Ban payday loan advertisement at sports matches call

PAYDAY loan companies should be banned from advertising at sports matches in the same way that tobacco firms are, a senior MSP has claimed.

Hearts are sponsored by payday loan firm Wonga. Picture: TSPL
Hearts are sponsored by payday loan firm Wonga. Picture: TSPL

Margo MacDonald wants the ban to be imposed on the controversial payday loans sector, which includes companies such as Wonga, which quotes a representative APR of 5,853 per cent on its website.

The move would affect football clubs such as Heart of Midlothian in Edinburgh, whose match kits are sponsored by the online lender Wonga.

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Ms MacDonald is set to ask Holyrood to back the move as part of a package of measures aimed at curbing the activities of the lenders.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has already backed a ban on adverts by payday loan forms during children’ TV shows. However, Ms MacDonald says those plans do not go far enough.

The Independent MSP wants adverts and products from payday lenders to carry “government health warnings” – along similar lines to those on cigarette packets.

She also wants payday loans businesses to be restricted in the wording that they can use in adverts, with companies banned from enticing people to borrow excessive amounts of cash.

Ms MacDonald had wanted to introduce a bill to cap the amount of interest companies in Scotland can charge, but she said legal advice from Scottish Parliament officials found that the power lay with Westminster.

She is now planning to lodge a motion at Holyrood to raise awareness about the issue and pressure Scottish ministers to lobby the UK government to introduce legislation.

Ms MacDonald said: “Debt from some of these loans is an absolutely pernicious factor in community life. I don’t think there can be a complete ban on the loans, but regulations could be put down as to what they say and do.

“There should be government health warnings associated with them so that people are told the dangers of how much debt they could end up in. I think a ban on sports advertising is worthwhile as it’s all associated with easy money.

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“Also there are so many children who see these adverts at sports matches or wear a football strip with a payday loan firm’s name on it.

“Using these adverts at football and sport matches has a disproportionate affect on people.”

The call to curb the activities of payday loan firms was backed by Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who claimed football fans were being targeted by the companies.

He said: “These companies are deliberately targeting football fans for a reason – they want a return on their advertising investment. If your club has an away game, a big cup match or European tie and you don’t have the cash to go, fans may turn to these companies for a short-term loan, but this hooks them in to long-term payments at eye-watering levels of interest.

“My advice is please don’t go near these lenders, go to your local credit union instead – they will be friendlier, local and much, much cheaper.”

A Wonga spokesman declined to comment on Ms MacDonald’s calls for tighter regulation of payday loans.

But Russell Hamblin-Boone, chief executive of the Consumer Finance Association, which represents some of the largest payday lenders in the UK, said there was “no justification for preventing responsible, legal businesses from promoting their services”.

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He said: “Responsible lenders explain the costs up front in pounds and pence; use credit reference agencies to check your details and will not lend to you if they think it will make your financial situation worse.

“These measures ensure that people can make an informed choice and are always protected if they choose to borrow.”