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Ad watchdog gets formal with probe into MAS TV claims

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

The ASA launched the investigation last week after it received 77 complaints about the ad, most of which came from the financial services sector.

Money Marketing has raised strong concerns about the content of the advertisement and revealed last month that the ASA was considering investigating the MAS over the 30-second TV ad, which began airing in June.

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?”

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

An ASA spokesman 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 also looking into complaints that challenge the claim ’our advice is independent and unbiased’.”

The ASA will now contact the MAS, which will be asked to comment on the concerns raised and defend the ad. The ASA council will then decide whether the complaints should be upheld.

An MAS spokeswoman 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 MAS has a budget of £43.7m for 2011/12 which is funded by a statutory levy on the financial services industry.

The Government launched the independent body, which was formerly known as the Consumer Financial Education Body, in April.

Yellowtail Financial Planning managing director Dennis Hall says: “I am delighted this has turned into a formal investigation. The MAS was twisting the knife by talking about advice being independent and free. The line that says ’how is that for breath of fresh air’ is the one that really got to me.”

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 noting 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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