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IFAP calls for FSA to act on net sponsored links

IFA Promotion is calling on the FSA to stamp out misleading financial services advertising through sponsored links on internet search engines.

Chief executive David Elms says some distribution firms and lead-generation sellers are misleading consumers by claiming they are independent when they are not.

Elms has been compiling a weekly list of potentially misleading ads and sending them to the regulator for 18 months but says he is not satisfied that enough action is being taken.

He says: “Consumers think they are being presented with providers of independent financial advice but they are not.

“As we understand it, the FSA is in the business of protecting consumers, so when is it going to stamp this out?

“The majority of consumers are now using the internet as the tool of choice to find IFAs and the FSA needs to recognise that there is a risk of consumer detriment.”

The FSA says many internet ads do not amount to financial promotions because there is no invitation or inducement to engage in investment activity.

In an email to Elms, the regulator says it does not always have jurisdiction to take action against individual cases.

An FSA spokesman says: “We can only take action where there has been a breach of the financial promotions requirements or where the firm is regulated by the FSA. The FSA takes the view that, in many cases, a preliminary communication may simply be an inducement to contact the communicator to find out what he has to offer.”

Caversham Buchanan director Ian Green says: “Rather than asking the FSA to regulate sponsored links, IFAP should be focusing on protecting customers by making them aware of these issues on its website. There also has to be an element of buyer beware. You can only protect people so far.”

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