Watchdog reprimands Littlewoods over advert for credit

Mail-order firm Littlewoods has been criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for encouraging debt among young women.

The watchdog was angered by a cartoon ad in mailouts for Littlewoods Shop Direct Financial Services, which depicted a young female character mulling over buying a new dress on credit. Messages contained in the cartoon included "hot dates won't wait till pay day" and "by the time you can afford that sexy new outfit, Mr Right, or Mr Right Now, could be long gone". Eventually, the woman buys the dress using Littlewoods credit.

The ASA said this encouraged shoppers to make "aspirational" purchases on credit and could lead to young women, in particular, building up debt.

In response, Littlewoods said the advert did not contravene consumer laws, was sent only to people over the age of 18, and clearly displayed the interest rate. The retailer offered assurance that applicants for credit would be assessed for their ability to keep up repayments.

This is not the first time the ASA has expressed concerns about how debt is portrayed in publicity. Last October, Picture Loans had to amend a TV advert after the watchdog said that, in its original form, the ad had taken too light-hearted an approach to loan consolidation.