2 November 2011
The ombudsman urges the Market Court to impose a € 50.000 penalty payment on a payloan company OPR-Vakuus, the reason being that OPR-Vakuus has continued marketing its Pikavippi.fi payday loans illegally.
OPR-Vakuus Oy has been marketing its Pikavippi.fi payday loan with the help of thousands of billboards in tens of locations for months now. The ombudsman intervened in March 2011 because the advertisements did not have all the information that is required by the law. The ads didn't, for example, have information about the interest on the loan or about the combined final cost for the loan and other costs involved.
A loan has long-term consequences for a consumer's finances. For this reason, it is not acceptable to influence the consumer's decision-making by improper methods such as hiding the loan conditions or its total costs.
After discussions with the ombudsman, OPR-Vakuus had the ads removed and made a commitment not to have another similar campaign. Soon after this, however, the company launched a new campaign, the billboards for which were quite similar to the earlier ones. The ads now told about the terms and conditions of the loan, but the text at the bottom margin of the ads was so small that it was practically impossible to read the text from the viewing distance.
In March 2011, the ombudsman forbade OPR-Vakuus to continue their marketing which did not, in an easily perceivable manner and clearly, display all the information required by the law. The prohibition was toughened by a € 50,000 penalty payment. In spite of that, OPR-Vakuus again launched a new billboard campaign, in which the information is presented unreadably at the bottom margin of the ads. For example, it is not possible to see the information from a moving vehicle.
As OPR-Vakuus has continued illegal marketing in spite of the injunction, the ombudsman demands that the Market Court sentence the company to pay the € 50,000 penalty payment and uphold the injunction against the company at the same time increasing the amount of the penalty payment. Another alternative is that the Market Court orders a similar new prohibition for OPR-Vakuus, rendering it more effective by a € 100,000 penalty payment.
OPR Vakuus is just another example of the impervious and irresponsible activities taking place in the field of payday loans. The ombudsman (or maybe the Finnish Consumer Agency as a whole?) thus regards it important that the goal to toughen the legislation, as presented in the Government program, will be realized. Because some of the companies offering payday loans the way OPR-Vakuus does and not abiding by the law, more efficient and stronger sanctions alongside are needed in addition.