A TV ad for Age Partnership, an equity release advisor and retirement income service provider, seen on 5 and 9 April 2023, began with a woman introducing herself and her home, and who then stated, “We are actually sitting in, and on, assets, but they are bricks and mortar. They don't buy you a new kitchen. And so, at our age, what are we going to do? Speaking to family solicitors they actually suggested equity release. It enables me to stay in my own home and to be happier with my life. I was talking to a friend and she said I've heard some good things about Age Partnership. Process was very easy, it was actually quite seamless. It has made a difference to my life.”
The complainants, who believed family solicitors were not typically authorised to offer financial advice, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
Age Partnership Ltd t/a Age Partnership said the woman in the ad was a genuine Age Partnership customer who discussed her own actual experience in applying for an equity release policy in an unscripted manner while being filmed. The reference to solicitor was unprompted and arose when the woman outlined how she first heard about equity release policies.Age Partnership said solicitors could offer guidance on equity release policies, and that in the woman’s case a family solicitor had provided assistance in understanding the legal implications, risks and benefits associated with the product.
Clearcast said they received a signed testimonial form which confirmed the woman’s experience with equity release and Age Partnership was genuine, including that she spoke to her family’s solicitors about equity release. As a result of that, they said the ad suggested legal, rather than financial, advice was provided. They understood solicitors could offer advice on equity release policies.
The ASA understood that while solicitors were involved in the equity release policy application process, their role was to ensure applicants understood the legal obligations they were taking on, and the risk, rewards and long-term nature of the policy. This did not necessarily extend to offering financial advice in relation to a specific policy.
We considered consumers would understand the statement “Speaking to family solicitors they actually suggested equity release” as recommendation by a family solicitor that the individual should apply for an equity release policy. We acknowledged the ad did not state or imply solicitors were the only source of advice for taking out such policies, or discourage consumers from speaking to a financial advisor, and the ad was a reflection of a customer’s own experience. However, we considered the ad implied a solicitor had recommended a financial instrument as a way to solve a specific financial problem. This would be understood as financial advice, which went beyond explaining the legal obligations, risks, rewards and long-term nature of equity release.
We therefore concluded the ad was likely to mislead, because it suggested family solicitors were a suitable source of financial advice when considering an equity release policy.
The ad breached BCAP Code Rule 3.1 (Misleading advertising).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Age Partnership Ltd t/a Age Partnership to ensure their ads did not suggest financial advice about equity release could be sought from non-authorised sources.