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Protest by staff and students succeeds in getting loan company advert removed from DLR platform

UEL docklands campus

Protesters complained that loan company Smart Pig could plunge students into debt

By Lee Pinkerton 

Transport for London (TfL) has agreed to remove a billboard advert for a loan company from its station platform following protest by staff and students from the University of East London (UEL) and the neighbouring London Design and Engineering University Technical College (UTC).

The offending advert was for student loan company Smart Pig and occupied a highly visible position on the platform of Cyprus DLR station, which serves UEL’s Docklands campus.

Smart Pig advertises short-term loans for students at high interest rates. For example, a £350 loan over 90 days would incur £175 in fees and interest rates – 50 per cent of the sum borrowed.

Staff and students held a demonstration on the station platform on Friday, February 3, to highlight their concerns about the advert. Within days of the protest, TfL agreed to have it removed. 

UEL Senior Lecturer Dr Tim Hall, who helped organise the demonstration, said, “We’re delighted that TfL has taken this decision and we’d like to say a big ‘thank you’. We really appreciate them listening to us.”

Debbie Lindsay, manager of the University’s Student Money Advice and Rights Team (SMART), who was also at the Cyprus station demonstration along with around 20 staff and students said, “It’s an absolutely brilliant triumph for all of us. This is the correct move by TfL. It sends out the correct message about such loan companies.

“It’s important because it’s difficult for some students to manage the finances that they have, so it’s very easy for the most vulnerable to be tempted by loans which are to their detriment.”

UEL has a long history of fighting loan companies who target vulnerable students. After banning such adverts on its campuses in 2013, the following year they presented a petition to the London Borough of Newham, convincing them to extend the ban on council property. 

UEL also provides front-line help for students with their money problems. The SMART team encourage UEL students to speak to them if they are in financial difficulties and in need of advice or additional financial support from the University’s hardship funds.

Debbie Lindsay 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 and University hardship funds, students are easily tempted to seek accessible financial help from loan companies.

“These loans are extremely harmful to our students. They appear to be offering a financial helping hand but they plunge students into crippling, spiralling levels of debts. 

“These debts are unmanageable due to the extortionate rates of interest and associated charges.”