An ad for payday lender Wonga has been banned for breaching regulations by failing to disclose the relevant cost of borrowing. The television ad showed a man anxiously jotting down figures on a napkin before looking at his phone calculator and seeing the amount of £153.79.
An elderly lady than said: "You appear to be in a financial quandary, young fellow. At Wonga you choose exactly how much to borrow and for how long," and then adding: "You can even pay back early and save money."
The Citizens Advice Bureau complained that the ad breached regulations by omitting the representative annual percentage rate (RAPR), as it understood that the claim "you can even pay back early and save money" was an incentive likely to trigger the requirement to disclose it.
Wonga accepted that an incentive to apply for credit was a trigger for disclosure of RAPR, but believed the phrase "you can even pay back early and save money" did not fit the criteria. It said the ability to repay a loan before it was due was a standard feature of many products, and that describing that feature in a way that it regarded as brief and factual did not amount to an incentive for the purposes of regulations.
But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) noted that the ad said consumers could "save money" with a Wonga loan because they would pay less if they repaid early.
The ASA said: "We acknowledged Wonga's assertion that this was a factual statement of a feature of their service, but considered that the inclusion of the phrase 'save money' was surplus to a purely descriptive statement and offered a discount relative to the headline cost of borrowing a sum for the loan period originally requested.
"We considered that this was an incentive to apply for credit, and that the RAPR should therefore have been disclosed." It ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form, adding: "We told Wonga to ensure that future ads that included a comparison or incentive displayed the RAPR."
Last week Wonga announced it had written off £220 million of debt belonging to 330,000 customers after admitting making loans to people who could not afford to repay them.
Citizens Advice said the ad was one of five payday loan adverts that had been banned after the charity reported them to the ASA. Others were from Peachy, Loan Monarch, Spends4u and Pounds To Pocket - all banned in July.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "Payday loan adverts that break the rules should be taken off the air. Adverts must be clear about what taking out a loan means and how much it will cost. The consequences are really serious when payday lending goes wrong. High interest rates and fees can mean that a small loan balloons into a huge debt.
"The ASA is right to take these steps to ban ads that are not up to scratch. With five out of the seven adverts we reported to the ASA now banned, both the advertising and payday loan industries need to look at why so many adverts are not meeting the grade and change their ways. Anyone concerned about the content of a payday advert can report it to Citizens Advice or the ASA directly."