Critics are lambasting some of the UK’s most well-known high street stores for high-interest credit schemes targeting low-income consumers in the run-up to Christmas.

The Easy Shop Card, an Argos pre-paid store card scheme run by Provident Personal Credit, is aimed at borrowers with who have difficulty accessing mainstream credit, and is repayable at an annual interest rate of 222 per cent, according to reports.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said promoting the card to low-income shoppers in the run-up to Christmas was “wicked”.

A spokesman for Argos said: “We do not provide credit or market the cards, which are essentially vouchers. We simply sell them in bulk to many different organisations of which Provident is one.”

Provident Personal Credit also provides pre-paid vouchers accepted at dozens of well-known retailers. The lender’s website advertises the typical APR of the vouchers at 183.2 per cent.