Regulation  

Investments and lending account for most FCA action on promotions

Investments and lending account for most FCA action on promotions

Some 72 per cent of interventions on promotions by the Financial Conduct Authority related to retail investments and lending.

In its data for the first quarter of the year ending March 31, the FCA said it reviewed 379 promotions.

Of these, just under a third - 84 - were amended or withdrawn, with around 76 per cent of them involving website or social media promotions.

The FCA said it intervened with 21 authorised firms and 72 per cent of these interventions were within the retail investments and retail lending sectors.

The City watchdog said some of the most common breaches involved claims management companies’, retail finance promotions and peer-to-peer lending platforms.  

“We identified and took action to correct several ‘clickbait’ promotions [content designed to attract attention and encourage visitors] in the general insurance & protection sector,” the FCA said.

“In particular, firms using terms such as ‘benefit’ or ‘treat’ as well as mis-leading imagery to attract consumers when the firms are advertising life insurance.”  

In Q1 2022, the FCA received 7,234 reports about potential unauthorised business.

From these, it issued 762 alerts about unauthorised firms and individuals, with more than 11 per cent of these related to clone scams.

Many of these involved breaches of the financial promotion restriction online and in almost all cases we asked for the websites to be taken down.

Although the alert figure was down from 2021 when it issued 1,410 alerts about illegal financial promotions by unauthorised persons, last year’s figure was still up 18 per cent from 2020. 

Of the 762 alerts so far, around 36 per cent were from consumers, 18 per cent from the regulator’s monitoring and 17 per cent from different areas of the FCA.

This was followed by firms (15 per cent) and UK regulators (14 per cent).

The regulator said the rise in alerts this year was due to its increased proactive focus on sites relating to forex, binary options and contracts for difference. 

In 2019 the FCA permanently restricted the CFD market, with firms required to provide a standardised risk warning to reveal the proportion of retail clients that lose money on CFD investments.

The FCA said with increased resources, it will aim to “intervene swiftly and assertively” against authorised firms that make non-complaint financial promotions and against unauthorised firms conducting activity that could lead to mis-selling and financial losses. 

“We have engaged positively with the government to ensure scams are covered by its proposed Online Safety Bill and, following our public intervention, Google has changed its policy to only permit FCA-authorised firms or promotions approved by FCA-authorised firms to advertise financial promotions with them.

“We continue to work with online platforms to ensure that they are complying with applicable requirements and now expect commitments from Meta, Twitter, and other social media companies to be turned into clear timetables for action.”

In November, Google offered the FCA $3m (£2.19m) worth of ad credits to help fight online scams and pledged a further $2m (£1.46m) in credits to support industry scam awareness campaigns.