Wonga offers loan to a 15 month old toddler


empty wallet

Payday loan companies have spent a long time defending their approach to marketing recently. As a committee of MPs called for a ban on advertising the loans between children's programmes, they highlighted that they don't target kids. However, one father in Cheshire says that his experiences were quite different to this.

His 15-month-old baby has received a letter from one lender.

According to the Crewe Chronicle, Stephen Parker was stunned when his son Ethan received a letter from Wonga, marketing the company's payday loans.

He called the company and discovered that details of the edited electoral register had been sold to the marketing business by Cheshire East Council. His son's details had been included on the register by mistake - as he had been listed as an adult.

The newspaper reported that Wonga had apologised and removed the boy from their marketing lists - and recommended he contact the council to have his details amended on the electoral register too.

Not the first

It isn't the first time this has happened. The Daily Record reported last week that a 12-year-old from Renfrewshire had been sent marketing material by Wonga. A month earlier it was the turn of a 13-year-old from Dundee to get letters advertising the loans. The company said that it didn't target children, and that the boys must have filled out an online survey giving their age as 18.

Mistakes are bound to happen when businesses are marketing their services so actively. MPs said that the number of payday loan adverts have increased 64% in the last year, and claimed that children see an average of 70 of these adverts a year.

What can we do?

The MPs have recommended more curbs on the advertising of these loans - which sit alongside government proposals to cap the cost of loans, and proposals to limit the number of times a loan can be rolled over.

However, the question is whether these curbs can be effective. Clearly some youngsters will slip through the net, and in any case they will be bombarded with adverts during family programmes and on billboards, newspapers, magazines and websites.

Surely the answer lies not in banning the 3% of adverts that air between children's programmes, but in educating young people about the risks and costs of these loans as part of a broad financial education in schools.

We cannot stop children seeing these adverts, but we can work to ensure that their reaction isn't that these loans look like a fun and easy way to get hold of cash - but that they are shockingly expensive way to borrow - which could land them in even more financial trouble in the long run.