Children's charity calls for an end to payday loan ads on kids TV

(Photo: Michael & Christa Richert)

A leading children's charity has urged Ofcom to ban payday lenders from advertising during television programmes aimed at younger generations.

An online petition from The Children's Society, which has so far gained over 9,000 signatures, says that the current lax advertising rules "are increasing the pressure on families always struggling with unmanageable debt".

"This unethical practice must be stopped. Hard-hit families with children are struggling with the rising costs of living and many end up borrowing money from payday lenders to make ends meet."

The Children's Society warns that payday loan companies, which offer short-term cash with astronomical interest rates, make borrowing look "fun and easy".

"Aiming these adverts at children will make payday lending seem normal. It will make the next generation feel more comfortable with high-cost credit," it cautions.

Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for advertising in the UK, has released research which found that there has been an increase of 2,300 per cent in the number of payday loan adverts shown on television in just four years between 2008 and 2012.

The number of payday loan adverts specifically seen by children aged four to 15 during this period rose from three million to 596 million, although they account for a relatively small percentage (0.7 per cent) of the total number of adverts seen by this age group.

In light of these statistics and the growing issue of poverty in the UK, The Children's Society is calling for increased protection from these unscrupulous ads, despite Parliament's recent rejection of a total ban.

"While parents are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living, the adverts tell children that it is easy to get quick cash. This will lead to children pestering their parents for more," says Lily Caprani, Director of Strategy and Policy at The Children's Society.

"We're disappointed that the government hasn't taken a stronger stance, but we're hopeful that Ofcom and the FCA [Financial Conduct Authority] will take action and regulate these adverts for the sake of families.

"It's exploiting children to reach parents, and this manipulative tactic must be stopped."

Last year, founder of Martin Lewis also called for a complete ban on loan companies aiming their advertising at children, branding it a form of "grooming".

"If you think we have got problems now, you wait for ten years' time," he warned the Commons Business Select Committee.

"Grooming is the right term. We are talking about a market that didn't exist five years ago."

The Children's Society's petition can be found here