The investigation follows 15 complaints from viewers and the findings of Money Marketing and Which? that the service is sometimes falling short of its promise to deliver impartial advice.
Money Marketing went undercover on a mystery-shopping exercise in January and, in two out of five visits, NatWest’s MoneySense advisers provided quotes for the bank’s own mortgages.
The latest research by Which? found that just four out of 20 MoneySense sessions provided the impartial information advertised. During six of the visits, Which? says the adviser spoke exclusively about NatWest products and in the other 10 visits, the researcher either referred Which? 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 ads, the voiceover says: “We now have MoneySense advisers in 1,000 branches. They are not there to sell but to give you free, impartial financial guidance. NatWest. Helpful banking.”
Aifa director general Chris Cummings says the service is a “slick selling machine” and attacked the FSA for failing to clamp down on the ads under its financial promotions regime.
But a NatWest spokeswoman defends the service, claiming that there is nothing wrong with MoneySense advisers referring consumers to sales staff and that it would not be good customer service if they failed to do this when asked for product-related information.
She says: “We do know that of the millions of viewers who saw the advert, only a handful contacted the ASA. We continue to receive excellent feedback from consumers using our MoneySense service and the impartial support it provides.”