“These loans are not being taken seriously by young people, serious though they are. We have allowed them to take over our televisions and radios, normalising them to the point where their use is seen as casual. Just this morning I was told the story of a young woman who took out a payday loan to pay for a Domino’s pizza. That could prove to be a very expensive pizza indeed.”- Bishop of Norwich, 3/11/14
On 3rd November 2014, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, took part in the Committee Stage of the Government’s Consumer Rights Bill, speaking in favour of an amendment to regulate the advertising of payday loans to children. The Bishop highlighted the pervasiveness of pre-wateshed advertising of payday loans, and the fact that young parents were far more likely to take out a loan than older parents. He also called for greater investment in financial education.
The amendment, which was co-sponsored by the Bishop of Truro, was withdrawn at the end of the debate, with its supporters calling for the Government to take further action before the Bill returned for its Report Stage.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and to speak to Amendment 105B, in the name of my colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Truro, on the advertising of payday loans. He cannot be here today but has been working very closely with the Children’s Society on this issue. Amendment 105B seeks to make provisions to restrict the times at which payday loan advertisements are shown, most specifically in relation to the watershed.
It surprised me to discover that, according to Ofcom, no less than 80% of all payday loan advertisements are shown before the watershed. It is therefore no surprise—to pick up on some of the statistics that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned—that the Children’s Society found in its survey that over half of all children aged 10 to 17 reckon that they see payday loan advertisements either “often” or “all the time”. It is the sheer quantity of these advertisements that normalises payday loans for children and young people. The research shows that one-third of all teenagers think that the payday loan adverts themselves are tempting and exciting—they are very well designed. Those teenagers are much more likely than their counterparts to say that they would consider taking out a payday loan in the future.
It is sometimes argued that these advertisements are not aimed at young people. However, we can see from the surveys how much they have affected the way that young parents in particular manage their money. The report, Playday Not Payday, showed that 40% of parents aged 18 to 24 polled by the Children’s Society said that they had used a payday loan—no less than four in 10. It is interesting that the number halves for those in the next 10-year age category and halves again for those aged 35 to 44. So the younger an adult is, the more likely they are to have taken out a payday loan. That makes me think that these loans are not being taken seriously by young people, serious though they are. We have allowed them to take over our televisions and radios, normalising them to the point where their use is seen as casual. Just this morning I was told the story of a young woman who took out a payday loan to pay for a Domino’s pizza. That could prove to be a very expensive pizza indeed. Of course it is a small amount used for an everyday purchase that becomes ever larger in terms of the debt that you incur. So I ask the Minister what steps we can take to ensure that payday loans are always portrayed as a serious form of credit with very high risks. The current advertisements do not present them as a serious form of credit with high risks.
Action is being taken: the noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice and its consultation. However, it is disappointing that that only relates to the content of these adverts and not to their scheduling. So it will not help the 72% of teenagers who see a payday loan advert more than once a week. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will understand that this amendment seeks specifically to reduce the frequency and volume of payday loan adverts on television and radio.
In that regard, it would do something to counter the rather poor money management education that most children say they receive. Only one in five children aged between 10 and 17 feels that their school teaches them anything about money management. Not many more feel that their parents have taught them much about management, and yet half of them are seeing adverts often or all the time.
This year, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of the watershed. It was put in place to assure parents that their children were watching only television that was appropriate. That is why we should use the watershed to cover payday loan advertisements. We have an opportunity here, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.
Baroness Jolly (Govenrnment Response): My Lords, I am truly grateful to noble Lords for raising the thorny issue of payday lenders and for the informed debate that ensued. I will first discuss the amendments in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Truro. I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich for speaking in his stead…
Perhaps I may now address the comments made by noble Lords during this excellent debate. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich raised the issue of financial education for children and pointed out that it is woefully inadequate. The Government have made financial literacy statutory for the first time as part of the citizenship element of the national curriculum for 11 to 16 year-olds. This will involve strengthening the curriculum in mathematics in order to prepare young people to make sound financial decisions. The noble Baroness, Lady Drake, raised the issue of the Government stimulating demand for debt advice. As I have said, the Government have put free debt advice provision on to a sustainable footing through the Money Advice Service. The FCA requires payday lenders to signpost free debt advice, including in all financial promotions and advertisements…
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich said that 80% of payday loan ads are shown before the watershed, so it is insufficient that adverts are not shown in broadcasting directed at children. First, it is worth noting that Ofcom found that children aged four to 15 see, on average, 1.3 payday ads per week. Children watch TV after the watershed; Ofcom found that over a quarter of TV was seen by that age group of children. So the risk is less scheduling. ASA rules are strong and effective and specifically ban trivialisation or the targeting of children. It bans ads which break these rules; for example, by making it appear easy or indeed non-risky to get a loan…
Lord Alton of Liverpool (Amendment sponsor): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, for her response to what has been, as she rightly said, a really excellent debate and one which I think has united opinion on many sides of the Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was right when he said earlier on that if this matter could not be successfully resolved in Committee today, it would undoubtedly be returned to on Report. I get the sense, having just heard the concluding remarks from the Minister, that we will want to bring these amendments back on Report, because many of us do not think that regulation will be sufficient to deal with something that needs to be put on a firm statutory basis.
The thing that I will take away from the debate this afternoon is that, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich said earlier, four out of five children are not receiving money management education. I was particularly struck by the graphic example that he gave of people taking out a loan in order to pay for a pizza. That underlines where we are and why we have to do something about this situation…
I hope that in the period now elapsing between Committee and Report the Government will think again about this and perhaps have discussions across the Chamber to see what can be done to reach consensus. I get the sense that we all want to reach the same conclusion. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.