,100 of its clients and found they were much more likely than the general population to take out high-cost credit as a result of a cold call.

Around 2.3% of the population generally who had received a cold call about high-cost credit ended up taking a product out.

Meanwhile, one in eight (12.3%) StepChange clients who had been called had taken out high-cost credit – and these clients took out an average of £1,052 in extra borrowing.

The charity said it wants to see action from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Treasury to ban unsolicited phone calls promoting high-risk financial products, which it said are harmful, widespread and can make people’s debt problems much worse.

StepChange argued that making phone calls to offer these services takes away the vital steps in the decision-making process that everyone needs to go through before taking out financial products.

It said credit needs to be “bought, not sold” – and people need breathing space to decide whether they need it and whether they can afford it and to spend time shopping around for the best deal.

Mike O’Connor, chief executive of StepChange Debt Charity, said: “Unsolicited phone calls promoting high-risk financial products cause serious harm. Most people receive them and one in eight of us are bombarded with calls.

“The problem is particularly serious among the most financially vulnerable in our society. When someone is already in financial difficulty, they may be at their lowest ebb and feel they have no option but to make quick decisions through desperation, which can bring devastating consequences.”

Mr O’Connor continued: “The FCA is currently reviewing nuisance calls, but in the wake of overwhelming evidence of their widespread nature and the damaging consequences, it needs to ban all unsolicited real-time promotion of high-risk financial products and (the Treasury) must give it the additional powers it needs to do so.

“A full and complete ban would not only protect those already in financial difficulty, it would also prevent further damage to the millions of people whose phones keep ringing and ringing.”

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