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Payday loan adverts reported to the ASA for complaints about irresponsible and misleading practices

4 March 2014

Complaints about payday loan adverts from Wonga, Pounds to Pocket and are being reported to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) by Citizens Advice.

In total seven payday loan adverts, from six different payday lenders and credit brokers, were flagged with the regulator for concerns about irresponsible or misleading practices.

Failure to declare the cost of loan and trivialising borrowing by implying loans can be used for shopping sprees and birthday celebrations were some of the complaints raised by the national charity.

Thirteen potential breaches of advertising codes were identified across the adverts, which were used between November 2013 and February 2014.  The adverts span a range of platforms including TV commercials, text messages, email, flyers and even a sandwich wrapper.

The complaints presented to the ASA are from reports to Citizens Advice by its campaigners and members of the public.  It is in response to a request by the charity last year to report adverts that encourage irresponsible lending and aren’t up-front about the facts of payday lending.

The dossier of complaints follows a ruling from the ASA on Wednesday 26 February which banned an advert from advert which was reported to regulator by a Citizens Advice campaigner.

The issues raised by Citizens Advice and potential breaches of the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising Code (BCAP Code) and the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code) are as follows (explanation of the parts of the codes breached in notes to editors.)

AdvertComplaint raisedPart of code believed to be breached
Wonga café television advertAd talks about ‘financial quandaries’ suggesting it is being used for general financial problems. Cost of the loan/APR is not shown in the advert despite referring to an incentive to take out the loan.1.2 of the BCAP Code and 6. (1)(b) of the Consumer Credit (Advertisements) Regulations 2010. adverts on sandwich wrappersImages and strapline present a casual attitude to taking out a loan. Irresponsible and mis-leading by suggesting loan is cheaper than elsewhere.1.3 and 3.3 of CAP Code
Text message from by suggesting they give loans to 98% of people who apply, despite being a credit broker who does not provide loans directly. 1.3 and 3.3 of CAP Code.
Text message from Misleading by saying a loan could be approved today when it does not provide loans directly, instead is a credit broker.1.3 and 3.3 of CAP Code
KDS Finance Love2shop vouchers flyerDoes not make it clear that the marketing material is for a loan product. The poster is also suggesting a short-term loan could be used for shopping which is irresponsible and trivialises the nature of taking out a loan.1.3 and 3.3 of CAP Code
Pounds to Pocket birthday emailImplying a short term loan can be used for birthday celebrations. Irresponsible by suggesting a loan could 'ease any worries'.1.3 and 3.3 of CAP Code
Open Wonga engagement story (a short from the 12 portraits film)Doesn’t contain any details on interest rates despite viewers likely to make correlation between open Wonga and payday loans.3.2 and 3.7 of BCAP code.

The complaints have also been shared with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which takes over regulation of the industry on 1 April 2014.  The payday lending industry will then be subject to the FCA’s powers to ban adverts including those that contain misleading headline claims, unfair or unrealistic impression of the product or a lack of prominence given to key risks.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

“Adverts that trivialise payday loans and suggest borrowing should be used to pay for treats should be taken off air and removed.  Animations, cheery puns and suggestions that loans could fund a shopping spree are a far cry away from the reality of payday lending many of our clients’ experience.

“Day in day out Citizens Advice is helping people deal with the devastation caused by irresponsible payday lending. Loans taken out to cover a short-fall have turned into a long-term nightmare as people struggle to keep up with payments, and high charges increase debts further.

“Borrowing money is a very serious step and people need to be aware of all of the facts before they sign-up.  Consumers cannot make informed decisions if the adverts are irresponsible and misleading.

“The complaints made today are a strong reflection on the public distaste for financial products that exploit people and drive individuals deep into debt.  We’d like to thank those who have taken time to make a stand against irresponsible adverts by reporting them to Citizens Advice and encourage others to tell us about other inappropriate adverts.”

Citizens Advice has long been calling for health warning on payday loan adverts, which the FCA is considering implementing, but also wants financial services to be banned from cold calling which would mean payday lenders could not text, email or ring people out of the blue offering them loans.

As part of the charity’s campaign to clean-up the payday loan industry, Citizens Advice has been pressing authorities to take action on irresponsible advertising and Chief Executive Gillian Guy has spoken out about the use of celebrities to endorse financial products.

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.