Don't get into debt with the ASA

This week marks StepChange’s 10th Debt Awareness Week, which aims to highlight the causes of problem debt. The ASA’s remit includes ads for products related to ‘debt’, that are not regulated by the FCA, such as IVAs and Lead Generation and they have issued a few rulings in this area. CAP have also issued an Enforcement Notice to advertisers which provides guidance about ads placed by lead generation companies and licensed insolvency practitioners. Here are some common issues to avoid. 

State any risks and fees involved

Code rule 3.3 states that ads should not omit material information. Information about any fees that will apply is likely to be considered material, and so would need to be included in the ad. Ads should also avoid implying that services are free when they’re not.  

Any risks that may be involved, such as impacts on credit scores, should also be included in any ads. 

Don’t imply it’s straightforward or guaranteed

Ads that exaggerate the speed of the application process or that imply that everyone viewing the ad is eligible will likely be considered misleading. The ASA has previously found claims such as ‘Stop payment demands now’ and ‘anyone can resolve unsecured debt’ were an issue. Any claims that a process is suitable for everyone are also likely to be misleading.  

Ads may also be considered problematic if they trivialise the serious decision to apply. 

Don't imply endorsement 

The ASA has previously seen ads where there could be implied endorsement by the Government, Citizens Advice or other official bodies or debt charities. One of the rules in Section 3 of the Code on ‘Misleading advertising’ states that ads should not claim that the advertiser has been approved or endorsed if this is not the case. Ads should not feature official trust marks without the correct authorisation. 

Evidence any objective claims

Any claims that could be considered as objective would need to be supported by evidence. Claims such as the amount that can be written off should be representative of what average consumers can achieve. This should also make clear that the specific amount quoted may not be achieved, by stating ‘up to’ or similar. Advertisers would be expected to hold documentary evidence to show any stated amounts are representative.  

For more information see our AdviceOnline entry here, and if you need bespoke advice on your non-broadcast ads, our Copy Advice team are here to help. 

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