There has been enough news in the payday loans industry of late to wrap the entire quantity of fish and chips consumed in the UK over the summer. That’s not a fact of course, merely a guess, and chip shops aren’t allowed to wrap their wares in newspaper any more because all those inky fishcakes, so it’s all completely by the by.
The latest news story emanating from the payday lenders industry to receive widespread news coverage is the withdrawal of an email sent by the payday lender Pounds to Pocket, currently one of the larger firms in an industry in which Wongaleads the way.
The email sent by Pounds to Pocket – owned by CashEuroNetUK – arrived in prospective and past customers’ inboxes containing the subject line: “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.”
Those payday lenders working hard to clean up the reputation of the industry and adhere to the tough new rules imposed by industry regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) must have been exasperated by the use of such a class advertising stunt by a lender that’s big enough to know better.
Widespread criticism of the ad
The Citizens Advice charity was quick to draw the attention to the email, complaining about the casual “worry-free” attitude it endorsed and encouraged. Not only did it underplay the serious nature of a short-term loan, it also encouraged prospective borrowers to use the money irresponsibly to fund birthday parties and treats.
CashEuroNetUK responded to the complaints by acknowledging that a short-term loan was a serious consideration. It also explained that it went to “great lengths” to ensure its emails were not sent to groups for whom the ad could be inappropriate or detrimental.
In this case, it actually beggars belief that a lender would be as stupid as to send out emails that were obviously going to fly so close to the wire and attract negative attention. Perhaps Pounds to Pocket was of the view that any press is good press, after all, given the crackdown it does seem unlikely that such an email could be sent without expectations of reprisals further down the line.
The Advertising Standards Authority’s response
Upon further investigation, the Advertising Standards Authority(ASA) found that a 20 percent discount was offered on the first scheduled payment to any borrower who applied for a loan on the day the email was received. If approved for a loan, the customer would then have to wait just ten minutes for the funds to appear in their account.
In its ruling on the email, 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.”
In response, Pound to Pocket has removed the email from circulation.
What next for the payday lenders?
The recent cleanup of the payday loan industry following new regulations introduced on 1 July and the proposed cost caps has resulted in over a third of UK payday lenders exiting the industry. Those that are left must now be committed to delivering a customer driven service and banishing such murky practices firmly to the past.
Should Pounds to Pocket be fined for issuing such an irresponsible advertising campaign? Have you ever received questionable marketing communications from a payday lender? We’d love to hear from you on this issue, so please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Caitlin Hope is a UK based freelance writer and finance blogger who busies herself by writing editorials for some of the UK’s most authoritative sites. When she’s not busy writing, Caitlin likes dancing, cooking and sashaying around her basement flat.