RegulationFeb 3 2023

FCA blocks more than 8,000 misleading ads

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FCA blocks more than 8,000 misleading ads
BySonia Rach

The Financial Conduct Authority told firms to amend or remove 8,582 promotions during 2022 - 14 times more than in 2021.

In its financial promotions data for the full year ending December 31, the FCA said the 8,542 figure was up from just 573 in 2021.

Over the year, the regulator issued 1,882 alerts to unauthorised firms and individuals, up 34 per cent from 1,410 in 2021.  

This is despite the FCA seeing an overall decrease of 24 per cent on total reports received in 2022 compared with 2021.

As part of the FCA’s action to monitor new websites, it used various tools to assess 180,000 websites which resulted in just over 4,500 websites and social media platforms being reviewed. 

Of these, it issued 1,441 alerts and approximately 400 of the offending websites were taken down.  

It also reviewed 1,100 firms who had been cancelled and were therefore now unauthorised. 

“We found 62 firms that were in breach of s19, s21 and/or s24 of FSMA who we contacted requesting that they amend their websites,” it said. 

“On the back of this work, we have issued four alerts.”

The City watchdog said it has made significant improvements to the digital tools it uses to find problem firms and misleading adverts which has enabled it to work through a much larger number of cases compared with 2021.

The rise of social media

The regulator said social media remains a major focus for its work in combatting misleading promotions and it has worked closely with several big tech companies to change their advertising policies to only allow financial promotions that have been approved by FCA-authorised firms.

However, it said “more needs to be done” by tech companies to protect consumers.

‘Fin-fluencers’ have also been a growing concern for the regulator as it argued unauthorised individuals should not advise people.

Sarah Pritchard, executive director at the FCA, said: “'Our expectations remain the same. Financial promotions must be fair, clear and not misleading. What has changed is the FCA’s approach. 

“By drawing on better technology, we’re finding poor quality or misleading ads quicker. And where we find them, we’re stepping in to make firms improve them or remove them entirely.” 

The FCA said it has already taken action against social media influencers and in one case, it found a director of a regulated firm using their personal profile to promote the advice of unauthorised traders and other financial products. 

The regulator blocked them from using their personal social media to promote financial services and imposed a requirement on the firm to halt any financial services promotions.