The Money Shot - A wonky Wonga view

Ravers in a club
We don't mean that kind of Wonky...
"Poor lending practices, unaffordable rollovers and multiple borrowing are pushing many vulnerable people into an unsustainable cycle of borrowing"
  • | by Emily Bater

Try as we might, the Money Shot can't bring itself to feel sorry for payday loan company Wonga.

Wonga and its bosses have been popping up everywhere this week in the run up to their showdown with MPs, where they'll have to answer questions about how they protect customers and warn them of the risks they run when taking out a Wonga loan.

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee will question Wonga, QuickQuid and Mr Lender. The three lenders will also have to face the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which hands its powers over to the FCA next April.

With a representative APR of 5,853%, Wonga have had a tough time painting themselves as an innocent service provider, but that hasn't stopped them trying.

Coincidentally, this week Wonga unveiled a series of films by director Gary Tarn. The film, dubbed "12 Portraits", claims to document the lives of "real Wonga customers" and is "more a reflection of modern Britain, and Wonga's place in it, than a documentary on the company," if you're to believe its director.

According to Wonga chief operating officer Niall Wass, speaking on Newsnight to Kirsty Wark, Gary Tarn kept full editorial control and chose all the customers featured in 12 Portraits. Luckily for Wass, none of them were from the 7.5% of Wonga customers who roll over their loan or default on the original borrowed amount.

Ringleader of the personal finance circus Martin Lewis took to his Twitter to slam payday lenders, claiming they were grooming young people into a culture of quick, easy and seemingly consequence-free borrowing.

"All this payday loan advertising is another reason to be glad financial education becomes part of the national curriculum next September."

-@MartinSLewis

"Folks if you see payday lenders (eg speedy cash) in costumes to bait kids to bait parents pls take pics and tweet me them."

-@MartinSLewis

"So the payday lenders' trade body doesn't like me saying they're grooming kids. Easy solution. STOP ADVERTISING ON KIDS TV"

-@MartinSLewis

Wonga denied the accusation, but not before Niall Wass made an appearance on Radio 1's Newsbeat to answer some questions from listeners - Radio 1's target demographic is 15-to-29-year-olds.

The whole point of Wonga's "we're nice, honestly" campaign is to dispel the belief that their customers are made up of the vulnerable and desperate - something Wass was keen to discuss with Wark, claiming he was speaking for the "silent majority" of happy, solvent Wonga customers.

But taking out a Wonga loan could directly impact on your ability to obtain other credit or a mortgage in the future.

Peter Tutton, head of policy at debt charity StepChange, described problems with the payday loan industry as "endemic" and said there was an urgent need for reform.

"We continue to see sharp increases in the number of people seeking help with payday loan debts, and there is no evidence that this is set to change in the immediate future," said Tutton. "Poor lending practices, unaffordable rollovers and multiple borrowing are pushing many vulnerable people into an unsustainable cycle of borrowing.

"There is an obvious and urgent need for reform. The problems with the payday sector are well established, yet, despite this, we are still in a position where widespread harm to consumers is taking place. Unless there is a clear evidence of improvements in the payday loan sector within the next year, both the industry and regulators will have failed vulnerable consumers."

Payday lenders have flooded into the UK because of its lack of regulation, something that looks likely to change in coming months if the past week is anything to go by.

The Money Shot took to the hive mind of social media to canvas opinion on payday loans, and to find out whether people would take one out…

"No, because of the massive hit to the credit score. I bet in some cases it might do less harm to default on more reputable credit sources. Also, I wouldn't want to subsidise the profits of such companies!"

Simon Coopey, Newport

"Did a few times a couple of months ago! Just little bits. Felt like a right idiot doing it, but have to admit, [it was] handy at the time."

Timothy Collins, Cardiff

"I'd never use one. Initially helpful but they will get you into more bad than good with their ridiculous rates. My mate had one and took him ages to pay off."

David Francis, Bromsgrove

"They provide a potentially useful service, but are usually used by the vulnerable who may end up in a more difficult situation because of it."

Helen Seeby, Altrincham, Manchester

Short change - money news in brief

HSBC revealed it may have mis-sold investment products to up to 200,000 British customers in the latest banking scandal.

Twitter took to the New York Stock Exchange with a self-assessed value of $18bn and a share asking price of $26.

House prices saw their sharpest raise since May 2010 in October, according to Halifax. Prices rose by 6.9% and followed a 6.2% rise in September.

On Covered mag this week

In a week dominated by fireworks and oohing and aahing, Emily Bater told us why Bonfire Night is the best and David Jenkins shared a few fun facts about fireworks.

Graham Thomas asked if 4G is about to get prohibitively expensive for customers.

Abbie Laughton-Coles asked what alternatives are available to energy customers who want to jump off the big six ship and sail solo.

Who doesn't love dogs? Who doesn't love pubs? Neil Tague gives us a few dos and don'ts to get the most out of this match made in heaven.

Pug enthusiast Daniel Bevis took the Peugeot 208 GTI for a test drive to see if it lived up to its famous forebears and gave the lowdown on how to stay safe on the roads during winter.

And finally…

News that driverless cars - or "pods", as they've been coined - will invade the streets of Milton Keynes from 2017 may come as a surprise to some, but since its inception in the 1960s the conurbation has been a town of the future.

The "pods" will be tested for the first time in a UK town after the government allotted £1.5m to the project. You'll be able to book a pod through an app on your smartphone and check your emails and browse the internet while on the go.

But surely, the Money Shot muses, these "pods" are just a small step? Where are the hover cars we were promised in Star Wars and Total Recall? The flying cars in Blade Runner and Fifth Element? These "pods" are all well and good, but we want to drive around pretending to be Luke Skywalker and Bruce Willis. Blade Runner is set in Los Angeles in 2019, so Milton Keynes has got six years. We believe in you, Milton Keynes.

Join us NEXT WEEK for another THRILLING instalment of THE MONEY SHOT.