Online payday loan firm Wonga was forced to remove an article from its website yesterday after it caused outrage by suggesting that students should take out loans that cost up to 4,000 per cent rather than using government-backed Student Loans, which charge around 5 per cent.
Before being removed last night the article suggested that “student loans potentially encourage you to live beyond your means”.
MPs, students and debt charities had called for the misleading marketing material to be taken down.
Pete Mercer, NUS Vice-President (Welfare), said: “It is highly irresponsible of any company to suggest to students that high-cost short-term loans be a part of their everyday financial planning.
“Wonga should immediately withdraw this predatory material, which contains information that appears to be inaccurate, and is aimed at financially vulnerable young people.”
Wes Streeting, chief executive of the Helena Kennedy Foundation, said: “Wonga’s suggestion that students should resort to their rip-off rates instead of a low interest student loan is self-serving and potentially very misleading to students. Taking out debts through credit cards and companies like Wonga should always be the last resort to avoid being caught in a cycle of unsustainable debt.”
Wonga attempted to distance itself from the growing row last night.
John Moorwood, director of communications at the firm, said: “We do not actively target students in any way. The web pages in question are examples of the many search engine optimisation pages on our site.
“We merely highlight the risk and high cost of unauthorised overdraft charges, plus the potential trap of long-term debt vs. a short-term solution.”
Money saving expert Martin Lewis was unconvinced and accused Wonga of being “a moral disgrace" while Labour MP Stella Creasey, who has campaigned for controls on legal loan sharks, also called for the article to be taken down.
The company said it removed the article because "it gave rise to misunderstandings".