The crackdown on payday lenders intensified today as ‘Pounds to Pocket’, an online service owned by CashEuroNetUK, was condemned and banned for negligent advertising. In an email distributed to prospective consumers, the shady payday lender urged customers to indulge in an expensive short-term loan to finance their birthday festivities.
The email, containing a Happy Birthday message, was complained about by the consumer-orientated charity, Citizens Advice. It read: ìAt Pounds to Pocket, we’d like to wish you the best on your special day! Now you can apply for the money you need to enjoy your birthday worry-free.î
The charity took issue with what it perceived as the perpetuation of a ìworry-freeî outlook on taking out risky short-term loans, through the callous exploitation of the heightened happiness experienced by consumers on their birthday.
Citizens Advice chief executive, Gillian Guy, said: “Payday loans can add to financial worries, not take them away. It is irresponsible for any lender to promote a casual attitude to borrowing by suggesting using loans are worry-free and can be used to fund celebrations.
“Citizens Advice helps thousands of people each year who have been landed in debt because lenders failed to carry out checks to assess whether people can afford to repay.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) documented the provision of a 20% discount on the first payment made on the day of the emailís distribution. Moreover, the speed with which the money would be transferred ñ a mere 10 minutes ñ was seen as further indicative of payday lender’s encouraging irresponsible borrowing.
Making their decision on the matter, the ASA said: “While possibly desirable, having money to spend on birthday celebrations was unlikely to be seen as essential, and by encouraging recipients to take advantage of the service through a special offer discount for immediate application, Pounds to Pocket had urged a decision, thereby limiting the amount of time those interested in a loan were able to give to proper consideration.
“We concluded that the email was irresponsible because it encouraged taking a short-term loan for frivolous spending and promoted the process of borrowing as trivial and without responsibility.”
The ASAís ruling was welcomed by Citizen Advice, which appreciated the tough stance the regulatory body took on the issue. Gillian Guy surmised: “The ASA’s decision to ban this advert sends a strong message to other payday lenders that this type of marketing is irresponsible and not appropriate.
“The ruling also demonstrates the power consumers have in making a stand against irresponsible advertising. Anyone concerned about a payday loan advert can report it to Citizens Advice or the ASA directly.”
The brand behind Pounds to Pocket, CashEuroNetUK, recognised the significance of the decisions made by struggling families when taking out a short term, high-interest loan. However, they maintain they strove to ensure their ads were not aimed at unsuitable clientËle. Rather, they designed their campaign around clientís birthdays to show them they are valued by Pounds to Pocket and have taken the time to show them.
CashEuroNetUKís defensive remarks come at a time when payday lenders are already facing intense scrutiny. Following the surface of Ian Jordanís suicide due to mass debt accrued from a variety of payday lenders, and accusations of vulnerable savers being targeted by payday telemarketers, the industry is gaining a distasteful reputation.
Although, the email has been now been eradicated, the next unforeseen disaster appears to be round every corner. Calls for the FCA to clamp down on the entire industry have become more vociferous in recent weeks and the time to take action is nigh.