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Advertising Standards Authority investigates NatWest ads

The Advertising Standards Authority has launched a formal investigation into NatWest’s MoneySense adverts with a particular focus on its claims of impartiality.

The ASA says the probe follows complaints from viewers and that a ruling will be made in due course.

The news follows the results of a Which? investigation that backed up Money Marketing’s findings that the service was sometimes failing on its promise of delivering impartial advice.

Money Marketing went undercover on a mystery-shopping exercise in January and on two out of five visits, NatWest’s Money Sense advisers provided quotes for the bank’s own mortgages.

The latest study by Which? found that just four out of 20 MoneySense sessions provided the impartial information advertised, without any attempt either at or after the meeting to interest the customer in NatWest products.

During six of the visits, Which? says the adviser spoke exclusively about NatWest products and in two of these, there was no mention of shopping around and in the other 10 visits, the researcher was passed on to a customer service adviser or the MoneySense adviser ended the session and went on to speak exclusively about NatWest products.

In NatWest’s TV adverts the voiceover says: “We now have MoneySense advisers in 1,000 branches. They’re not there to sell, but to give you free impartial financial guidance. NatWest. Helpful Banking.”

Aifa director general Chris Cummings hit out at the FSA in this week’s Money Marketing for failing to clamp down on NatWest under its financial promotions regime, arguing it was “not fit for purpose”.

But a NatWest spokeswoman defended the service claiming there was nothing wrong with MoneySense advisers referring consumers on to sales staff and that it would not be good customer service if they failed to do this when asked for product-related information.

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