More advertising controls on the way?

Article by Phil

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) is now reported to be getting involved in advertising for financial services products.

This will be good news to the FCA who have been struggling to get financial services advertising brought within the scope of the online harms bill going through parliament and have been relying on goodwill from the Social Media giants to help police the situation.

It seems that the ASA is considering undertaking a review of advertising which falls outside the FCA remit, including cryptocurrency adverts. They already have the power to remove adverts which they deem to have broken the rules. For example, last month (November 2021) the ASA said that it had taken action against lead generators advertising for Funeral Plans which were leading with a claim that people could receive a “new government benefit”, when in fact no such “benefit” exists. The adverts were simply designed to generate enquiries. As it happens Funeral Plans are about to fall under the regulation of the FCA, so policing future advertising will pass over to them.

The ASA has also expressed concerns about other adverts for life insurance products which use the phrase “benefits.” You’ll probably have seen adverts along the lines of ‘People Born 1941 – 1971 Get This Benefit In November’, the other ‘UK Seniors Born 1940 – 1970 Can Claim This Brilliant New Benefit’. It seems that most of these adverts have now been taken down from online platforms.

The ASA has now announced (15th December) that it has banned  a number of cryptocurrency adverts. Including an advert for Coinbase on Facebook which said “£5 in Bitcoin in 2010 would be worth over £100,000 in January 2021. Don’t miss out on the next decade – get started on Coinbase today”. The ASA felt that the implication was that Bitcoin was likely to continue to grow at a similar rate, which of course it could not guarantee.

The general feeling from the ASA is that crypto adverts aren’t explicit enough about the risks and most specifically that “investors” could lose all their money and the fact that the “investments” are unregulated and unprotected. They are also concerned that the adverts encouraged inexperienced customers to take on unreasonably high levels of risk.

With these two successes it seems that ASA is doing a better job than the FCA has and the more it gets involved the better.

It’s a real problem. Just as I’m writing this I’ve received an unsolicited e mail in my inbox offering fantastic returns on Irish Whisky as an investment. Typically, the offer includes hooks including Low Minimum Entry – Less Than £3,000 investments, Potential 3 Year Profits Could Surpass 45%, Easy Exit Options, Tax Free, which are all too good to be true. Let’s see if the ASA take any action on this one.


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