A pension comparison website has been ordered by the Advertising Standards Authority to take down an advert which misleadingly claimed financial advice was provided.
In a decision published today (October 9), the watchdog also said Centurius, the company behind www.comparing-pensions.co.uk, could not claim or imply they were acting for purposes outside their trade or business, and to make clear the commercial intent of their marketing.
According to claims made to the ASA, the website homepage featured the text: “Increase your pension by up to 40 per cent. Shop around for the best deals. Merge all your pensions in to one.
"Find pensions left with old employers. Free phone consultation from a local Financial Conduct Authority regulated adviser. Free pension health check report. Compare now”.
In its decision, the watchdog said consumers would understand that the company which operated the website provided financial advice about pensions, including the option to compare pension products.
However, individuals were not able to get financial advice from the website, and their details were passed on to a third-party financial adviser.
Centurius argued that the website itself did not offer financial advice, and the footer of the website made it clear that the site introduced people to FCA regulated advisers.
Nevertheless, the ASA considered that this information was insufficiently prominent and did not override the overall impression created by the ad, which was then considered misleading.
The regulator also stated that the website presented itself as a pension comparison site from the name, URL and the options offered, which falsely implied that the marketer was acting for purposes outside its business.
Centurius argued the website was not a price comparison site and there was no such thing in the pensions market.
As pensions were a complex area, it was difficult to compare them online, but once the customer had spoken to an adviser it would be possible to compare things such as annuity rates and pension performance, the firm stated.
The regulator noted that Centurius was "in fact a lead generation company that would pass on consumers’ details to financial advisers", but this information was not made sufficiently clear on the website.
The ASA determined that the advert must not appear again in the form complained about, and at the time of writing the website is down.
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