Perhaps a film is needed to show the real victims of payday lenders like Wonga

Is Wonga simply trying to deflect accusations and whitewash its true colours?

Share
Related Topics

It’s an artistic response for a company
centred on finance – commissioning a half-hour film of “real
stories”, tickling our emotions.

Yesterday MPs, whether out of moral feeling or political necessity, grilled the company behind the flick – payday lender, Wonga. The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee largely condemned its practices - not long after its feature premiered in London and was released on YouTube.

The session couldn’t have come soon enough, with the nation continuing to struggle to buy things like food, water and warmth – and a reported 40,000 members of the public are thrust into “real pain,” by being lent by the firm money they can’t pay back.

It was disconcerting then to learn of Wonga’s apparent PR ploy to convey its heartfelt and noble offerings. In the flick, which was created by BAFTA Award-winning Gary Tarn, we see 12 tales of people we are told are real borrowers who happily used the service and everything was fine. Someone at the screening is said to have asked whether it is simply “artfully-produced propaganda.” It certainly seems that way – however well-made or moving it may be, behind 12 Portraits is surely a corporate agenda.

Niall Wass claims the picture represents the “silent majority”. Wonga’s chief operating officer said the company is misrepresented. “What we felt was that the voice of the silent majority was not being heard, but there were perceptions out there that weren't justified,” he explained. On Newsnight earlier this week he said 99 per cent of its one million UK customers are happy.

But despite these tales of monetary triumph, the fact remains that Wonga appears to otherwise prey on the vulnerable in desperate times. To me, it looks as though every tale of deliverance is met with more of hardship and misery.

MP Stella Creasey looks to feel the same: “Wonga may be able to find 12 people to say they are happy customers, but I can find 1,200 who are paying the price for borrowing from these legal loan sharks.” Granting £400 loans within five minutes and tooled up with interest rates of up to 5853 per cent APR, this is hardly surprising.

The film made with creativity and flair and has been described as ‘modern, authentic and relevant,’ but Wonga cannot hide its realities behind a romantic façade of sensible debt or church-like provision.

It’s right then that MPs sat Wonga down. While the likes of Mr Wass feel the company is just and beneficial, genuinely seeming to believe it’s commendable above all, members of parliament think it hurts the financially troubled far more than it heals them. Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi talked of “extortionate” rates, putting families into “real pain” and generally being “rapturous”. Ed Miliband also denounced the firm, suggesting it symbolised the “squeeze on living standards”, was creating a “quiet crisis” and noted seven out of 10 people who use payday lenders regret doing so.

This last piece of data is the most alarming given Wonga’s recent portrayal of people who are all very content with their experiences indeed. Is Wonga simply trying to deflect accusations and whitewash its true colours? It’s spent probably a rather large sum – with a marketing budget I hardly imagine to be small – on an emotional journey of flowers, countryside motorbike rides and self-improvement. It really does attempt to pull at our senses, strewn with sepia, calming music and gazing contemplation.

But how does the 28-minute showing stand up when thousands of others had such contrasting times with payday lenders. In a film highlighting the other side of debt, happiness, progression and prosperity would be replaced with alleged “bullying” when repayments aren’t met.

I wonder if anyone will produce a film of 12 people who’ve had contrasting times – showing the darker side of borrowing from the likes of Wonga?  

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Most powerful woman in British politics

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans  

Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Patrick Diamond
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders