From lawyers to loans: stop the hard sell

Why won't the government ban loan ads?

Multi-ethnic children at playground\

Should children be able to take out loans? I think we can all agree that the answer to that question is a resounding "NO".

And yet, payday loan companies routinely air their televisions adverts during the breaks between afternoon programmes aimed at kids, with many using cartoon characters and catchy jingles to get their message across.

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Certainly, older children are aware of payday loan firms. A massive 93% of 13 to 17-year-olds know at last one of eight top payday loan companies, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by charity The Children's Society.

And more than half recognise at least three of the sector's biggest names - probably because 72% see or hear at least one payday loan advert a week.

Artist Darren Cullen is highlighting the problem with his North London "shop", which pretends to offer loans aimed at kids as young as three.

Called Pocket Money Loans, it appears to have a range of loans for kids with rates of 5000% - prompting outrage among parents.

Fortunately, the "shop" is really an art installation designed to "take our consumer debt culture to its logical conclusion".

Cullen said: "Almost all payday loan companies have cartoon mascots, animated characters or sing-along jingles in their adverts.

"It's a clear fact they target children, as both a means of persuading their parents, but also as a way to groom the next generation of indebted customers."

Loan ads everywhere

However, there are no plans to stop payday loans airing their television and radio adverts at times when youngsters are likely to see them - even though The Children's Society research found that three quarters of parents are in favour of banning the ads before the 9pm watershed.

In fact, the government rejected calls for just such a ban earlier this year, saying it was happy the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) would ban any inappropriate campaigns.

Ministers have also failed to crack down on the adverts for ambulance-chasing law firms that target vulnerable members of society by airing their television campaigns encouraging people to bring personal injury cases at times when only the unemployed and the very young or very old are likely to be watching.

The government claims that measures such as checking all adverts are fair and not misleading, and stopping offers such as free tablet computers to potential clients are sufficient.

But its toothless approach is failing consumers by letting unscrupulous companies continue to target vulnerable Britons and even children. What we need is an outright ban.

"It's time for the Government to act," said The Children's Society chief executive Matthew Reed. I couldn't agree more.

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