Financial promotions quarterly data 2022 Q2

This page analyses the latest data, from 01 April 2022 to 30 June 2022, from our action against authorised firms breaching financial promotion rules and referrals and investigations into unregulated activity.

The data we gather means we can monitor developments in the market, get insights into sectors we have concerns about and act to prevent consumers from harm.  

What’s included in the data

  • key messages for regulated and unregulated financial promotion activity  
  • number of financial promotions reviewed during this period 
  • number of closed cases where promotions have been amended and withdrawn including split across sectors, excluding cases which are still ongoing   
  • number of unauthorised reports received, and alerts issued 
  • how we act

Key messages

  • In 2022 Q2, we reviewed 451 promotions  
  • Our engagement resulted in 374 amends/withdrawals 
  • Retail investments and retail lending are the sectors with the highest amend/withdraw outcomes, amounting to 83% of our interventions with authorised firms  
  • Some of the most common breaches involved credit brokers, mortgage intermediaries and investment platforms 
  • In 2022 Q2, we issued 286 alerts about unauthorised firms and individuals, with 22% of these related to clone scams 
  • We issued a Dear CEO letter warning almost 28,000 lenders and brokers to stop using misleading terms in their advertising or face regulatory action. We have been undertaking proactive monitoring, which will continue into 2022 Q3 and if firms fail to comply, we will take action which could include banning adverts or requiring firms to change, amend or withdraw them

Authorised firms

Number of promotions reviewed

In 2022 Q2 we reviewed 451 financial promotions from multiple sources.

45% from our proactive monitoring

24% from consumers

15% from different areas of the FCA

10% from UK Regulators

6% from firms 

Table 1: Number of cases with interventions and amend/withdraw outcomes

2022 Q2

28,000 lenders and brokers were issued with a Dear CEO letter to stop using misleading terms in their advertising

2 Voluntary Applications for Imposition of Requirements (VREQs) were approved, restricting the firms' ability to communicate or approve financial promotions

374 promotions were amended or withdrawn following our intervention with 24 authorised firms

58% of these involved website or social media promotions

 
Chart tips: hover over data series to view the data values and filter the data categories by clicking on the legend.

 

Figure 1 shows how the cases in 2022 Q2 which resulted in firms withdrawing or amending a promotion are spread across different sectors.

Chart

Data table

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Figures rounded to the nearest percentage.

Our expectations 

We expect authorised firms issuing and/or approving financial promotions to take responsibility in making sure all communications of financial promotions are clear, fair and not misleading and otherwise comply with our relevant rules.  

This can also include oversight of appointed representatives, or introducer appointed representatives, and marketing across all media platforms such as websites, paid for Google ads and social media sites.  

We will continue to intervene swiftly and assertively against authorised firms that make non-compliant financial promotions. 

Example interventions 

To show how we bring these principles to life, we set out how we intervened in 3 cases. 

  Misleading social media influencer promotion
Issue

We identified that a wealth management firm had approved the financial promotions of a social media influencer, to promote its services of commission free investments. 

We considered the promotions provided consumers with the misleading impression that they could reduce debt by following the steps taken by the social media influencer and use the firm’s services as a mechanism to make money.

We also identified a TikTok video on the influencer’s profile which promoted the benefits of the firm’s investment business but failed to explain the risk to the consumer’s capital. 

We considered these to be misleading as there are no guarantees that any investment will result in positive gains.

Action taken The identified breaches were particularly egregious given that consumers in debt are likely to be in particularly vulnerable circumstances. We took the action to use our section 137S FSMA power requiring the firm to remove all active paid for sponsored promotions by influencers across all platforms.
 
We also took the action, on the firm’s application, imposing a requirement (VREQ) that the firm refrain from issuing or approving any new promotions generated by the user of a social media service.
  Misleading search engine adverts by credit broker
Issue

A credit broker was using the phrase ‘no credit checks’ in a misleading manner. We considered that while a credit broker may not conduct an assessment itself, consumers could be misled to believe that the eventual lender will make no checks on credit status, whether with a credit reference agency or by other means.

The credit broker also failed to provide consumers with the required warning regarding late repayments causing serious money problems or directing them to moneyhelper.org.uk for help.

Action taken

Given the increased potential vulnerable circumstances of consumers searching for a credit check free loan, and the impact of the cost of living crisis, we decided  the identified breaches were egregious. Therefore, on the firm’s application, we imposed a voluntary requirement (VREQ) requiring the firm to remove all active promotions and amend their website. 

Due to our concerns of widespread misconduct in the sector, we have issued a Dear CEO letter, which aims to explain our expectations to raise market standards.

  Misleading and unclear promotions by mortgage intermediary
Issue

The principal firm’s Appointed Representative (AR) was promoting via leaflet, social media and their website. We identified misleading information relating to their fees and a lack of substantiation relating to savings claims.  

The firm also failed to provide the required representative example, which meant that consumers were unable to make an informed decision relating to the services being promoted.

Action taken We wrote to the AR’s principal firm ensuring that they either amend or withdraw their promotions. The firm subsequently withdrew all the identified promotions.  

   

Unauthorised firms

Number of reports received

In 2022 Q2, we received 6,010 reports about potential unauthorised business. 

We issued 286 alerts about unauthorised firms and individuals. Just over 22% of these were about clone scams. Many of these involved breaches of the financial promotion restriction online. In almost all cases we asked for the websites to be taken down.

Over the last quarter, we continue to see a considerable number of cases involving unauthorised firms and individuals who are offering claims management services, often requiring a substantial upfront fee, or regular administration payments for the promise of recovering funds on behalf of consumers. Other ongoing trends include increased use of bloggers and influencers on social media, such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, to target younger age groups. The aim is to persuade them to invest in products with promises of high or guaranteed returns but which offer no protection if things should go wrong.  

We also continue to see an ongoing trend in the number of bloggers promoting credit on behalf of unauthorised third parties, with a particular growth in financial promotions targeting students. 

Where we identify illegal content, we will issue an alert where appropriate and request for the content to be removed. In the most serious cases where there is evidence of consumer harm, this may result in parties engaged in this activity being required to pay restitution or face criminal sanctions.

Given the role played by social media and online platforms, and following the steps taken by Google, we continue to engage with the largest online platforms, including Meta, YouTube and Twitter, to put in place similar policies. We expect commitments from Meta to implement a mandatory solution this year. 

We have been clear that the protection of consumers from fraudulent advertising should be strengthened through clear legal obligations in the Online Safety Bill. We welcome the announcements that the Government has recently made about the scope of the Bill. These include imposing a duty on the largest online platforms to protect consumers from fraudulent advertising and designating material relating to fraud offences as ‘priority illegal content’ under the draft Bill. 

We look forward to working closely with the Government and regulatory partners as the draft Bill makes its way through Parliament, as well as the Online Advertising Programme which the Government has recently consulted on.

How we act

For authorised firms, we use a range of tools. These include the imposition of voluntary requirements (VREQs) or using our powers to impose own initiative requirements. The firm which has communicated or approved the advert then has to withdraw or change it to comply with our requirements. In the most serious circumstances, we will use our powers under s137S of FSMA to ban a promotion or advert. 

Where we see repeated non-compliance with our rules, we expect these firms to conduct more detailed reviews and provide reports on these findings, particularly on their systems and controls for their financial promotions. We may also ask firms to consider whether any customers may have acted on the non-compliant promotions and to take appropriate action to remedy any harm which consumers may have suffered as a result.

We conduct proactive daily monitoring to identify websites containing illegal promotions and take prompt action by publishing an alert on our website, typically within 24 hours, requesting that the offending website is taken down.  

For firms and individuals identified as potentially acting outside of our perimeter, we have a range of tools including enquiries, challenging firms and individuals' activities via technical correspondence and publishing consumer alerts on our website. We escalate the most serious problems to our Unauthorised Business Department's investigation teams, who can use powers under FSMA to commence civil, criminal and/or insolvency proceedings.  

How to report a misleading financial advert or potential scam

Report a financial advert or promotion that you think is misleading, unfair or unclear.

Report a scam, authorised firm or individual to us.

Our casework with will usually involve confidential information for the purposes of section 348 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. We are therefore unlikely to be able to provide further information about particular cases. Find out more about the information we can share.