East London students have voiced their anger at the presence of an advert for a payday loan company which targets their cash-strapped colleagues.
And their campaign met with immediate success as TfL is now removing the billboard.
Senior lecturer Dr Timothy Hall said: “The university has a close relationship with Transport for London (TfL). The aim of the action will simply be to bring this to TfL’s attention and ask them to be respectful of our issues and values.”
UEL says it has a long history of fighting the loan companies which target vulnerable students. Adverts are banned on campus and students have presented a petition to Newham Council to extend the ban across the borough.
Smart Pig advertises short-term loans at high interest rates. For example, a £350 loan over 90 days would incur £175 in fees and interest rates, 50% of the sum borrowed. The APR is 1190% based on £100 for 37 days.
UEL has its own dedicated unit – Smart – to look after students with financial problems.
Debbie Lindsay, manager of the Smart team , said: “The National Student Money Survey 2016/17 identifies that on average, students can experience up to a £250 shortfall each month.
“Without the help of parental contributions, employment, savings or hardship funds, students are easily tempted to seek accessible financial help from payday loans.
“These are extremely harmful to our students, as they appear to be a financial helping hand, however plunge students into crippling, spiral levels of debts. These debts are unmanageable due to the extortionate rates of interest and associated charges.”
A TfL spokesperson said: “Following feedback on this advert, we have instructed our agents to remove it.”
A Smart-Pig spokesman said: “Smart-Pig was started by two students, one of whom who had experienced serious debt problems with a payday lender at university, in order to give students a better deal.
“A Smart-Pig loan normally costs a few tens of pounds, and even if a customer defaults on our loans, they can never cost more 50% of the amount borrowed.
“Our loans can never cost anywhere close to 1190% – this is a quirk of the APR calculation, which was not designed for loans shorter than a year.
“Smart-Pig was designed to be a short term solution for students needing a little extra cash to pay for such things as travel, food or unexpected costs that may arise before their next student loan payment arrives.
“We are here to help in the event that the student cannot borrow this money from elsewhere or finds it more expensive to borrow from another source.”
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