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Payday lenders accused of 'grooming' children with catchy ads …

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TV money pundit Martin Lewis has called for a complete ban on payday loan adverts during daytime hours. Photograph: Ken McKay/REX

Payday lenders are grooming children under 10 for a lifetime of borrowing with TV advertising that makes hardcore debt look like a fun transaction, the money adviser Martin Lewis has said.

Lewis, a television presenter and writer, has called for a complete ban on payday loan adverts during daytime hours.

He told a committee of MPs that data from his website,, showed one in three parents with children under 10 said their children had repeated payday loan ad slogans.

Lewis said: “I think we are in danger of grooming a new generation towards this type of borrowing. And if you think we’ve got problems now, you wait until 10 years’ time. Grooming is the right term. We’re talking about a market that didn’t exist five years ago, and you’ve had people in arguing that this is how people like to use it.”

More than one in seven parents said that when they had refused their child an item, they had been nagged to get a payday loan to pay for it.

In a blistering attack on an industry dominated by, which charges interest equal to 5,853% a year, Lewis said the instant, easy, cash offered by payday lenders over the internet was also helping to fund gambling addicts. “It allows you, while you are pissed and want to gamble at 11.30 at night, to get a loan. It just needs to be slower … the instant, high-tech nature of how they operate is very dangerous.”

On a day in which Wonga and other payday lenders came under sustained attack from Citizens Advice, Which? and debt charities, Labour’s leader, Ed Miliband, said that Britain’s “Wonga economy” symbolised the squeeze on living standards facing millions of families.

Miliband accused payday lenders of preying on the vulnerable, creating a “quiet crisis” for thousands of households left with debts they were unable to pay off.

His intervention came as MPs on the Commons business, innovation and skills committee accused representatives of three of the biggest payday lenders, including Wonga, of failing to properly check whether borrowers could afford loans, of encouraging them into expensive rollover loans and of using continuous payment authority orders to “plunder bank accounts”.

Henry Raine, spokesman for Wonga, told MPs its bad debts were in line with credit card providers, that the majority of its customers took moderate sized loans (of £178 on average), and only one in 15 was a rollover.

Wonga has produced a feature film, entitled 12 Portraits, which premiered on Monday night in London and which Wonga said was produced to counter what it described as ceaseless misrepresentation in the press.

But Stella Creasy, shadow minister for competition and consumer affairs, said the film’s title should be “Legal loan sharking is a wonderful life”.

She said: “Wonga may be able to find 12 people to say they are happy customers, I can find 1,200 who are not and who are now paying the price for borrowing from these legal loan sharks. If Wonga really want to be transparent about how they make a million pounds a week from lending to hard pressed Brits they should own up to being warned by the OFT and spell out what they are doing to put that right, rather than filling our cinema screens with such fiction.”

Wonga said it was a responsible lender and rejected 80% of first-loan applications. But debt charities and advice organisations told MPs that the number of people coming to them with payday loan problems had “exploded” over the past two years.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “We have seen a 10-fold increase in people coming to us with payday loan issues. Many of them are paying off the debt by taking out further debt. Our tracker survey of 3,000 people [with payday loans] shows that over 60% of these people did not have adequate affordability checks when taking out a loan, and 94% of them did not have affordability checks on rollover loans.”


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