Former bankrupt is new face of payday lender

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Kerry Katona

Kerry Katona has certainly made some interesting choices during her career, but this may take the prize for the strangest. The 32 year old Atomic Kitten and reality TV regular is cashing in on her status as a former bankrupt, and has signed up as the face of Cash Lady, a payday loan provider.

So what is she doing and should we worry about it?


The gig

Katona is cashing in on the fact that her money mistakes are no secret. She was made bankrupt in 2008, when she was unable to pay a huge tax bill, and although she is out of the process now, both she and her mother lost their homes and she faced a very public humiliation.
She refers directly to this in new adverts for the loans company, saying: "We've all had money troubles at some point - I know I have".

In a press release she has defended the approach the firm takes, saying it is "committed to being a responsible part of the payday loan industry". Katona goes on to say "They're constantly doing their best to make sure that customers get as much information as possible, and were one of the first companies to put up clear responsible lending information, including where customers can get free financial advice at times when they're struggling."

"They're also committed to making things as quick and clear as possible for their customers. So if you urgently need to get a plumber or electrician, or whatever the money is for, you know you'll have the cash quick, so you can sort those little emergencies right away."

Concerns

There's a flip side to this argument, of course. There are those who would argue that Katona is promoting loans with an enormous interest rate, to people who have no other choices. The loans have a representative APR of 2,670%.

As someone who has faced her share of money worries over the years, you could argue that she should know better than to promote a form of borrowing that can trap people in a debt spiral - paying huge sums in interest because they cannot afford to repay the loan.

The loans are promoted as an easy solution to people with one-off cash flow problems. However, there's some evidence that this isn't always how the loans are used. Santander found that one in fifty people are using these loans to pay their bills in an average month. In the first half of 2012, National Debtline received 9,500 calls for help with payday loans, 61% more than the previous six months and 116% more than the same six months in 2011.

Industry-wide

There's no suggestion that Cash Lady has done anything wrong, or that its lending practices are anything short of exemplary. Those who are worried about payday loans are concerned about the entire industry rather than any one firm in particular.

The Office of Fair Trading is set to report on the sector any day now, which many hope will cap the potential APR and limit the number of times a loan can be rolled over, as well as clamp down on the lending practices of all 240 lenders in the business.

In the interim there will be those who question the wisdom of Katona's decision.

Just as there will be those who would argue that her past money issues, and the fact that she has four children in private school and a nanny, have taught her the importance of a paycheck. So even when the potential client is a payday loans company, there's a compelling reason to face the criticism and take the gig.

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