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Walking with Moneylenders: The Ecology of the UK Home-collected Credit Industry

Andrew Leyshon (), Paola Signoretta, David Knights, Catrina Alferoff and Dawn Burton
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Paola Signoretta: School of Geography, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK,
David Knights: School of Economics and Management Studies, University of Keele, Keele, Staffordshire, ST5 5BG, UK,
Catrina Alferoff: School of Economics and Management Studies, University of Keele, Keele, Staffordshire, ST5 5BG, UK,
Dawn Burton: Department of Sociology, County College South, Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YD, UK, sociology@ lancaster. ac. uk

Urban Studies, 2006, vol. 43, issue 1, 161-186

Abstract: The aim of the paper is to assess the role of doorstep credit companies in the delivery of financial services in areas affected by high levels of financial and social exclusion. In particular, the paper looks at the relationship between agents and customers using two metaphors associated with interaction between different species in an ecological setting-namely, parasitism and symbiotic mutualism. The metaphor of parasitism circulates widely within debates about moneylending in the media and among advocacy groups, such as the Consumer Association, that work on behalf of low-income individuals and households. The metaphor of symbiotic mutualism describes the depiction of the relationship between consumers and moneylenders put forward by the moneylending industry. Drawing on field work undertaken within moneylending companies, this paper argues that the relationship between the agents and customers is cultivated to overcome information asymmetries; that is, to produce information about customers' ability to repay. The paper investigates the way in which the initial knowledge about customers is developed during the weekly visits that agents make to the homes of customers. 'Friendly' relationships are cultivated by agents to retain profitable customers who have earned the agent's trust.

Date: 2006
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