Yesterday (11 November) Labour leader Ed Miliband said ads for brands such as Wonga that feature animated characters are running during kids shows to exploit “pester power”.
He told The Sun on Sunday: “Children’s entertainment must not become an easy route for loan companies to exploit families particularly those already struggling. We don’t allow gambling firms to advertise during children’s TV and we don’t allow junk food to be advertised either.”
He went on to say a Labour Government would ask the Advertising Standards Authority to crackdown on “irresponsible advertising by payday lenders that targets or exploits children and young people”, adding “If this cannot be done through the advertising watchdog, we will do it through legislation.”
The ASA regulates the content of advertising and has acted to ban ads ruled misleading. Sister organisation the Committee of Advertising Practice sets scheduling rules.
A spokesman for the ASA says: “We already take action against payday loan ads that are misleading or irresponsible. We’re actively involved in on-going discussions with the Government and industry, as well as other relevant stakeholders including Labour, to ensure regulation in this area remains proportionate and effective.”
Members of the credit sector trade body the Consumer Finance Association (CFA) are working with the ASA to improve their promotional strategies. The organisation’s members, which include Payday Express, QuickQuid and The Money Shop, are attending workshops hosted by the ad watchdog on what their adverts should look like and to develop guidelines on how short-term lenders should market to customers.
A spokesman for the Advertising Association backed the self-regulatory system: “Advertising’s self-regulatory system has a strong track record of ensuring the rules safeguard children, and has already acted to ban several irresponsible payday loan ads. Industry must be open-minded as it works with regulators to assess the evidence and maintain this high level of protection.”
Miliband’s comments come a week after payday lenders were accused of “grooming” young viewers. Martin Lewis, founder of Moneysavingexpert.com, told the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee on payday lenders the sector’s biggest players were subjecting children to “inappropriate propaganda” through adverts using cartoon characters to make the sector appear more appealing.
Responding to that claim Russell Hamblin-Boone, chief executive of payday industry body Consumer Finance Association, said “CFA members do not target any specific group of people and certainly not children. As responsible lenders, our members comply with seven different pieces of sales, marketing and advertising related laws, as well as specific stipulations in our own code of practise.”