Recent student deaths linked to UK payday debt traps

Inside Subprime: December 21, 2017

By Alex Huntsberger

Taking out a payday loan is always dangerous. Sadly, it can also sometimes be deadly. Last May, a college student in the UK hung himself after falling deep into a predatory lending debt trap. 21-year-old Nasseeb Chuhan was studying human geography at Leeds Beckett University in the UK when he took out payday loans with interest rates at a staggering 1,200 percent.  

His family did not know about the debt until after his death, and as a part of the inquest into Chuhan’s suicide, the coroner in the case, Jonathan Leach, was asked by Chuhan’s family lawyer to write to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and ask that action be taken to prevent more senseless deaths like Chuhan’s.

According to the lawyer, Julie Ann-Luck, the blame for Chuhan’s death can and should be placed squarely on predatory payday lenders who target vulnerable, a cash-strapped, university students.

“He succumbed to these easily-accessible payday loans,” Luck told the Daily Mail. “It seems the behavior and conduct of the payday loan companies was such that he was able to access loans where they were not affordable.”

In recent years, the FCA has taken steps to reign in the practices of payday lenders. In 2014, they took over regulation of the industry from the Office of Fair Trading. The following year, the FCA introduced interest rate caps, limiting initial interest costs to 0.8 percent per day and setting a cap of 100 percent overall.

Prior to the the FCA’s caps, some UK payday lenders were charging interest rates that came out to a staggering 5,853 percent annually.

The Daily Mail points to a number of other cases of student deaths driven by unsustainable debt and high interest rates. They mention Courtney Mitchell Lewis, 21, a student who died of an overdose after a 100 pound loan turned into 800 pounds of debt in just three month, and 18-year-old Kane Sparham-Price, 18, who hung himself after his payments for a payday loan literally cleaned out his bank accounts, leaving him with nothing.

We’ve written often on this site about the ways in which predatory payday lending can ruin peoples lives. Trapped by sky-high APRs and a never-ending cycle of debt, predatory payday lenders take advantage of people who are the most vulnerable. The term ‘debt trap’ is often used to describe the effects of these loans because they leave people feeling like they have no way out.

The tragic stories of Chuhan, Lewis, and Sparham-Price make clear just how destructive these practices can be.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally and considering suicide for any reason, help is just a phone call away. United States residents should call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, and people in the UK can seek help from Samaritans at 116-123