Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, one of which was Upheld and one was Not upheld.
An internet banner ad, for Cash Genie loans, which appeared on YouTube, included the text "Ask Genie up to £500", "It's Magic Why Wait?", "Fast Loans From the Genie" and "Same Day Cash".
The complainant challenged whether the ad:
1. misleadingly implied the loans would be available to anyone who applied; and
2. was misleading and irresponsible, because he believed it implied that taking out a loan was a decision that could be taken lightly.
Cash Genie Loans (CGL) said the ad was produced by an outsourced supplier with whom they had an ongoing relationship; they had, however, not asked the supplier to produce the ad and had not seen it before it appeared on YouTube. They asked for the ad to be removed immediately when they became aware of it, because they had not had the opportunity to approve it before it appeared, and the ad had been removed within 24 hours of their request, which was made before the ASA contacted them.
1. CGL said they were a responsible lender and did not believe the ad suggested that credit was available to individuals who had a poor credit history or otherwise restricted access to credit. They believed that in order for there to be an implication, there must be some reference to the subject matter of the implication. There were, however, no claims that related to the availability of credit and the ad did not, for example, claim that all circumstances were considered or that they could help when others could not. They also believed the ad did not imply CGL carried out no further credit checks or affordability assessments and that a loan was therefore guaranteed. They said it would be misleading, however, if an ad suggested no such checks were completed. CGL said there was also no reference to the existence, or absence, of any such checks in the ad and therefore there could be no implication that such checks were not made. They said most ads for credit did not include details of the checks that were made before a decision was reached. They were aware that their products might not be suited to everyone and therefore carried out appropriate checks as well as providing explanations of its products to consumers before they entered into a contract. They said that process was intended to identify consumers for whom the product was not suitable and to ensure they did not lend inappropriately.
2. CGL said it was factual to state that they would lend up to £500, that they processed applications quickly, sometimes in as little as 20 minutes, and that successful applicants who chose to have their loan funds transferred by faster payments would receive them the same day. They said Cash Genie was their brand name and therefore the references in the ad to "Genie" were to their brand identity. They said a genie was a mythical creature that had magical qualities and the reference to "magic" was also a reference to the Cash Genie brand. CGL believed consumers would understand the service was not genuinely magic and that the reference to magic was advertising puffery. They said it was not intended to suggest that the decision to obtain credit was one to be taken lightly or that consumers should treat it as such. They said the ad did not include images of consumers being flippant about the benefits or credit or the decision to enter into a credit agreement and the text "Why Wait?" conveyed the same message as the "apply now" button, which appeared in each frame of the ad. They said there was nothing in the ad that suggested consumers should borrow inappropriately, for example, for non-essential or aspirational purchases.
YouTube said they provided a platform only, and were therefore not responsible for ads that appeared on their site, and that advertisers were bound by terms and conditions to ensure they complied with applicable laws and regulations. They said they had not received any complaints about the ad, which was placed via their AdWords service. Terms and conditions also applied specifically to the AdWords service and included a policy on financial services. YouTube sent a copy of that policy and said they did not allow ads for short-term loan websites that did not include details of the implications of late payment and non-payment, a policy on responsible lending, details of the fees involved, including the APR, details of any renewal policy and contact details, or for sites that otherwise did not comply with relevant regulations. They believed the ad and CGL's website complied with the policy.
1. Not upheld
The ASA noted the ad did not state that the advertised loans would be available to all applicants and did not, for example, refer to "any circumstances" or to a loan being guaranteed. We acknowledged that it included the text "It's Magic …" but considered that that, and the overall impression of the ad, would not be understood by consumers as suggesting the loans would be available to anyone who applied. In that context, we considered consumers would understand that the outcome of a loan application would be dependent on their circumstances and would not automatically be available to, for example, those who had a poor credit rating. We therefore concluded that the ad was not misleading on this point.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) but did not find it in breach.
We considered that taking a loan was a serious step, which should be taken only following careful consideration. We also considered, however, that the tone of the ad, which included brightly coloured cartoon imagery, a fantasy character and references to magic, gave the general impression that the service offered was one that could be approached in a light-hearted manner. We considered the ad, in particular the text "Ask Genie up to £500", "It's Magic Why Wait?", "Fast Loans From the Genie" and "Same Day Cash", which emphasised the relatively small amounts available to borrow and the speed at which the loans could be obtained, was likely to be interpreted to mean that the solution to money problems was a simple one and that the decision to take the loan was an everyday occurrence that did not need to be carefully considered.
Although we acknowledged that CGL might be unable to help anyone with a poor credit rating, we considered the ad trivialised the nature of the service offered and therefore gave a misleading impression to those who were likely to qualify for it, which could include vulnerable consumers who had money problems. We concluded that the light-hearted presentation of the ad was likely to mislead about the nature and implications of the product.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility) and 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told CGL to ensure their future advertising was prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society and was not materially misleading or likely to be.