This past spring, Google announced that it would no longer allow payday loans to appear on the search engine. The tech titan stated that payday loans with excessive interest rates or unfair lending practices would be categorized as other illicit activities as selling guns, explosives and drugs. Google was celebrated for its fight against a very unpopular and controversial alternative financial product.
Has the search engine juggernaut followed through on its pledge? Reports suggest that it has not.
Five months after the website said it would exclude payday loans from its advertising system, payday loans are still popping up. The Washington Examiner reports that websites like CashNetUSA and GoInstallmentLoans are still advertising short-term, high-interest, small-dollar loans that fall outside the rules that Google has imposed in order to prohibit payday loan firms from marketing their products.
Simply put: search engine users will still see ads for results for “payday loans” or “need cash fast.”
According to Search Engine Land, there are still advertisers highlighting landing pages from Google ads that state they are complying with the new rules. However, reporters scanned the fine print for the payday loans, which show that they are just tools to get around the new payday loan policy.
It cited one passage from LoansOfSuccess.com, which informs the visitor:
“LoansOfSuccess cannot guarantee any APR, since we are a lending network. Though a Representative APR can range between 5.99 – 35.99%. The Maximum APR is 35.99. When accepting a loan from a lender, the lender can provide a different APR than our range. Please check the loan disclosure before approving and signing the agreement for your loan.”
Ultimately, in some cases, payday loan companies are in direct violation of the Google policy. Others, meanwhile, are taking advantage of other advertising methods, including call-only Google ads. Then there are the websites who don’t advertise their payday loan services but they rely Google search traffic which doesn’t seem to be affected by this “ban”.
What does Google say about these reports? Here is what one spokesperson told the news outlet:
“We continue to implement our policy and will take action on ads and advertisers that are not in compliance. These actions include removing ads and permanently banning advertisers from using AdWords.”
Thus far, Google has apparently rejected more than three million policy-violating ads.
Ostensibly, Google has achieved two things: payday lenders are further masking their actual products and terms of agreement, which could make things worse. The website is also about to play a game of whack-a-mole. Indeed, the search engine behemoth will play a role in a Sisyphean tragedy.
An array of other search engines have yet to impose similar restrictions on payday loan advertisers. Microsoft Bing, for instance, has refrained from instituting bans, but it has warned that payday loan ads tend to make compliance far more difficult. Even Facebook is looking to limit payday loan firms’ reach.
Today, not only do payday loan companies in the United States have to combat the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the vast number of jurisdictions looking to rein in the industry, they also have to enter into a fierce battle with Google. And you know that it’s nearly impossible to win with either entities!