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New ASA powers will result in dual regulation

The Advertising Standards Authority’s new powers to regulate advisers’ online promotions will result in dual regulation, according to Finance & Technology Research Centre director Ian McKenna.

IFAs’ websites and online promotions are already subject to FSA rules but from March 1 firms will also be regulated by the ASA.

The extension of the ASA’s digital remit, announced last September, means advisers’ and providers’ online promotions will fall under the code of advertising practice.

All marketing communications in the digital and online space including websites, promotional emails, paid online advertising and social media promotions will be subject to the code.

Consumers will be able to complain to the ASA if they feel that firms’ promotions are misleading.

McKenna says: “If an IFA or a provider had a website that was not legal, honest or truthful, the FSA would use its fitness and probity requirement to address it anyway. Unless the FSA is relinquishing responsibility, this is potentially a total duplication. I cannot help thinking the money would be better off spent elsewhere.”

Digital marketing consultant Space 01 managing partner Marilyn Cole says the ASA has the power to name and shame financial services firms following complaints by consumers. She says: “Consumers can make official complaints to the ASA about content if they feel it is misleading. This could see IFAs and providers named and shamed if complaints are upheld and they may be forced to remove paid-for-links to their site from search engines.”

Highclere Financial Services partner Alan Lakey says: “These new regulations are concerning because every hoop you have to jump through takes time away from your job of advising clients.”

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