The financial sector continues to get complaints about misleading ads. Unfortunately, financial companies are rarely named and shamed for this, so we’re asking for your examples so we can investigate further.
You’d think that with all the furore surrounding PPI misselling, fat cat bonuses and low savings rates, the industry would be doing all it can to clean up its act.
But, if the number of reported dodgy financial ads is anything to go by, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Complaints on the rise
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), one of the main regulators of misleading promotions, received 1,519 complaints about dubious financial ads in 2010 – 130 more than in the previous year. And these are just complaints made by eagle-eyed consumers who make the effort to complain – surely then, loads more are churned out all the time that go unchallenged?
So why are so many financial ads getting it wrong? I reckon part of the problem is that there’s relatively little incentive for the industry to get it right.
Most people will complain to the ASA in the first instance, but while this body can demand that the offending ads are withdrawn, it can’t fine companies. In any event, it tends to restrict its attention to issues of taste and decency.
We need to name and shame
Most ads deemed to infringe industry codes on fairness and transparency are passed to the Financial Services Authority (FSA). The FSA has the power to ask for ads to be altered or removed, and can impose fines. However, it doesn’t name and shame offending companies unless it issues them with a fine – which is rare.
This means that advertisers, who spend millions on promotional campaigns, probably have very little to worry about. If they’re not named, there’s no public shame, and any fine is likely to be a drop in the ocean when compared to their ad budgets.
It seems to me that the only reason that producers of dodgy ads might clean up their acts is if they develop a conscience. Somehow, with the lack of incentive, and no hard-hitting watchdogs around, I think that’s unlikely to happen.
I reckon the only way to prevent misleading financial ads is be more vocal about any complaints we have. One way you can do this is to tell us if you see one that seems misleading, and we’ll challenge the regulators on them as part of our ‘Watchdog not lapdog’ campaign.
Have you seen something suspicious in a TV ad, heard something strange on the radio or read a ridiculous claim? If so, let us know right here and we’ll look into it. It’s worth a try, isn’t it?