This Ruling forms part of a wider piece of work on social responsibility in ads for loans offered for Christmas, identified for investigation following intelligence gathered by the ASA. See also related ruling published on 28 February 2024.

Ad description

A paid-for Meta ad for Capital Credit Union, seen on 14 November 2023, featured text which stated “With a hassle-free Christmas Loan, you can take the stress out of Christmas. Cherish every moment of the holidays, without fretting over your budget, by taking advantage of an affordable loan”. Text below stated “[Father Christmas emoji] Loans from 6.9% to 26.8% APR*. [Father Christmas emoji] Borrow from as little as £50 [Father Christmas emoji] Repay from 3 months to 10 years*”. Underneath was an image of someone wearing Christmas socks with their feet put up beside a hot drink and text that stated TAKE THE STRESS OUT OF THE FESTIVE SEASON WITH A HASSLE-FREE CHRISTMAS LOAN” with an “Apply Now” call to action button below.


The ASA challenged whether the ad irresponsibly encouraged consumers to spend more than they could afford by taking out a loan to fund Christmas spending.


Capital Credit Union Ltd said they immediately removed the ad from circulation on receiving notification of the ASA's investigation and they had reviewed their other ads. They said credit unions were not-for-profit co-operatives that were capped by law in what they could charge their members in relation to loan rates, so they did not fall into the category of high-cost lenders. A considerable number of their members were living on benefits and many would also be classed as ‘working poor’. They offered access to low cost, affordable loans to help them build financial resilience.

Capital Credit Union said there was inevitably a pressure on all households during the festive period. That would be felt even more acutely by those who had the fewest financial options, because they were not considered credit worthy by the mainstream banks and were restricted in who they could reach out to for support. For many of their members, the only way they could have a Christmas was by borrowing a small amount from a credit union.

The use of the term “hassle-free” was to acknowledge that loan applications to the credit union were simple and those applying would not be stressed by the application process, which was a common issue for those with poor credit ratings. Doorstep, payday and illegal lenders were attractive because of the ease and speed at which people could apply for, and receive funds, but were not in their best interests. Credit unions therefore needed to send strong messages that their credit services were “hassle-free".

When people borrowed from a credit union, they also had access to savings accounts, other types of lending and financial education. Their loans helped people rebuild their credit history and made it easier to access affordable loans in the future. The alternatives would be high-cost lenders, payday lenders and predatory and illegal lenders, which could have the most detrimental impact on the financially vulnerable. They did not believe the ad was irresponsible and they took seriously their role in providing a social service to those who had the fewest financial choices and worked closely with partners such as Fair 4 All Finance, the Department for Work and Pensions and both Westminster and Scottish governments.



The ASA acknowledged that credit unions were often the only option of financial assistance for many consumers who would not be considered creditworthy by mainstream banks and who might otherwise turn to high-cost or illegal money lenders to obtain credit. We also understood that credit unions provided services which helped their members build their credit rating. However, as with any credit provider, consumers would be required to repay what they had borrowed, with interest, and there would be consequences if repayments were not made on time. The ad promoted Capital Credit Union’s Christmas loan and we therefore focused our assessment on whether the ad presented that product responsibly.

We acknowledged Christmas was a time when people did need extra money to cover additional costs such as buying gifts, extra food to celebrate Christmas Day or travel expenses incurred by visiting family. We also acknowledged that the ad included information about the range of loan interest rates, repayment durations and the minimum amount that could be borrowed.

The ad featured the claims “With a hassle-free Christmas Loan, you can take the stress out of Christmas” and “TAKE THE STRESS OUT OF THE FESTIVE SEASON WITH A HASSLE-FREE CHRISTMAS LOAN”. We noted Capital Credit Union's comment that the claim "hassle-free" was intended as a reference to the loan application process. However, we considered that the claims implied that taking out Capital Credit Union’s Christmas loan could make celebrating Christmas stress-free because it was an easy and hassle-free way to obtain additional funds to spend during the festive season. The ad also stated, “Cherish every moment of the holidays, without fretting over your budget” and featured an image of a person with their feet put up, relaxing with a hot drink. We considered that reinforced the impression that by taking out a Christmas loan, consumers would be able to avoid any of the financial worry associated with Christmas. They could also spend more than they would otherwise be able to afford, without the need to stick to a budget. We considered that the combination of the claims and imagery made light of the decision to take on a debt and encouraged consumers to use a loan to overspend at Christmas.

We acknowledged that Capital Credit Union said the ad had been withdrawn. However, for the reasons stated, we concluded that the ad encouraged the taking out of a loan to fund Christmas spending in a way that was irresponsible, and therefore breached the Code.

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 (Responsible advertising).


The ad must not appear again the form complained of. We told Capital Credit Union Ltd to ensure that future ads did not irresponsibly encourage excessive spending through the use of credit, particularly in relation to Christmas spending.

CAP Code (Edition 12)


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