New rules around moneylending in Ireland have been announced today.

The regulations, published by the Central Bank, aim to strengthen protections for consumers.

Under the new measures, all advertisements for high cost loans with an APR over 23% must include "prominent warnings" and prompt consumers to consider alternatives.

While the majority of the regulations will come into effect on 1 January 2021, the high cost warning will take effect on 1 September this year.

The Central Bank said this step is "recognising the financial effects of Covid-19 on people".

From January, moneylenders will also be restricted in "how they offer and promote loans".

The Central Bank said the rules will limit the lenders' contact with consumers, as well as limiting the offer and promotion of loans.

It said this will give greater control to the consumer to decide when to be contacted by a moneylender.

The regulations will mean that lenders will not be allowed to make unsolicited offers of credit to people who have recently made or are nearing full repayment of a moneylending loan.

A number of measures will also be introduced to "enhance professional standards" in the sector.

This includes redirecting people to the Money Advice and Budgeting Service where a loan is required for basic needs like accommodation or electricity.

The measures were welcomed today by the Society of St Vincent De Paul. The organisation said there is an estimated 330,000 customers of moneylenders in this country.

"The measures introduced today by the Central Bank are very welcome, particularly as many people are now faced with reduced incomes and higher bills due to being at home all day. 

Moneylending loans may seem like a lifeline to people in financial difficulty but in our experience the high-cost credit often sends families into a debt trap with wide-ranging consequences, from difficulty making ends meet to an inability to build up savings," says Dr Tricia Kelly, Head of Social Justice, with the SVP.

On top of the new regulations, the SVP has said the next Programme for Government must include a commitment to introduce an interest rate restriction on moneylenders.

"Access to affordable credit is essential for individuals on a low income but we believe APRs of up to 287% (including charges) are wrong and should not be permitted.

"It is a contradiction in terms to offer loans at such high costs to an individual or family who is living below the poverty line and struggling financially.

"SVP members are concerned at the amount of interest being paid to moneylenders by households on very low incomes, who often have to sacrifice other needs including food, fuel and education in order to meet loan repayments," said Dr Kelly.