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Bishops welcome advertising watchdog ban on "misleading" Wonga commercial

The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon and a number of other Lords Spirituals have praised the Advertising Standards Authority for banning a commercial by payday lender Wonga.

The ad, which has now been banned in its "current form" sees two puppets depicting an elderly couple suggesting the cost of a loan isn't as expensive some might expect.

The commercial which has been branded as "misleading" by the ASA states: "Right, we're going to explain the costs of a Wonga short-term loan", "Some people think they will pay thousands of per cent of interest", "They won't of course - that's just the way annual rates are calculated.

Say you borrowed £150 for 18 days, it would cost you £33.49" and "Total cost; it's totally clear."

Large on-screen text displayed throughout the ad stated "AMOUNT OF CREDIT: £150 FOR 18 DAYS. INTEREST: £27.99. INTEREST RATE: 365%PA (FIXED). TRANSMISSION FEE: £5.50. ONE TOTAL REPAYMENT OF: £183.49. REPRESENTATIVE 5853% APR".

At the point that the puppet referred to the cost of the example loan, a third puppet pointed towards text stating "£33.49" that had appeared towards the top of the screen.

Rt Revd John Davies of Swansea and Brecon told Premier's News Hour why he thinks the ad would have lulled vulnerable individuals into borrowing without thinking.

The ASA said it had noted that an amount relating to the total cost of the credit (£33.49) was presented both on screen and in the voice-over and therefore triggered the requirement for the inclusion of the representative example with greater prominence.

Where a representative example was given in an ad, the ASA said it was necessary under regulations to present each element of that example together, with equal prominence, and to accompany the information with the words "representative example".

However, it noted that on this occasion the ad contained a representative example, but did not accompany it with that description, which was a breach of the regulations.

Wonga said it takes the guidance "very seriously", and will continue to work closely and transparently with the ASA to ensure none of our adverts are misleading in any way.

The company said on its website that the advert in question set out to show the "true cost" of a Wonga loan, and explained that no one ever pays "thousands of per cent" in interest.

The lender also claims that it always makes it "totally clear" to customers when they apply for a loan "exactly" how much they will have to pay back and when.

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