U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown pressed officials from banks and credit card lenders Tuesday to curtail borrowing costs after a report showed that rates charged to customers rose even as the central bank reduced them.
A study of 240 credit cards by the research group Defaqto Media Ltd. showed that the average interest rate had climbed 0.4 percentage point from May to November. Some lenders, including NatWest, a unit of Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, increased their card rate to 16.9%, from 13.9%.
"We've got to bring the credit card industry in, to join with them and talk to them," Mr. Brown said at a press conference in London Tuesday. "This new, responsible approach to lending that I think the credit card industry wants to support will help households."
Business Secretary Peter Mandelson met bank executives later, and they agreed to provide data that will let a government panel monitor their lending to businesses. The meeting was the latest effort by the government to press for lower borrowing costs after the Bank of England cut the benchmark interest rate to its lowest since 1955.
"It is critical we understand what finance is available for small businesses," Mr. Mandelson said in an e-mailed statement afterward. "This monitoring panel will give us greater insight into the situation at ground level."
Mr. Brown called on card lenders to "establish clear … principles to apply to the cost people face on their existing debts." He asked them to engage in more "responsible" lending and to support people having trouble servicing their debt.
U.K. households borrowed $444 million on credit cards in September, down by one-third from a year earlier, according to the Bank of England, which last week slashed its key rate to 3%, from 4.5%.