The ASA has banned yet another advertisement for payday loans. Financial (UK) Ltd (trading as ‘FirstPayDayLoanUk’) was held by the ASA to have breached a number rules contained in the CAP Code by sending text messages to consumers, such as:
"Hi Mate hows u? I’m still out in town, just got £850 in my account from these guys www.firstpaydayloanuk.co.uk".
A number of complaints centred on the social responsibility implications of the advertisement. The ASA found that the phrase "I’m still out in town" would imply to a recipient consumer that a loan had been spent on a social day out.
The social responsibility aspects of payday loans has the caught both the ASA and the OFT’s eye recently and so it is not surprising that the ASA considered that it was inappropriate and irresponsible to promote a social life funded by short-term loans.
The Code requires marketing communications to be clearly identified as such (Rule 2.1), and not to be misleading (Rule 3.1). Furthermore, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 also prohibits a business from falsely holding itself out as a consumer.
The ASA held that, in breach of the Code, the advertisements were not clearly marked as marketing communications and indeed, in light of the informal tone, would likely be considered by consumers as personal messages. Interestingly the ASA’s decision was also influenced by the fact that FirstPayDayLoanUk had used a standard UK phone number to send the texts.
The ruling compliments various other decisions and commentary made recently by both the ASA and the OFT concerning the promotion and marketing of payday loans. It appears that the social responsibility aspects are of particular concern and advertisers should take care to avoid common pitfalls when advertising in this highly regulated and contentious area.