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Credit for Modern Britain

Written by CEO & Founder Angela Clements

Like so many, I won’t be weeping for Wonga or any of the other brands that will struggle to convince good customers to return to them next time they need credit. You can fool some of the people some of the time …. but in the end if you extract more money from them each time you lend to your customers than they feel is fair, then they will vote with their feet.

Wonga was one of many equity owned companies that arrived in the UK after spotting the huge gap in consumer credit, since the mainstream banks and building societies turned away from lending to those on low income, or for small amounts, or if you have benefits as your main income, or if you have missed some payments and run into trouble, or if you are self employed, or if your income isn’t stable, or if you haven’t borrowed before, or been abroad for a while – well that is most of us isn’t it?

It is a brand that has struggled to recover its reputation for how it earned just a little too much each time it provided a loan especially if it wasn’t repaid on time the first time. Cute puppets don’t fool modern Britons damaged by these companies. They know better than to trust the adverts, they want to read reviews from real people, and they ask their friends and their families for recommendations.

Many of our customers leaving reviews tell us they have gone without items rather than use a high cost credit provider again that was simply too painful to escape and left them with credit problems that cast a shadow over their household for years.

I have been working with others to challenge the problems around consumer credit for 10 years now. To be frank there are so many days where I can’t see the fight is worth it – its too hard, the days and hours are too long, & I ask so much of all the amazing people both inside and around Fair for You.

But I am constantly astonished to find reviews left frequently, that we changed someone’s life, we are life savers, that we allowed them to buy a fridge freezer that they had lived without for months, or a bed for little boy that was ill having to sleep on old mattress on the floor, or a cooker for a mum that wanted to cook for her children again, or a dryer for a mum that couldn’t get the school uniforms dry on the radiators.

That is what credit does, it allows people to live day to day – not thousands of pounds of credit, just £350 on average.

It restores pride, health, wellbeing, reduces anxiety, allows families to buy groceries in larger amounts to save shopping bills, it allows the house to be less damp, the children to want to go to bed at night and get up for school the next day.

We live in a modern Britain, where few have sufficient stable income to build good savings to overcome a series of emergency purchases. A modern Britain where 11m in private rented accommodation have to pay the deposit on a lease and a months rent in advance when you move in. & then wonder where the money comes from for the basics you need.

As a society we need to ensure that there are solutions for families to be able to buy the items they need for their family without paying more than is fair and equitable, & much more than a richer person would pay.

As one of my of customers recently explained more eloquently than I can paraphrase: he didn’t mind that others can borrow more cheaply from banks, and he didn’t mind that they had less money, but he did mind that his family go without as a result.

There are those who will be surprised that we don’t see much to celebrate with the passing of Wonga.

Happy if its a true warning perhaps that credit needs to be affordable, but there is more work to be done. & happier if the FCA keeps to its work on creditworthiness and to clamp down on credit cards and mail order limits being raised without full credit assessment til the customer hasn’t much chance of repaying.

At Fair for You, our credit offering is designed and continually tailored by our customers. We are a community interest company, and our community is lower income families of the UK. We think we have a right to earn a living from the credit we issue, but a fair amount from each loan.

We are just in our 3rd year, and many of our customers are coming back time and again. & recommending us to all their friends and families. So much so that August was by far our busiest ever month over 20% up on the previous busiest month, and 100 loans for the first time on a single day.

So far we estimate we have removed £15m of the poverty premium, providing £9m of loans & we are the highest rated personal lender on Trustpilot with thousands of reviews; we won 2 awards at the Consumer Credit Awards including Firm of the Year this year.

So we will maybe raise a smile with the demise of each organisation that cannot keep fooling their customers into coming back, and who take just a little too much each time they lend, and who forget how important the credit was to their customers.

However, we won’t pat ourselves on the back just yet though and there are certainly no champagne corks flying around here.

Quite simply, we are only just started. & there is way too much more work to be done to build a real mainstream alternative to the long line up of other high cost credit providers who have secured huge investment because they have another good idea in how to extract from vulnerable households maximum return.

A modern British society needs to ensure that there are credit solutions that are flexible and supportive – and Fair.

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