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Comment: Wonga review | dotscot domain

Andy Haste has immediately set about steering a new course for the payday lender. Picture: PA

Andy Haste has immediately set about steering a new course for the payday lender. Picture: PA

  • by TERRY MURDEN
 

PROTECTING a reputation is critically important, though in the case of Wonga it can hardly claim it was wrongly accused when it was ordered to pay compensation to 45,000 customers who received fake letters demanding repayment of their loans.

Following his appointment as chairman, former More Than parent RSA boss Andy Haste has lived up to his name and immediately set about steering a new course for the payday lender which has a lot of bridges to build with the public and the regulators.

His fellow board members have reiterated his call for the company to be accepted as a responsible member of the financial services sector. Questions must be asked, however, why it has taken the appointment of a new chairman for other directors to take note of the need to improve the company’s behaviour.

As well as managing a reputation, Haste will also need to manage expectations and to that extent he has declared that Wonga will become a smaller and less profitable business with greater transparency. Its infamous sky-high interest rates are likely to be tamed after he indicated that his strategy will demand a change in the company’s lending criteria. No doubt it will also involve a sweeping review of the culture that has created the sort of practices that have brought it into disrepute. None of this can be done overnight, but they are laudable goals.

By appointing Haste the board has at least got itself someone with a record of turning around a struggling business.

He left RSA in good shape and beefed up its value considerably. His new employer will be hoping for a similar result.

New domain gives Scots another option

Today marks another milestone in the story of the internet with the launch of the dotscot domain name, a move that will bring a little more variety, but potentially some confusion into digital communication.

The dotscot domain is among a number of new names that reflect a distinct community, except that it is not limited by physical boundaries. Those so-called “pioneers” who have signed up for it – which include Johnston Press, owner of The Scotsman – are generally doing so to promote Scottish identity, although anyone with a connection to, or affinity with, Scotland can adopt the new domain, and by this definition that could include individuals and organisations in England.

Inevitably it will be sucked into the independence debate as a way of clearly defining Scotland. That said, both the Yes and No campaigns have adopted the new domain.

Commercial supporters include those who believe they can better promote Scottish produce and services with an address that, in spite of its non-geographical confines, does nonetheless define them as Scottish. Why else would anyone bother?

This view is also backed up research from Fasthosts Internet which shows the strongest demand for regional web identity across the British Isles is from Scottish consumers. Some 71 per cent of 2,000 polled said they were more likely to buy from a firm that used a .scot web address.

A slight concern is that by extending the range of names it also adds to customer confusion or ability to contact someone. No doubt this is not insurmountable, but it might just be enough of a niggle to irritate some potential customers. For now, at least, I remain tmurden@scotsman.com

 

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