Payday lenders prey on the innocent – does Google as well?

Weekly payday roundup: 7 days ended 6th Sept 2012:

It’s no true surprise that Wonga is back in the news for more atrocities against borrowers – what else is new – but new evidence says Google may be up to no good as well.

Payday loan giant Wonga has been a target for what seems like forever, thanks to its absolutely horrid lending practices. Learning that the payday advance provider charges more than 4,200 per cent annualised interest on its financial products is usually more than enough for the average Brit to take a dim view of the company, but new reports have been rolling in that the provider of short term loans has been plaguing borrowers even after they repay their loan in full!

In what can only be described as the height of cheekiness, the lender has been inundated with more than 200 complaints recently that it’s hitting customers who repay their loans on time with ‘shadow repayments’ over and above what Wonga is entitled to collect. The lender quickly tried to downplay the issue, blaming it on a ┬ánew payments system on their and and passing the responsibility on to the borrower’s banking institution, but if you ask us it’s just one more reason not to use the lender for taking out a payday loan if you can’t help it.

No one’s really surprised by Wonga doing something else rather dastardly, but this next story was a bit of a surprise: Google was recently accused of racial profiling its Gmail ads. An investigative journalist from the Telegraph, Willard Foxton, caught wind of an experiment run in the US that involved sending emails which contained phrases such as “I need cash now,” discovering that the Gmail algorithm tended to provide different adverts for people with certain types of names, and repeated the experiment in the UK – finding some startling similarities.

A name that appeared “Western” received vastly different names than an “ethnic”-looking one, with the latter receiving email adverts for payday loan providers while the former was graced with adverts for high street lenders, according to Mr Foxton. The investigative journalist says that this provides evidence that Google is purposefully using racial profiling in its adverts, though the search engine giant was quick to deny such claims, adding they expressly do not use names or any kind of ethnic or racial information to serve ads to Gmail users – but the question remains then as why Mr Foxton got the results he did, doesn’t it?

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