Two cheers for Google’s ban on payday loan ads | Payday loans
SSuccessive UK governments have refused to cap very high interest rates, which is how we allowed Wonga to charge its poor borrowers up to 5.853%. Then this week, Google is shocking everyone by banning ads for payday loans above 36% APR. It tells you a lot about who really runs the world today.
The search engine giant doesn’t ban the products itself, and they can still show up on results pages. It also appears that the 36% only applies to the United States, but however it works, it is a blow to expensive loan merchants. I typed “instant loan” into Google this week, and half of the ads, taking up most of the top half of the screen, were from payday loan companies pushing loans over 36%: Sunny was at 979% (that will wipe the smile off anybody’s face) and UK Loans had Satsuma at 1,575%.
However, the credit card companies are off the hook. Google says “revolving lines of credit” such as credit cards are exempt from its 36% limit. Either way, when I researched cards for people with less than perfect credit histories, I found ads for Capital One’s Classic Card at 34.9%, Aqua Card at 35.9%. % and Marbles at 33.8%. I suspect Google set the level at 36% to make sure it still captures ad revenue from most credit card transactions in the developed world.
But let’s not be rude. This type of decision takes Google back to its old “don’t be mean” corporate days and is a welcome turnaround from a few years ago. In 2013 and 2014, we exhibited the scourge of “copier” websites trick people into paying too much for free or low cost government services. People who typed “driver’s license renewal”, “Ehic card” or even “HMRC tax” into Google were drawn to sites where they got scammed for up to £ 500.
Shamefully, Google dragged its feet on the subject, and it was only after intense pressure from us and government agencies that it pulled the ads. By banning most payday loan announcements – it goes into effect July 13 – Google risks taking a much bigger hit on its earnings. It could also change the market, with suppliers being incentivized to reduce their prices to more reasonable levels.
Google needs to know that its brand is no longer loved and needs to be more consumer-friendly. “Financial services is an area that we are taking a very close look at because we want to protect users from deceptive or harmful financial products,” he says now, and who would dispute that?
But Google, while you’re at it, can you remove any other nasty ads as well? Type in “Ryanair” and at the top is always a boring “Ryanair Flight on eDreams” link. Click on it and you are almost guaranteed to pay more for your flight (eg £ 39.70 for a Ryanair flight to Dublin vs. £ 25.19 on the Ryanair website, paying by Visa debit card). Please dispose of it. It’s only cheaper if you have a Maltese prepaid card (yes, that’s right).
This is my problem with Google. What’s yours?
We’ve had enough of the silence about TalkTalk data breaches
Surely it is time for the Information Commissioner’s Office to break its silence on what happened at TalkTalk last year? So far, we know that there has been a series of data breaches and that at least 157,000 customers have gained access to their accounts. We also know that a significant number of customers have been duped by fraudsters posing as TalkTalk staff. This week I got a call from another victim who had just lost £ 2,000. TalkTalk has repeatedly denied responsibility, but how long can it maintain that position – ethically, if not legally?
This week we learned that the fallout from the data breach has helped TalkTalk’s profits drop by half to £ 14million. Victims are now waiting for the ICO to comment on what really happened in the media organization in 2015, when they may begin to demand reimbursement for their massive losses. And if TalkTalk persists in blocking their claims, class action lawyers won’t be far behind.