Digital Interfaces and Debt: understanding mediated decision making processes in high cost short term credit products

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: School of Arts and Cultures

Abstract

The HCSTC market in the UK has shown huge growth over the past five years. The cash and pay day loan market (a well publicised part of HCSTC) is now estimated to be worth £2 billion pounds a year (CMA, 2015). Part of the expansion of the HCSTC market is a shift in how this credit is accessed. In the case of cash and pay day loans, previously, customers would have to phone or call into a branch of a cash or pay day loan company to apply for a loan. With the rise of internet enabled devices and internet access, HCSTC companies have developed websites and mobile applications, where customers can apply through automated systems and receive decisions about the status of their loan very quickly. The ease and speed of using these systems has led to a situation in which 82% of all cash and pay day loans in the UK are applied for and approved online (Competition and Markets Authority, 2015).
This project seeks to understand how the design of HCSTC websites and applications as well as the spaces and times in which these loans are applied for influence consumers decision making processes when applying for loans. Understanding the relationship between digital interfaces used to access HCSTC and decision making processes associated with these devices is important due to problematic nature of much HCSTC debt. HCSTC is problematic because it provides easy credit to those that can least afford it and is incredibly expensive, with high APR's and penalties for late payment. Indeed recent legislation has been created to regulate the financial terms of parts of the HCSTC market, such as cash and pay day loan companies. This regulation has included limits on the total APR and total cost of penalties for late payment of loans. However, no in-depth academic research has been conducted on:
1. How HCSTC websites and apps (including cash, pay day, guarantor and log book loans) are designed to shape decision making processes around taking a loan.
2. How the design of HCSTC websites and apps encourage, smooth or normalize processes of taking a loan in practice.
3. How the spaces and times where digital devices are used to access these sites and applications might impact these decision making processes in practice.
This is an important omission, considering that 82% of these loans are accessed via digital interfaces (CMA, 2015).
To investigate this issue, the research uses qualitative methods to study three groups.
1. Website and app designers. This part of the project will investigate the techniques involved in designing HCSTC websites and apps. Through 2 days of observation of designers at the App World and Consumer Credit conferences and 10 interviews the project will understand how designers discuss and reflect upon their own practices in relation to mobile website and app design. Through interviews with designers the project will investigate how websites are designed in an attempt to prime consumer decision making processes regarding taking a loan or buying a product.
2. Staff from debt advice charities, including The Debt Advice Foundation, Citizen's Advice Bureau and financial regulators including The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Through 10 interviews, this part of the project will seek to understand how members of staff from debt advice services understand the role of digital interfaces in shaping their clients practices and whether they give advice regarding the use of digital devices to their clients.
3. HCSTC website and app users in Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK. This aspect of the project will seek to understand how people experience and use HCSTC products. Through data gathered in 40 interviews the project will fill the gap in knowledge around how these interfaces influence decision making processes of customers and produce evidence-based recommendations regarding the implications of digital interface design on forms of problem debt enabled by HCSTC.

Planned Impact

The research will benefit a number of organisations by filling important gaps in understanding how digital interfaces and mobile devices are designed to shape users decision making processes and how the intentions of these designs work in practice. The beneficiaries are:

1. Debt advice charities and money advice services in the UK working on issues surrounding debt and money advice. The project will work closely with The Debt Advice Foundation, Citizen's Advice Bureau and Money Matters Service Newcastle (see letters of support attached). The project team will meet with these partners at the beginning of the research and disseminate the findings through training and project workshops (see pathways to impact document). A recommendation report will be written to specifically communicate key advice regarding possible interventions that charities and public sector organisations could make in advising clients about how they access HCSTC. In addition to this, the research team will also create a user friendly 'summary of implication' report and a set of short briefing notes for advisors and staff working in the debt advice sector. These resources will be professionally designed and printed and disseminated through the partners' networks.
Alongside this report, a website will be built and the recommendation reports published there, ensuring that they can be accessed by any interested parties. The website will be supplemented by a professionally designed mobile optimized website that provides interactive elements to highlight how web design techniques are used to prime consumer decision making in relation to HCSTC. The site will be beneficial as a training tool for debt charities and financial organisations (see pathways to impact document for details).
2. Individuals who are vulnerable to problems associated with debt. All participants of the project will be invited to discuss their involvement in the project through confidential feedback sessions. In order to maintain their confidentiality, this will be done over the phone or in person, depending on the wishes of the individual. This discussion would provide participants a right to reply to the research findings, reflect on how they were represented in the research and respond to the recommendations of the report (see activity 3 of pathways to impact document). As discussed in the ethics section, if respondents wish to engage in feedback sessions then information will be provided about independent organisations they can contact if the sessions raise any distressing issues. Reflective responses from the participants will be incorporated into the recommendation report, summary of implications report and briefing notes, which will be made accessible on the project website. An advice page published on the website will also offer short pieces of advice that are drawn from the longer recommendation and summary of implications report, which will be designed to feed back key aspects of the research to help aid practical decision making processes to members of the public. The professionally designed website (discussed above) will also be targeted at HCSTC users and provide interactive information about the problems associated with HCSTC in order to aid responsible decision making.
3. Financial regulators and governmental and public sector organisations. The recommendations report, summary of implication report and short briefing notes generated in light of the empirical data collected through the project, will be written to directly inform policy makers about the potential policy implications that the research raises and will be professionally designed and produced and disseminated to relevant bodies. The project will also have its own Twitter page that connects and communicates with key actors, such as FCA and CMA. The PI's media office will also construct and disseminate relevant press releases regarding the findings of the research to key organisations and policy makers.

Publications

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Anderson B (2019) Affective life and cultural economy: Payday loans and the everyday space-times of credit-debt in the UK in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

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Ash J (2018) Digital interface design and power: Friction, threshold, transition in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

 
Description The project has generated three main achievements. The first is significant new knowledge around the role digital interfaces play in how people access and manage credit and debt. Specifically, the research found that the spaces and times within which consumers apply for and use credit matter. For instance, product choice, loan amount and credit use are intimately tied to the circumstances people are in at the time of application. However, while advertised as a convenient benefit by high cost credit companies, digital access to credit at any time and from anywhere is problematic. This is because being able to access credit anywhere and at any time fails to address the root cause of borrowing by simply deferring consumer need for, or worries about, money to 'another time and place'. In turn, the speed and ease of access to digital credit can produce and reinforce financially harmful behaviours, such as impulsive borrowing and spending. Our research found that digital access to credit increases instances of borrowing because it gives consumers a heightened sense of anonymity and privacy when compared to more traditional face-to-face or telephone-based financial services. Finally, our research showed that the use of personal digital devices to access and manage credit relations intensifies damaging feelings of anxiety, pressure and guilt for consumers (Langley et al 2019, Anderson et al 2019).

Second, the research developed new research methods to analyse digital interfaces. Looking at interfaces as sets of objects (Ash et al 2018a), rather than texts or discourses alone, we have shown how interfaces can be analysed to identify particular mechanisms that work to alter decision making and how they alter decision making (Ash et al 2018b).

Third, the research opened up new research questions around the relationship between digital devices and the digitization of finance and money beyond high cost credit. As people's relationships with money becomes ever more mediated by digital interfaces and devices, such as banking apps and other financial products, online shopping, gambling apps and gaming it is important to understand how those interfaces and devices serve to mediate and alter how people think about, manage and understand their money and finances. This is especially the case considering evidence from our research shows that digital interfaces are not neutral mediums used to access money, but become central to how that money is understood and used.
Exploitation Route The outcomes from the research will be taken forward by at least three audiences. First, the research has been used by national and regional debt advice charities and organisations that focus on financial issues (Citizens Advice, Money Advice Scotland, Clean Slate, Quaker Social Action). The project has created a smart phone app entitled 'Indebted Life' and training materials that have been used by a range of organisations (Money Advice Scotland, Clean Slate) to educate clients on the role digital devices play in shaping decision making processes when accessing credit. Second, outcomes have been taken forward by academics. Published papers from the project significantly advance debates around the role interfaces play in shaping financial decision making (Ash et al 2018a), methods to study interfaces and analyse how they influence decision making (Ash et al 2018b) and how the digitization of credit alters people's understandings of the relationship between money and credit (Langley et al, 2019, Anderson et al 2019). Third, the research could be taken forward by financial regulators, including the CMA and FCA. The project report (available from URL above) included recommendations for further regulation of the high cost credit market, with an emphasis on how digital interfaces can be regulated to slow down decision making to discourage impulsive borrowing.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Financial Services, and Management Consultancy

URL http://www.debtinterfaces.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/REPORT-Digital-Interfaces-and-Debt-HCSTC-online-Newcastle-University-ESRC-March-2018.pdf
 
Description The research has had a significant national impact in a range of areas. Specifically, the research has directly led to increasing the availability of affordable credit to low-income borrowers across the UK and altering how debt advice is given in relation to high cost credit across a range of organisations and charities in England and Scotland, including Citizens Advice, Money Advice Scotland, Money Advice Trust, Wiser Advisor and the Institute of Money Advisors. Details of this impact are provided below. 1. Impact on increasing the availability of affordable credit to low-income borrowers across the UK. The team worked with the Financial Inclusion Centre, GRE Consulting, London Mutual Credit Union, and Lewisham Plus Credit Union on the launch of a new digital credit platform (JustBorrow) that specifically targets low-income borrowers and allows them to borrow quickly and easily without the costs associated with high-cost credit. This involved: 1. the co-delivery of a workshop with stakeholders to identify ways in which the research could be used to improve the usability and functionality of JustBorrow; 2. collaborative user testing of the platform between the research team at Newcastle University and stakeholders; 3. the production of a final recommendations report for web developers. This utilised interview material with high-cost credit users and UI and UX designers from the original research. Impact was delivered by addressing a specific problem experienced by JustBorrow stakeholders, which was how to design a digital platform that could compete with high-cost lenders and appeal to consumers as a viable alternative. This led to direct improvements of the platform, including real-time calculation of total loan cost on the loan slider, repositioning of buttons to gain prominence and clarity, improved tone of voice, clearer application form presentation, and live application form guidance to improve consumer understanding. The evidence provided by the research has helped the JustBorrow team recruit new credit unions to extend the reach to new communities, thus benefiting more consumers with the increased availability of more affordable short-term credit. 2. Impact on debt advice giving The research has directly improved debt advisors' understanding of consumer borrowing decisions, to help them to better understand the significance of digital access to credit for increasing instances of impulse borrowing and night-time borrowing, especially for vulnerable consumers, when giving advice and support. Specifically: a) The research directly led to the development of an online training and educational tool called Indebted Life (see Software & Technical Products). The tool, which is available as a browser game and app via the App Store and Google Play, follows the lives of three characters thinking about taking out a loan online. The game has two primary aims: 1. As an intervention in the HCSTC market, to give consumers the space to think and consider their borrowing decision (in a market that is focused on speed and immediate access to credit) and 2. As a training tool, to educate debt advisers about consumer borrowing for use in advice sessions. A training guide for Indebted Life was produced based on interviews with national debt advice organisations (StepChange, Money and Mental Health), national consumer advice organisations (Citizens Advice), and local housing associations (Karbon Homes, Your Homes Newcastle). b) Dr James Ash co-designed and co-delivered an online training webinar for Wiseradviser, the training arm of the Money Advice Trust. Wiseradviser provides training and support to debt advisers in the UK and is accredited by the Money Advice Service Quality Framework. The webinar was based entirely on the research findings and is available as a CPD resource (worth one CPD point) for money advisers to access at their will. 72 advisers have so far accessed the webinar (June 2019). 92% of advisers who completed feedback rated the webinar as Good or Excellent. 92% of advisers said that the webinar improved or refreshed their knowledge on the topic. c) The research directly led to the reframing of an Institute of Money Advisers course for money advisors. The previously titled Sub Prime Lending course has been renamed High Cost Credit to reflect the changing landscape of UK credit services. The evidence-based findings were incorporated into the training, focusing in particular on who borrows high-cost credit and the reasons why people borrow. Feedback from the course writer said that the research findings made them rethink the reach of the high-cost credit market in terms of people affected (not just those in poverty but also those in work) and the significance of online credit access (its ease, availability, and speed). To date, 46 money advisers have attended the updated High Cost Credit course and feedback has been positive. Approximately 70 money advisers will attend and benefit from the course during 2020. d) The co-development and co-delivery of financial wellbeing sessions for practitioners and members of the public has been achieved in partnership with Clean Slate Financial Wellbeing Services CIC. Our specific contribution was content that covered: 1. How digital access to credit is changing where and when people apply for and use credit and their experiences of indebtedness; 2. How high-cost credit changes people's relationship with money, credit, and debt; 3. Real-life experiences of people who use high-cost credit and its consequences; 4. How high-cost credit providers deliberately use design techniques to shape consumer decision-making. We also facilitated interactive exercises involving the Indebted Life tool. Delegates included practitioners of varying roles who work with people in the community. Some of these have taken on the role of 'Financial Wellbeing Champions' as a result of the course delivered by Clean Slate, thus implementing learning to help people they come into contact with who may be facing money and debt issues. We also demonstrated how Indebted Life could be used in one-to-one and group settings. All practitioners said that they would use the tool in their work. To date, 20 people have attended these sessions. e) The Indebted Life tool, and the activities the research team designed, have been used in other settings, including by Money Advice Scotland in secondary school outreach work. A result of this impact work has been national media coverage in The Times (print and online), BBC News (online), BBC Radio 4 Moneybox, BBC Radio Oxford, and BBC Radio Newcastle, specifically around the call for improved regulation on night-time borrowing and on the current state of the high-cost short-term credit market. The research directly led to invitations to speak at a series of events, including the Centre for Responsible Credit (CfRC) Annual Conference 'Improving Financial Health: New Approaches and Innovations' (London, October 2017), the New Economics Foundation roundtable on household debt write-off (LSE, London, June 2017), the Newcastle Advice Compact (a partnership between Newcastle City Council and specialist third sector organisations working on reducing problem debt) (April 2018), and the Payback? e-conference (July 2018). The research has been widely disseminated in the credit industry through articles published for the Institute of Money Advisers Quarterly Account (Autumn 2017), the Consumer Credit Trade Association (CCTA) Consumer Credit Magazine (Autumn 2017), and in the charity sector through various invited blog posts (e.g. Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (May 2018), Debt Support Trust, (June 2019)) (See Engagement Activities).
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Reframing of an Institute of Money Advisers course for money advisors
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The research directly led to the reframing of an Institute of Money Advisers course for money advisors (https://www.i-m-a.org.uk/course/high-cost-credit/). The previously titled Sub Prime Lending course has been renamed High Cost Credit to reflect the changing landscape of UK credit services. The evidence-based findings were incorporated into the training, focusing in particular on who borrows high-cost credit and the reasons why people borrow. Feedback from the course writer said that the research findings made them rethink the reach of the high-cost credit market in terms of people affected (not just those in poverty but also those in work) and the significance of online credit access (its ease, availability, and speed). To date, 46 money advisers have attended the updated High Cost Credit course and feedback has been positive. Approximately 70 money advisers will attend and benefit from the course during 2020.
URL https://www.i-m-a.org.uk/course/high-cost-credit/
 
Description co-designed and co-delivered an online training webinar for Wiseradviser, the training arm of the Money Advice Trust
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Dr James Ash co-designed and co-delivered an online training webinar for Wiseradviser, the training arm of the Money Advice Trust. Wiseradviser provides training and support to debt advisers in the UK and is accredited by the Money Advice Service Quality Framework. The webinar was based entirely on the research findings and is available as a CPD resource (worth one CPD point) for money advisers to access at their will. 72 advisers have so far accessed the webinar (June 2019). 92% of advisers who completed feedback rated the webinar as Good or Excellent. 92% of advisers said that the webinar improved or refreshed their knowledge on the topic.
URL http://www.wiseradviser.org/england-and-wales/cpd
 
Description co-development and co-delivery of financial wellbeing sessions for practitioners and members of the public has been achieved in partnership with Clean Slate Financial Wellbeing Services CIC
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The co-development and co-delivery of financial wellbeing sessions for practitioners and members of the public has been achieved in partnership with Clean Slate Financial Wellbeing Services CIC. Our specific contribution was content that covered: 1. How digital access to credit is changing where and when people apply for and use credit and their experiences of indebtedness; 2. How high-cost credit changes people's relationship with money, credit, and debt; 3. Real-life experiences of people who use high-cost credit and its consequences; 4. How high-cost credit providers deliberately use design techniques to shape consumer decision-making. We also facilitated interactive exercises involving the Indebted Life tool. Delegates included practitioners of varying roles who work with people in the community. Some of these have taken on the role of 'Financial Wellbeing Champions' as a result of the course delivered by Clean Slate, thus implementing learning to help people they come into contact with who may be facing money and debt issues. We also demonstrated how Indebted Life could be used in one-to-one and group settings. All practitioners said that they would use the tool in their work. To date, 20 people have attended these sessions.
 
Title Ash, James (2019). Digital interfaces and debt: Mediated decision making processes in high cost short term credit products 2016-2018 
Description Publicly available anonymised transcriptions of research data from the project. Hosted on the UK data service ReShare. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The public availability of the dataset ensures the data can be used by other researchers investigating this, or similar, topics. 
URL http://reshare.ukdataservice.ac.uk/853482/
 
Description Co-production and co-delivery of financial wellbeing sessions for practitioners and members of the public 
Organisation Clean Slate Financial Wellbeing Services CIC
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We worked with the Director to incorporate findings from the research on high-cost short-term credit into a financial wellbeing session focused on money management, credit, and debt. Our specific contribution was content that covered: 1. How digital access to credit is changing where and when people apply for and use credit and their experiences of indebtedness; 2. How high-cost credit changes people's relationship with money, credit, and debt; 3. Real-life experiences of people who use high-cost credit and its consequences; 4. How high-cost credit providers deliberately use design techniques to shape consumer decision-making, making it more likely that people apply for more credit and take out a loan. The session also involved the use of the digital tool - Indebted Life - which we developed as part of the research. We facilitated this part of the session, with activities that encouraged broader thinking about the key issues of high-cost credit use and discussion between delegates.
Collaborator Contribution The partner contributed content on credit (what is it, different forms, need to know technical language, comparison tables) and debt (priority debts, money management, how to manage debt). The partner also contributed activities to facilitate reflection and deeper learning on these topics during the session.
Impact Two co-delivered sessions so far achieved, reaching 20 practitioners and members of the public. Practitioners given access to the Indebted Life digital tool, so they can use it in their own settings, and a copy of the training guide with activities that accompanies the tool.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Collaboration with Lewisham Credit Union, London Mutual Credit Union, and GRE Consulting on the development of a new online credit platform 
Organisation GRE Consulting Limited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Following a collaborative workshop, the project team produced a recommendations report for a new online credit platform for a network of credit unions, called Just Borrow. The report detailed the ways in which the platform's look, feel, and functionality could be improved for the benefit of consumers' decision making and access to affordable short-term credit. The team also continued to consult partners on the design of Just Borrow as the recommendations were implemented and tested the platform to identify further improvements.
Collaborator Contribution The credit unions approached us to assist in the design of the platform.
Impact The collaboration resulted in the implementation of evidence-based changes to the look, feel, and functionality of the platform. The recommendations that were directly implemented included: 1. Website and mobile optimisation: • Visual improvement to improve the look of the website and reduce potential customer confusion • Positioning and prominence of Apply button. • Changes the loan slider to position the 'buttons' and calculation so that it updates in real time as the user moves the sliding bars. • The use of generic seasonal imagery on the home page. • Use of own reviews to build brand trust. • Specific amendments to the tone of voice used on the website. 2. Application form: • Changing the application form to a single column only. • Highlighting fields that have been incorrectly completed or omitted as the user is filling in the application form. • Provide guidance to users to help complete fields when they make a mistake or omission. • Remove the labels representing different stages of the application form.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with Lewisham Credit Union, London Mutual Credit Union, and GRE Consulting on the development of a new online credit platform 
Organisation Lewisham Plus Credit Union
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Following a collaborative workshop, the project team produced a recommendations report for a new online credit platform for a network of credit unions, called Just Borrow. The report detailed the ways in which the platform's look, feel, and functionality could be improved for the benefit of consumers' decision making and access to affordable short-term credit. The team also continued to consult partners on the design of Just Borrow as the recommendations were implemented and tested the platform to identify further improvements.
Collaborator Contribution The credit unions approached us to assist in the design of the platform.
Impact The collaboration resulted in the implementation of evidence-based changes to the look, feel, and functionality of the platform. The recommendations that were directly implemented included: 1. Website and mobile optimisation: • Visual improvement to improve the look of the website and reduce potential customer confusion • Positioning and prominence of Apply button. • Changes the loan slider to position the 'buttons' and calculation so that it updates in real time as the user moves the sliding bars. • The use of generic seasonal imagery on the home page. • Use of own reviews to build brand trust. • Specific amendments to the tone of voice used on the website. 2. Application form: • Changing the application form to a single column only. • Highlighting fields that have been incorrectly completed or omitted as the user is filling in the application form. • Provide guidance to users to help complete fields when they make a mistake or omission. • Remove the labels representing different stages of the application form.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with Lewisham Credit Union, London Mutual Credit Union, and GRE Consulting on the development of a new online credit platform 
Organisation London Mutual Credit Union
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Following a collaborative workshop, the project team produced a recommendations report for a new online credit platform for a network of credit unions, called Just Borrow. The report detailed the ways in which the platform's look, feel, and functionality could be improved for the benefit of consumers' decision making and access to affordable short-term credit. The team also continued to consult partners on the design of Just Borrow as the recommendations were implemented and tested the platform to identify further improvements.
Collaborator Contribution The credit unions approached us to assist in the design of the platform.
Impact The collaboration resulted in the implementation of evidence-based changes to the look, feel, and functionality of the platform. The recommendations that were directly implemented included: 1. Website and mobile optimisation: • Visual improvement to improve the look of the website and reduce potential customer confusion • Positioning and prominence of Apply button. • Changes the loan slider to position the 'buttons' and calculation so that it updates in real time as the user moves the sliding bars. • The use of generic seasonal imagery on the home page. • Use of own reviews to build brand trust. • Specific amendments to the tone of voice used on the website. 2. Application form: • Changing the application form to a single column only. • Highlighting fields that have been incorrectly completed or omitted as the user is filling in the application form. • Provide guidance to users to help complete fields when they make a mistake or omission. • Remove the labels representing different stages of the application form.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Influenced content and delivery of financial education workshops for national money charity - Money Advice Scotland 
Organisation Money Advice Scotland
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution 1. Dr Rachel Gordon delivered a briefing to staff at Money Advice Scotland on the research findings and the Indebted Life digital tool. 2. The Indebted Life tool was incorporated into the content and delivery of secondary school level financial education workshops and community workshops.
Collaborator Contribution The partner contributed to the shaping of activities using the digital tool, drawing on their extensive first-hand experience of delivering financial education workshops (especially to young people in secondary schools).
Impact Incorporation of interactive activity using digital tool in financial education workshops that focuses on high-cost credit and indebtedness.
Start Year 2019
 
Title Indebted Life smart phone app and web browser game 
Description Indebted Life is an educational tool designed by researchers at Newcastle University. It is the result of original qualitative research conducted by Newcastle University and Durham University (September 2016 - March 2018), which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC, Ref: ES/N012666/1). Lots of people now access credit, like payday loans and instalment loans, online. By using smartphones, tablets and laptops, people can search for, apply for and manage credit whilst at home, at work or on the move, at any time of the day or night. This has transformed the accessibility and instantaneity of credit and the spaces and times within which people can apply for and use credit. The research investigated how access to credit online is changing people's borrowing practices and affecting their personal and financial wellbeing. The app (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/indebted-life/id1387900633?mt=8) and browser game (http://www.debtinterfaces.org.uk/indebtedlife/) allows users to follow a range of characters as they find and apply for a loan online. Explore their real-life situations, feelings and experiences as they look for credit. Build a picture of their lives by reading their text messages and emails, looking at their calendar and checking their online bank account. Help them to make decisions about how much to borrow and whether or not to take out a loan, leading to different outcomes for each character. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact There are different groups that have benefited from using the Indebted Life tool: 1. Members of the general public who are thinking about taking out a loan but want some thinking space to consider their decision and its potential consequences. 2. Organisations, including Money Advice Scotland and Clean Slate who have used to app in delivering money and/or debt management sessions to adults and young people. 3. Staff and volunteers in organisations including Money Advice Scotland, Quaker Social Action and Citizens Advice who provide debt and consumer advice to members of the public, who would like to know more about why people borrow online. 4. Anyone interested in exploring how loan websites are designed and how consumers interact with them to make borrowing decisions. Feedback from the app is strong and positive, with qualitative comments including 'it really makes you think about the consequences of making rash decisions without any risk' and 'it is really educational and helps you to understand pay day loans better'. 
URL https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/indebted-life/id1387900633?mt=8
 
Description 'Hooked On Line: digital credit & the impact of borrowing money online' article for Consumer Credit Trade Association's Consumer Credit Magazine (Autumn 2017). 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The team authored an article entitled 'Hooked On Line: digital credit & the impact of borrowing money online' for the Consumer Credit Trade Association's Consumer Credit Magazine (Autumn 2017). The article discussed issues around accessing credit digitally and in particular pointed out the mental health problems associated with borrowing online. The article also pointed to recommendations as to how the market could be further regulated.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.ccta.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/CCTA-Magazine-Autumn_11751_web.pdf
 
Description 'Digital credit and indebtedness: The impact of borrowing money online' article for Institute of Money Advisers Quarterly Account (Autumn 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The team authored an article for for Institute of Money Advisers Quarterly Account (Autumn 2017), a subscription based professional money advice journal. The article was entitled 'Digital credit and indebtedness: The impact of borrowing money online' article and disseminated findings from the research to readers of the journal. These readers are a professional audience of money advisors and charities working with issues around debt. The aim and purpose of the activity was to raise awarness about the key role digital interfaces and devices play in decision making around high cost borrowing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description 'Payday Loan' article for I-PEEL (online edited collection for International Political Economy [IPE] students - focusing on IPE and everyday life) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The team wrote an article on 'Payday Loans' for I-PEEL (online edited collection for IPE students - focusing on IPE and everyday life). According to the editors, 'I-PEEL takes objects and practices from everyday life as entry points to the study of International Political Economy (IPE). It is designed to allow users to follow their own interests, and provides unique perspectives on IPE from some of the leading scholars in the field. Just peel back a tile to find out more about who gets what in the global economy, why, and how might it be changed. An I-PEEL teaching guide is available for academics seeking to use the resource in the classroom'. As such, the intended purpose and impact from the article is to provide a teachhing resource to undergraduate and post-graduate students to understand what paydays loans are, how they work and their relevance to international political economy more generally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.i-peel.org/homepage/payday-loan/
 
Description Article on Money Saving Expert website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact News story about findings from the research was published on the Money Saving Expert website.The story focused on how HCSTC websites are designed to encourage borrowing by creating a playful environment that minimises negative thoughts and feelings that might cause users to hesitate from applying. The site receives 16 million visits annually and is one of the largest financial websites written for the general public in the country.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2019/03/payday-loan-companies-design-websites-specifically-to...
 
Description Blog post for Money and Mental Health Policy Institute 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We were invited to write a blog post about the research for the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute blog. The blog was primarily aimed at the general public who have an interest in money and mental health issues. We focused on people's real experience of using high-cost short-term loans and how websites are designed to influence consumer decision-making around loans.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.moneyandmentalhealth.org/borrowing-money-online/
 
Description Briefing at HM Treasury for policy staff - 27th November 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Dr James Ash and Dr Rachel Gordon presented the research findings to a group of five policy advisers at HM Treasury, who have a specific interest in consumer credit, consumer decision-making, and technology. We were invited to present the research after our research report was forwarded to relevant MPs, who then suggested a meeting at the Treasury. After the presentation, we answered questions on the research posed by the policy advisers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description First project workshop held at Newcastle University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact A project workshop was held on 27th September 2016 (10:00-13:00). This was attended by representatives from Byker Community Trust/St Anthony of Padua, Ways to Wellness, Citizens Advice, Money Matters and Your Homes Newcastle. The purpose of the event was to secure further partners to help recruit participants for the research and learn from the expertise of practioners currently working in the area of money and debt advice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited contribution to New Economics Foundation roundtable on household debt write-off. Location: London. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The project team was invited to attend and contribute to the New Economics Foundation roundtable on household debt write-off, held in London on 9th June 2017 (14:00-16:00). A member of the team discussed the role digital access to high cost credit played in problem debt and how it might be dealt with in relation to debt write-off.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited talk and disscussant at the Payback? e-conference - 6th and 7th September 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr James Ash was invited to attend the e-conference in person to deliver a talk based on the high-cost short-term credit research, exploring how digital access to credit is changing how people apply for and use credit in their everyday lives. As part of this, Dr James Ash gave a presentation which is available to watch online on the e-conference website. 40 people to date have viewed this video about the research. Dr James Ash was also a disscussant at the e-conference, taking part in debates on debt, credit, and prosperity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://financingprosperitynetwork.org/rethinking-debt-distributions/2018/7/26/n8njqv9e8pkzl0lb23s46...
 
Description Invited talk at Orange Bus digital agency - 9th August 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact We were invited to present the research findings at a special event held by Orange Bus (digital agency) for their employees, called 'Beers with Ideas.' This was an after work event, which colleagues can attend to learn about new research and new approaches in digital. 20 colleagues attended. The presentation focused on the design of the digital credit platforms of high-cost credit lenders and the consequences these design decisions had on consumer decision-making. It gave examples from the empirical material to highlight the influence that design has on people's borrowing activity (and subsequent spending activity) and their experiences of indebtedness.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited webinar on HCSTC interfaces for the Money Advice Trust 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Online seminar with 15 debt advisors from the Money Advice Trust. The seminar covered how accessing credit digitally alters users' decision making around debt. The talk is also archived online, and has been added to the training courses that members of the Money Advice Trust can access through the Trust's website.

A total of 72 advisers have enrolled on this to date. 92% of advisers who completed feedback rated the webinar as Good or Excellent. 92% of advisers said that the webinar improved or refreshed their knowledge on the topic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://moneyadvicetrust-meetings.webex.com/moneyadvicetrust-meetings/j.php?MTID=m5845d635bb13440749...
 
Description National news article published by trade body, Consumer Credit Trade Association 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Research reported by the Consumer Credit Trade Association (CCTA) in their online industry news. This helped to raise awareness of the research and its key findings (particularly focused on the recommendation to introduce a credit curfew) within the industry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.ccta.co.uk/call-for-credit-curfew-to-help-late-night-borrowers/
 
Description National news article, BBC News Online 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Research reported by BBC News Online, focusing on one of its key recommendations for a credit curfew. This raised awareness and discussion around the issue amongst the general public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48385420
 
Description National news article, The Times, both in print and online 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The research was reported in The Times newspaper (online and in print), following a press release made by the ESRC. This way to raise awareness and discussion around one of the key recommendations of the report, around a credit curfew for high-cost borrowing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/credit-curfew-late-night-borrowers-payday-loans-kxr7t0762
 
Description Radio interview for BBC Radio Newcastle, 23rd May 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr James Ash was invited to discuss the research findings on BBC Radio Newcastle on 23rd May 2019. The interview focused on why the research recommends a credit curfew in the high-cost short-term credit market. The intended purpose was to share the research with a regional audience of people interested in consumer issues.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Radio interview for BBC Radio Oxford, 25th October 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr James Ash was invited to comment on the demise of CashEuroNet UK LLC (Quick Quid), drawing on his expertise of the high-cost short-term credit market. The intended purpose was to provide an academic perspective on the news and to comment on ways in which the market could be improved for consumers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07qb60b
 
Description Radio interview for Money Box on BBC Radio 4, 25th May 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Rachel Gordon was invited to discuss the research report on the BBC Radio 4 Money Box programme on 25th May 2019. Focus on the research's call for a credit curfew for online high-cost credit. The intended purpose was to share the research with a national audience, specifically interested in consumer issues around money, credit, and debt.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0005dw7
 
Description Research briefing for staff at Money Advice Scotland - 16th July 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Rachel Gordon delivered a research briefing to staff at Money Advice Scotland. This included dissemination of the key research findings, discussion around how key themes intersected with Money Advice Scotland's work, demonstration of the digital tool Indebted Life, and discussion around how the tool could be incorporated into their financial education workshops.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Research talk at the 'Newcastle Advice Compact meeting', a group of charities and organisations working in Newcastle and the North East on problem debt and money issues. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The project team were invited to give an introduction to the research at the 'Newcastle Advice Compact meeting' on the 16th November 2016 (10:00-11:30). at Shelter's offices. This meeting was attended by various advice giving organisations in the city. The talk was designed to inform these organisations about the importance of digital devices in mediating access to high cost credit and to seek further expertise.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Seminar delivered at the Centre for Responsible Credit Conference 'Improving Financial Health: new approaches and innovations'. Title of talk: 'Digital Credit and Mobile Devices: what can we learn from high-cost credit customers?' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The team was invited to speak at the Centre for Responsible Credit Conference 'Improving Financial Health: new approaches and innovations', on 30th October 2017 (12:00-16:00). The title of the talk was: 'Digital Credit and Mobile Devices: what can we learn from high-cost credit customers?'. The questions and discussion sparked by the talk has lead to the development of impact activities with London Mutual Credit Union to provide design insight around the creation of a new digital credit union platform.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop with London Mutual and Lewisham Credit Unions and developers held on 24th January 2018 (12:30-16:00) to discuss new short term credit platform they are developing 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Workshop with London Mutual and Lewisham Credit Unions and developers (GRE Consulting) held on 24th January 2018 (12:30-16:00) to discuss new short term credit platform (JustBorrow) they are developing. We provided insight from our research with designers and users of HCSTC websites to inform the design of the platform. This was followed up with a formal recommendation report regarding how the website can be best optimised to encourage users to apply through their credit union. The recommendation report resulted in material changes to the platform. These include:

• Visual improvement to improve the look of the website and reduce potential customer confusion
• Positioning and prominence of Apply button.
• Changes the loan slider to position the 'buttons' and calculation so that it updates in real time as the user moves the sliding bars.
• The use of generic seasonal imagery on the home page.
• Use of own reviews to build brand trust.
• Specific amendments to the tone of voice used on the website.

Application form:
• Changing the application form to a single column only.
• Highlighting fields that have been incorrectly completed or omitted as the user is filling in the application form.
• Provide guidance to users to help complete fields when they make a mistake or omission.
• Remove the labels representing different stages of the application form.

GRE Consulting stated that the research had direct impact on the development of the platform. In their words: 'Having the ability to draw on your research findings and evidence-based recommendations has also been help provide a degree of authenticity to our work and has been used during discussions to recruit new credit unions to use Just Borrow, thereby will support the extension of its reach, increase credit union membership and benefit more consumers with affordable credit.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017