Regulation  

Advisers warned on lead generation ads as scrutiny increases

Advisers warned on lead generation ads as scrutiny increases

Advice firms have been warned to take a "proactive" approach to lead generation compliance next year, as scrutiny on adverts increases.

Alain Desmier, the founder of lead generation platform Contact State, cited Google's recently introduced requirement for all financial advertisers to be authorised and regulated or ‘approved’ by the Financial Conduct Authority as an example of this scrutiny. 

He said these new rules were less about stopping fraudulent adverts and far more about collecting information about who was buying media and where leads were being sent.

“The FCA is going to rely on Google to send it evidence of who is breaking financial promotions rules along with the FCA numbers that have been used to approve those adverts,” said Desmier.

“If you’ve allowed a lead generator to use your FCA number to generate leads, now is the time to take a proactive approach to compliance.”

If a firm has allowed a lead generator to use its FCA number with the Google ad approval process then the firm, not the lead generator, assumes responsibility and liability for any advert the lead generator runs.

Over the next 12 months, Desmier said the industry would welcome “precise, specific and timely” regulatory enforcement, both for lead generation firms and lead buyers. 

“Misleading and fraudulent advertising is something that consumers and political parties alike understand and as the country creeps closer to a possible general election in 2023, advertising regulation will become a political football,” he said.

'Woken up'

Desmier told FTAdviser 2022 would be "the year of regulatory impact” for lead generation firms, as bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority shifted away from just “looking tough” and took action.

“Fraudulent advertising has been one of the most talked about topics of the year,” said Desmier. “In articles, speeches, webinars and conferences, everyone has seemingly had a view about ‘lead gen’. 

“An industry has woken up to the very real issue that some consumers are tricked into handing over their data and are then resold to multiple businesses, in the guise of financial advice.”

While Desmier said progress has been made this year, warned it was not enough.

“Ignoring obviously fraudulent lead generation has been replaced with talking about obviously fraudulent lead generation,” he said.

“The regulator and financial services industry at large needs to do more than just pretend to be disappointed, we need to take action.”

Earlier this month, FTAdviser revealed the Advertising Standards Authority was considering reviewing lead generation advertisements for financial services, including insurance.

The regulator said it was “concerned” about the number of “problematic ads” for lead generators it is seeing online, especially given the financial vulnerability some people have faced through the pandemic.