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TV adverts for personal loans face ban

Advertising regulator to crackdown on 'irresponsible' lending offers

Television adverts that casually invite viewers to borrow thousands of pounds are to be banned in a crackdown on the £95bn loan industry, The Independent has learned.

The Advertising Standards Authority will use a new social responsibility code to stamp out reckless consumer credit promotions, consigning to history the tempting offer to "combine all your existing debts into one easy monthly payment", its chairman Lord Chris Smith said.

During the past decade, campaigners have criticised daytime TV ads that invite homeowners to use their home as collateral for tens of thousands of pounds of instant spending money. The ASA had only been able to ban loan ads if they have been misleading, but Lord Smith said he would use a social responsibility rule from the Broadcasting Committee in Advertising Practice (BCAP) to toughen its stance.

Speaking prior to publication of the ASA's 2008 report today, Lord Smith said that loan ads that were currently acceptable would be banned by the regulator. He told The Independent: "I get irritated when I think consumers are being sold something in a very tempting way which is going to have huge financial and personal consequences for them. That to me is irresponsible advertising."

He singled out one example of bad loan advertising last year. "In the Picture Financial Services ad, there was a housewife surrounded by a busy household of kids getting ready for school and the husband was coming down the stairs and grabbing a slice of toast. Meanwhile she was on the phone saying, 'So, a loan of £25,000? Yes, that will be all right. Thank you very much,' and putting the phone down."

He said the ASA would brief firms about how they could advertise loans in future. He also revealed the ASA would step up its monitoring of supermarket price comparison ads, which claim a basket of goods is cheaper in one company's stores than in others.

He added: "When you actually drill down what you find is some of the items are on special promotion on a very temporary basis [and] some of the items are not actually the same as the ones in the other shopping basket."

During the year, the ASA received a record number of complaints, 26,433, about a record number of ads, 15,556. For the first time, it did not ban any of the top 10 most-complained-about ads, which were headed by a Barnardo's ad of a girl being slapped by her father, which attracted 840 complaints.

The second most-complained-about was a Volkswagen ad which showed a singing dog shaking and looking cowed, and the third, for Orangina, depicted cartoon zebras and bears acting suggestively.