This page analyses the latest data, from 1 January 2022 to 31 March 2022, from our action taken 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- number of closed cases where promotions have been amended and withdrawn including split across sectors, and excluding cases which are still ongoing
- number of unauthorised reports received and alerts issued
- how we act
- In Q1 2022, we reviewed 379 promotions.
- Our engagement resulted in 84 amends/withdrawals.
- Retail investments and retail lending are the sectors with the highest amend/withdraw outcomes, amounting to 72% of our interventions with authorised firms.
- Some of the most common breaches involved claims management companies’, retail finance promotions and peer-to-peer lending platforms.
- We identified and took action to correct several ‘clickbait’ promotions [content designed to attract attention and encourage visitors] in the general insurance & protection sector. In particular, firms using terms such as ‘benefit’ or ‘treat’ as well as mis-leading imagery to attract consumers when the firms are advertising life insurance.
- In 2021, we issued 1410 alerts about illegal financial promotions by unauthorised persons. This was an increase of 18% from 2020, with 30% of these about clone scams:
- so far, we have issued 762 alerts about unauthorised firms and individuals in 2022, with 11% of these related to clone scams
- the increase in alerts this year has been due to our increased proactive focus on sites relating to Forex, Binary Options and Contracts For Differences (CFDs)
- With increased resources we will aim to intervene swiftly and assertively against authorised firms that make non-complaint financial promotions and against unauthorised firms conducting activity that could lead to mis-selling and financial losses.
- We have engaged positively with the Government to ensure scams are covered by its proposed Online Safety Bill and, following our public intervention, Google has changed its policy to only permit FCA-authorised firms or promotions approved by FCA-authorised firms to advertise financial promotions with them. We continue to work with online platforms to ensure that they are complying with applicable requirements and now expect commitments from Meta, Twitter, and other social media companies to be turned into clear timetables for action.
Number of promotions reviewed
In Q1 2022 we reviewed 379 financial promotions from multiple sources.
36% from consumers
18% from our monitoring
17% from different areas of the FCA
15% from firms
14% from UK Regulators
Table 1: Number of cases with interventions and amend/withdraw outcomes
|1 s1375 (the Banning Power) directing a firm to withdraw financial promotions|
1 Own Initiative Application for Imposition of Requirements (OIREQs) was imposed restricting the firms’ ability to communicate or approve financial promotions
3 Voluntary Applications for Imposition of Requirements (VREQs) were approved, restricting the firms' ability to communicate or approve financial promotions
84 promotions were amended or withdrawn following our intervention with 21 authorised firms
76% of these involved website or social media promotions
Figure 1 shows how the cases in Q1 2022 which resulted in firms withdrawing or amending a promotion are spread across different sectors.
Figures rounded to the nearest percentage.
Number of reports received
In Q1 2022, we received 7,234 reports about potential unauthorised business.
We issued 762 alerts about unauthorised firms and individuals. Just over 11% 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.
How we act
Millions of people are facing the biggest cost of living crisis in more than a decade with bills expected to rise considerably. In line with our Business Plan and Strategy, we will keep financial promotions under close review and focus on making sure authorised firms are selling products and services that are suitable for the consumers that buy them, stopping firms doing unauthorised business and warning consumers about firms that do.
We are working towards raising industry standards through proposed new rules to increase the information consumers receive to enable them to make informed decisions. This is especially important at a time when people may consider taking on riskier investments or are increasingly being targeted by scams. Higher quality promotions will allow consumers to more easily identify suitable products that meet their investment needs and risk tolerance. Our InvestSmart campaign will also help less experienced consumers to make well-informed decisions and avoid unaffordable risk.
Complimenting the InvestSmart campaign, the FCA informs and educates consumers to the risks of scams and how to avoid them, through its ScamSmart campaign. Launched nationally in 2014, we target specific audiences (all investors aged 21-75), via the method of evidence based, creative communications developed with guidance from behavioural science. We have used TV, print, radio and digital advertising, as well as press activity and partner communications to build awareness of the risks of investment scams, loan fee fraud and pension fraud. Our evaluation data shows strong ScamSmart recognition and engagement levels. For example, two thirds of the Investment Scams campaign recognisers confirmed that they had taken action involving the FCA and its resources after having seen our ads. Our website allows us to track actions, and to date, we have seen the following:
- Over 2 million visitors to the ScamSmart website
- Nearly 250,000 users that have interacted with the Warning List tool
- Almost 35,000 users have been warned about an unauthorised firm
For authorised firms, we use a range of tools, including obtaining their agreement to impose voluntary requirement, or using our powers to impose own initiative requirements requiring the firm which has communicated or approved the advert to withdraw it or change it so that it complies 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 subsequently suffered.
We conduct proactive monitoring daily to identify websites containing illegal promotions and, where we identify such promotions, we take prompt action by publishing an alert on our website, typically within 24 hours of identification and request 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 that we use including enquiries, challenging firms and individuals' activities via technical correspondence, publishing consumer alerts on our website, and escalating the most serious problems to our Unauthorised Business Department's investigation teams, who can use powers under FSMA, with a view to commencing 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.