The Advertising Standards Authority has said it is “considering reviewing lead generation” advertisements for financial services, including insurance.
Until now, the ASA has largely focused on reigning in individual firms, rather than on imposing industry-wide rulings.
But the regulator told FTAdviser it was concerned about ads it has come across online and was poised to take action.
It said: “We’re concerned about the number of problematic ads for lead generators we’re seeing online, especially given the financial vulnerability some people have faced through the pandemic.
“We’ve already taken action against lead generation ads for companies offering IVAs [individual voluntary arrangements], publishing a number of rulings earlier this year.
“We’re currently considering reviewing lead generation for other financial services, including insurance.”
The ASA is undergoing what it described as “a large piece of work” on misleading and harmful ads in the financial services space which don’t fall under the Financial Conduct Authority’s remit.
Alongside crypto-assets, the regulator said lead generation makes up part of this work.
Alain Desmier, founder of Contact State - a firm attempting to legitimise the lead generation space - called the ASA’s consideration of a wider review a “dramatic change”.
“If they start looking into insurance adverts this will make a dramatic change.
“Right now, the FCA doesn't have the bandwidth to do this and so it falls into this chasm between the FCA and [the] ASA which in part has been what has caused so many issues.”
When ads break the ASA’s rules, the regulator can ban ads outright and take them out of circulation. It can also take out ads against repeat offenders, work with media platforms to have ads removed, and refer firms to statutory bodies for further action, such as fines.
Last month, the ASA ruled Open Media Group had breached its fair advertising standards, calling its ads “misleading”.
The ads in question, circulated under the brand ‘Peace of Mind Funerals’, linked to an advertorial site called ‘Must Have Money Tips’.
They both suggested UK seniors could claim a “new benefit” within specific timeframes. when in actual fact they were trying to persuade visitors to purchase a funeral plan.
The ASA found “the claims in both ads that UK seniors could claim a new benefit were misleading and couldn’t be substantiated”.
It also found “the ads falsely implied that the marketer was acting for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession and did not make clear their commercial intent”.
Luke Ashworth, founder of protection tool Adviser.ai, said such adverts were “a real twisting of language”.
“To describe life insurance as a ‘benefit’ when you have to buy something to get the benefit is a real twisting of language.”
FTAdviser found a number of similar ads circulating online. One read ‘People Born 1941 - 1971 Get This Benefit In November’, the other ‘UK Seniors Born 1940 - 1970 Can Claim This Brilliant New Benefit’.