Advertising watchdog bans four ‘irresponsible’ Klarna ads

By Aisling Finn on Wednesday 23 December 2020

Alternative Lending

The four adverts were posted at the beginning of the UK’s first national lockdown, between April and May 2020.

Advertising watchdog bans four ‘irresponsible’ Klarna ads
Image source: Klarna

Buy-now-pay-later giant Klarna has come under fire from the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) as a result of an influencer campaign.

Complaints made by Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow, pushed the ASA to ban four ads for “irresponsibly encouraging the use of Klarna’s deferred payment service.”

The advertising watchdog said that the adverts were especially reckless for linking Klarna’s buy-now-pay-later services with “lifting or boosting mood.”

A spokesperson for Klarna said in a statement: "We are of course disappointed in this decision and have removed the four posts highlighted by the ASA. We understand our obligations and take our role as an advertiser extremely seriously,  particularly in the context of supporting responsible spending and financial well-being during what’s been a unique and challenging year for UK consumers.”

The statement went on to add that Klarna was trying to "recognise the mood of many of our consumers at the start of the first lockdown" and despite "the best of intentions, we missed the mark with the four posts."

All four adverts were posted between April and May 2020, with all adverts making “references to purchasing beauty or clothing items to help with “lifting” or “boosting” one’s mood during the pandemic and lockdown.”

Of the decision, Stella Creasy MP, said: “I complained to the ASA about the adverts companies like Klarna use because – just as with payday lenders- pushing people to spend money to make themselves feel better is irresponsible, but especially in a pandemic with so many people are losing their jobs and struggling with being at home, it's downright immoral.”

“I’m pleased the ASA agree these adverts have to stop but ultimately these companies are able to do this because they fall through a loophole in our credit regulation.”

Creasy is currently spearheading a cross-party campaign to urge the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to regulate BNPL firms, like Klarna. 

The proposal has been signed by MPs from all major parties in parliament including Conservative MP Paul Maynard, SNP MP Alison Thewlis, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine MP and the campaign also has support from founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, Martin Lewis.

Speaking about the ASA’s decision, Lewis said: “Buy now, pay later (BNPL) shouldn’t be sold as a lifestyle choice, something cool, or a new high-tech way to pay. It should be seen for what it is – a debt.”

“The ASA is right to rule on the back of Stella Creasy’s complaint that ‘mood-boosting’ advertising for a credit product, often targeted at younger adults, is wholly inappropriate.”

As a result of Klarna’s rapidly expanding empire—the fintech is the highest valued in Europe at $10.65bn—there have been an increasing number of calls to regulate the BNPL sector as it is largely unregulated here in the UK.

Just two weeks ago, Capital One became the first major bank to block buy-now-pay-later transactions on its credit cards, labelling such transactions as “risky for customers and the banks that serve them.”

UPDATE 23-12-2020 - This article was updated to include the statement from Klarna.

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Companies in this Article:

Financial Conduct Authority
Klarna