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Advertising Standards Authority investigates MAS "free advice" ad

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The Advertising Standards Authority has launched a formal investigation into the controversial TV ad from the Money Advice Service following a raft of adviser complaints.

The ASA has launched an investigation this week after it received a total of 77 complaints against the ads. It says most of the complaints came from those working within the financial sector.

Money Marketing has raised strong concerns about the content of the advert and revealed earlier this month that the ASA was considering investigating the MAS over the 30-second ad which began airing last month.

It features a voiceover claiming: “Our advice is independent and unbiased. Oh, and it is free. How is that for a breath of fresh air?”

A spokesman for the ASA says: “We are looking into complaints which have challenged whether the name Money Advice Service is misleading, because those who have complained believe the service offers guidance not advice.

“We are looking into complaints that challenge the claim ‘our advice is independent and unbiased’. We are also looking into complaints that challenge the claim the MAS is set up by Government.”

The ASA will now contact the MAS, who will be asked to comment on the concerns raised and defend the ad. The ASA will then make a recommendation whether or not to uphold the complaints, before the ASA council ultimately decides whether the complaints should be upheld.

A spokeswoman for the MAS says: “We are aware that the ASA is carrying out an investigation. We are liaising with the ASA and will await the outcome of the investigation.”

The ad is part of a £4m nationwide advertising campaign to raise awareness about the MAS among consumers.

The MAS has a budget of £43.7m for 2011/12 which is funded by a statutory levy on the financial services industry. It is an independent body launched by the Government in April, and was formerly known as the Consumer Financial Education Body.

Money Marketing questioned the FSA about the ad in June, following concerns that the message of free and independent advice was at odds with the aims of the RDR in ensuring consumers understand the price and value of advice.

FSA director of conduct policy Sheila Nicoll said: “It is worth nothing the MAS is very clear that it is generic advice that it is providing. What the MAS is proposing is actually pretty complementary to the RDR.”

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Readers' comments (40)

  • This may seem petty but the FSA would had does crucify IFAs for far less. Now the boot is on the other foot and being applied firmly to the FSA backside!

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  • Whilst I am not totally against this add, the FSA gets your back up so much that you will do anything to have a pop at them.

    A small victory is a victory when it comes to the FSA.

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  • If anyone else produced an advert like this they would be hauled over the coals as it being misleading and inappropriate. I agree with the sentiment of the service (sohuld be named guidance- whats wrong that, its what it is?), however I would say that all the information provided on the MAS site is freely avilable on the web already. I hope the ASA take this seriously and that the 'old boy network' doesn't kick in. Would be good for the FSA to get a serving of their own medicine.

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  • It doesn't follow any of the FSA's Financial Promotion Rules. It isn't "Advice" and it isn't a "Service". ..And it's not Free. I wonder if the ASA will find anything wrong?

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  • FSA commentator Sheila Nichol "It is worth nothing the MAS is very clear that it is generic advice that it is providing"


    Try talking to some ordinary people in the street, Sheila - they think this is providing full on advise.

    One of the FSA's principles is that Financial Services communications must be presented in a way that will be understood by the consumer - I'm afraid this is so obviously not the case here, and
    Sheila's reaction is shameful.

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  • I assume that if the ASA uphold the complaints against the MSA, then the FSA will be compelled to take disciplinary action against the MSA?

    Or will the FSA just stick two fingers up to the ASA, in the same way it has done to the TSC?

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  • After complaining to the ASA about this advertisement I received a written response yesterday (I'm one of the 77, though after all the hot air on various blogs I would have expected more complainants).

    My impression from their reply was they largely rejected the complaint so it will be interesting to see which point(s) they finally do investigate.

    Nearly everything that people have blogged about has been rebutted. Still, when you get one one quango investigating another quango what do you expect?

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  • Anon, what do you honestly expect from Sheila Nichol? In her recent evidence to the TSC, she stated that.....quote.....only 60% of the public ever take Financial Advice, and that none of those, trust the advice they are given?

    This woman is clearly unfit to be in her job!

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  • Commentators here would do well to remember that the MAS doesn't undertake regulated activities...

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  • You just couldn't make this up if you tried .....!!!!

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