Elevate Credit International, which trades as Sunny Loans, has been told by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that it must not run one of its TV ads again as it breaches rules on incentivising people to apply for credit.
This follows the banning of another of its ads earlier in the year.
The TV ad for Sunny Loans, seen on 13 May 2018, promoted information about their short-term loans. It featured a scene where several vehicles on top of a tow truck were being pulled along the road by a man on roller blades. A male voice-over said, “Life’s a funny one. All smooth until one day this happens. So it’s cool when there’s someone to turn to when you need some emergency cash. At Sunny they don’t charge fees at all. What you pay is crystal clear.” Small on-screen text stated “Subject to status. T&Cs apply. 18+ Representative 1291% APR”. A female voice-over and large on-screen text stated “Loans with no fees from £100”.
The complainant challenged whether the ad breached the Code because the representative APR (Annual Percentage Rate) was not given adequate prominence as required.
Elevate Credit International believed the size, clarity and duration of the representative annual percentage rate (RAPR) was of equal prominence to the matters that triggered the requirement.
They maintained it was inaccurate to describe the text in the ad as “small”. They said the RAPR was 22 TV lines high, larger than the minimum required and larger than other on-screen text. They pointed out that the text was white on a black background within a footer to create further clarity and prominence.
They also pointed out that the text was held on screen continuously for 17 seconds, starting immediately upon the reference to emergency cash and throughout the reference to no fees. They believed that 17-second duration of hold of the RAPR was significant compared to the references to the incentives, which were cumulatively referenced for approximately five seconds, and held on screen for two seconds.
Clearcast believed the RAPR was sufficiently prominent. They said prominence of an RAPR was difficult to measure and they had spent a lot of time and discussion on the question of prominence. They said the RAPR in the ad was not in small on-screen text. They maintained that it was considerably larger than the other text on screen and the characters of the text were thicker and whiter.
They provided a copy of a document from the advertiser’s legal advisers which had been submitted to them as part of the clearance process.
The ASA noted that CONC rules 3.5.7 (1) (c) and (2) stated that an ad must include a representative APR (RAPR) if it included, amongst other elements, an incentive to apply for credit, and the RAPR must be given no less prominence than the incentive to apply for credit.
The ad watchdog considered that the voice-over claim “At Sunny they don’t charge fees at all” and the claim “Loans with no fees from £100” which appeared both in the voice-over and in on-screen text in the main body of the ad were incentives to apply for credit as outlined in CONC rule 3.5.7 (1) (c). As such, the ad was required to include an RAPR with no less prominence than the incentive to apply for credit.
The ASA noted that the RAPR appeared in on-screen text only and that it appeared as white text on a black background at the bottom of the screen for a duration of 17 seconds. The regulator acknowledged that it was slightly larger than other on-screen text which appeared alongside it. It considered that despite the fact that the RAPR was on screen for a longer period, the incentive was more prominent because it was included in the voice-over, whereas the RAPR only appeared in on-screen text, and the text “Loans with no fees from £100” appeared in the main body of the ad and was in larger and bolder font than the APR, which only appeared at the bottom of the screen.
The ASA concluded that because the RAPR was given less prominence than the incentive to apply for credit, the ad breached rule 14.11 (Lending and credit) of the Code.
The watchdog ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form. It told Elevate Credit International to ensure that in future ads, the RAPR is given no less prominence than the incentive to apply for credit.