Call to ban payday loan firms’ football adverts

Margo MacDonald says ads for the likes of Wonga should carry 'government health warnings'. Picture: contributed

Margo MacDonald says ads for the likes of Wonga should carry 'government health warnings'. Picture: contributed

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MARGO MacDonald today called for payday loan companies like Wonga to be banned from advertising at sports matches.

The Independent Lothian MSP said the controversial lenders should face the same ad restrictions as tobacco companies.

Her proposed ban would cause problems for Hearts, whose match kits are sponsored by the online lender Wonga, which quotes a representative APR of 5853 per cent on its website.

Ms MacDonald is set to ask the Scottish Parliament 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. But Ms MacDonald says those plans do not go far enough.

She 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 said: “Debt from some of these loans is an absolutely pernicious factor in community life. I think a ban on sports advertising is worthwhile as it’s all associated with easy money.

“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.”

Her call was backed by Lothian Labour MSP Neil Findlay. 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.”

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”.