The credit underground is thriving in Britain today. Recession, social exclusion and the widening gap between rich and poor have pushed increasing numbers of people into a financial twilight zone where borrowing, even for necessities, carries an extravagant price tag.

Estimates suggest that one in five adults are denied the loans and cheap interest rates most of us take for granted. For over eight million people, the only credit available is that offered by highcost lenders – a market worth £16 billion a year.

In this new NEF pocketbook, Henry Palmer looks at how sophisticated marketing techniques, involving some of the best-known names in business, are being employed to sell expensive credit to those who can least afford it. For people on the receiving end, the result can be financial disaster – debts, court judgements, the loss of a home. Yet while many of the techniques have been outlawed abroad, in the UK they remain perfectly legal. Britain needs to shed its reputation as a safe haven for predatory lending. This pocketbook shows how it could be done.