Wonga 'Irresponsible' For Encouraging Students To Take Out High-Interest Loans
Short-term money lender Wonga.com has been branded "highly irresponsible" for encouraging students to take out one of its high-interest loans.
The National Union of Students (NUS) called on the company to immediately withdraw information on its website aimed at undergraduates.
The Wonga website contains details on student loans, and suggests that young people could take out one of their short-term loans for "occasional emergencies or unexpected events".
It says: "A student loan is fine to help you pay for your university and living costs, but what about those times when you're waiting on money to come in and you need to buy or pay for something unexpected now?
"There's a totally new way of borrowing money to see you through until your next cheque and it's called Wonga.
"A Wonga loan is essentially a short-term loan that can help you manage your cash flow - without having to extend an overdraft or credit card even further, or get a large student loan."
It adds: "Student loans are usually far cheaper than your standard personal loan. But there can be a downside - you potentially end up borrowing more than you need, while a nasty debt accumulates for your graduation that could take years to repay.
"With a Wonga loan the interest rate is much higher, but you only borrow it for a month and pay the loan back on a date that suits. For those occasional emergencies or unexpected events, it means you can carry on with life without a long-term debt that keeps accumulating."
The website does encourage students to minimise loans and budget their money.
But Pete Mercer, NUS vice-president, said: "It is highly irresponsible of any company to suggest to students that high-cost short-term loans be a part of their everyday financial planning.
"Students should think long and hard before choosing payday loans over any other form of borrowing, including government-backed student loans.
"If students are struggling to make ends meet there is often other support available, and anyone worried about their finances should talk to their students' union or financial advisers at their university.
"Wonga should immediately withdraw this predatory marketing, which contains information that appears to be inaccurate, and is aimed at financially vulnerable young people."
In a statement, Wonga said: "Students represent a tiny fraction of our customers and need to have a regular income, just like any customer, to be considered.
"Our decisions about any students who do choose to apply are based on the same rigorous checks we perform on all applications, but we do not believe working, adult students should be excluded from a popular credit option."
The company does not "actively target students in any way," the statement said.
"The two web pages in question are examples of the many search engine optimisation (SEO) pages on our site, which is essentially content covering all aspects of credit, designed to help our particular option appear in general internet searches for loans or credit.
"As for the content of those pages, we merely highlight the risk and high cost of unauthorised overdraft charges, plus the potential trap of long-term debt vs. a short-term solution."