Controversial payday loan outfit Wonga has bowed to pressure from student groups and consumer campaigners and removed inducements aimed at undergraduates from its Web site following a storm of criticism over its tactics in targeting debt-laden students.
In the student loans section of its Web site, the controversial lender claimed that: "Student loans are usually far cheaper than your standard personal loan. But there can be a downside - you potentially end up borrowing more than you need, while a nasty debt accumulates for your graduation that could take years to repay."
The firm stresses that it encourages "responsible lending" but adds: "When your mates tell you about finding a deal on plane tickets to the Canary Islands, you've got some options. Maybe you don't have the money to pay for the whole thing now, but you will when you get your wages at the end of the week. Enter Wonga!"
The section kicked off a storm of protest, becoming a hot topic on Twitter where money saving expert Martin Lewis branded Wonga a "moral disgrace". MP Stella Creasy - who has long been campaigning against payday loan firms and their "legal loan sharking" - also took up the cause.
Pete Mercer, VP (welfare), NUS, hit out at the firm, arguing: "It is highly irresponsible of any company to suggest to students that high-cost short-term loans be a part of their everyday financial planning...Wonga should immediately withdraw this predatory marketing, which contains information that appears to be inaccurate, and is aimed at financially vulnerable young people."
Wonga has now removed the advice, replacing it with a statement, claiming it "gave rise to misunderstandings". A spokesman told the BBC that the lender was not "actively targeting" students and any that applied for loans would undergo "the same rigorous checks we perform on all applications".