(UK) PRESS RELEASE: Stop Go Networks responds to ASA Ruling

PRESS RELEASE: 28th February 2014

On the 26th February the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) upheld a complaint made against the website Payday Pig operated by Stop Go Networks Limited (http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2014/2/Stop-Go-Networks-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_250207.aspx).

 

Regarding the complaint itself,  we were informed on 11th December.  In summary the complaint was regarding the use of the term “slap up meal” in conjunction with the use of “cartoon imagery” were “irresponsible as they trivialised taking out a loan and encouraged frivolous spending”.

The complaint should be taken in context:

  • This was a single complaint received regarding a site that had not had its copy changed in nearly 12 months.  Our sites receive nearly 200,000 visitors each month and this is the only such complaint we have ever received.
  • In addition this complaint was received after an article published on 10th November in The Sun and written by Ed Milliband incorrectly identified Payday Pig as running TV adverts alongside children’s TV programmes (we have never advertised on TV).  This article was then “syndicated/copied” by The Daily Mail on 11th November and the inaccuracies spread. Both articles showed pictures of our website under the banner “Payday Pig – TV Advertising”.  How many people would have read these totally inaccurate articles?  Millions maybe? (We discussed the inaccurate and damaging journalism with the PCC but as things stand have not taken matters further).
  • The offending phrase was a single phrase in a site which goes to great lengths to highlight the cost of short-term borrowing and the implications of non-payment.

Ed Miliband_ I’ll stop payday lenders targeting our kids with their cartoon characters 2013-11-10

We reviewed all sites and immediately removed the offending phrase from Payday Pig, and responded to the ASA on 15th December informing them of this.  However the ASA said they would like to proceed to a formal ruling on the complaint as payday loans were currently under the spotlight and wanted to ensure that a simple change of wording was sufficient to address the issue.

We submitted our formal response prior to the deadline of 3rd February and received the draft recommendation on the 4th February.  At this stage the ASA draft ruling concerned the depiction of the Payday Pig as a money box, which they did not consider relevant to high-cost, short-term borrowing.  Again we immediately updated all imagery so that the pig was no longer a piggy bank.

We were given the final ruling on 14th February, for publication on 26th February (today).  This final ruling extended the draft ruling recommendations as follows:  “Because we considered that the use of jocular cartoon imagery and the reference to the use of borrowed money to fund a shopping trip or short break away made light of the decision to take out a loan, we concluded that the ad was irresponsible.”

With this in mind we updated our sites, and as they stand now we only refer to the use of short-term borrowing for emergency use.

We have supported and cooperated with the ASA at every stage of the process.  We operate in an evolving market which is directly under the gaze of the politicians. In such a market, regulations often change slower than what is considered “best practice” or “acceptable”, and such things are often a matter of judgement, with no hard and fast rules to apply.  Suggesting that one suitable use for a short-term loan is to fund a treat is no longer acceptable.

Stop Go Networks is committed to both regulatory compliance and social responsibility.  All our sites are covered by registered trading styles named on our CCL (Consumer Credit Licence), and are regularly reviewed by us internally and the compliance teams of the many lenders we work with.  Our support staff are all very aware of not only the current regulatory framework, but also sensitive to the needs of our customers and the wider implications for society, which was the matter of concern for the ASA.  We often receive emails from people asking if someone who is unemployed will qualify for a payday loan, or if they can take out a loan for 6 months, and the answer is always a polite ‘no’.

One lesson we have learned is that to be ahead of the curve we need to review the content of our sites more regularly, with a wider view than just compliance, as compliance is a relatively slow moving target.

SGN