Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
Claims on the website www.comparing-pensions.co.uk, seen on 8 March 2019.
The home page of the website featured the text “Increase your pension by up to 40%. Shop around for the best deals. Merge all your pensions in to [sic] one. Find pensions left with old employers. Free Phone Consultation from a Local FCA Regulated Advisor. Free Pension Health Check Report. COMPARE NOW”. A web-form on the page headed “compare the market for the best pension returns”, required consumers to input details about their pension. The web page included logos for six pension providers. Additional text at the bottom of the web page stated “Step 1. Tell us who you are We give you a quick call to take some details about you and your pension in order to begin our search... Step 2. We search for you We check our specialist ‘all the market’ software to find the best deal for you and your circumstances…Step 3. The choice is yours We send you our findings for you to make an informed choice in your own time”.
1. The ASA challenged whether the ad falsely implied that the marketer was acting for purposes outside its business.
2. The complainant challenged whether the website misleadingly implied that the advertiser provided financial advice.
1. & 2. Centurius Ltd t/a www.comparing-pensions.co.uk said that they advertised on behalf of financial advisors who were regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). They explained that by putting an enquiry into the website, customers could receive advice from a financial advisor. The website itself did not offer financial advice and the footer of the website made it clear that the site introduced people to FCA regulated advisors. They said that the website was not a price comparison site and there was no such thing in the pensions market. As pensions were a complex area, it was difficult to compare them online but once the customer had spoken to an advisor it would be possible to compare things such as annuity rates and pension performance.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer was acting for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession. It further stated that marketing communications must make clear their commercial intent if that was not obvious from the context. We considered that the website presented itself as a pension comparison site from the name and url ‘www.comparing-pensions.co.uk’ and the options offered on the site such as a “free pension health check report” and a “free call from … FCA regulated company”. However, Centurius Ltd confirmed that the website did not compare pensions, and that to receive any advice or information consumers would be required to fill out their personal details on the website before being contacted by an advisor by telephone.
We understood that Centurius Ltd were in fact a lead generation company that would pass on consumers details to financial advisors. We considered that this information was not made sufficiently clear on the website. We concluded that the ad falsely implied that Centurius Ltd was acting for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession, and did not make clear its commercial intent, and therefore breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 2.3 (Recognition of marketing communications).
The ASA considered that consumers would understand that the company which operated the website provided financial advice about pensions including the option to compare pension products. The website included claims such as “Increase your pension by up to 40%. Shop around for the best deals. Merge all your pensions in to [sic] one” and a web form titled ‘compare the market for the best pension returns’. We considered that this contributed to the impression that the advertiser provided financial advice. However, we understood that consumers were not able to obtain financial advice from the website and their details were passed on to a third-party financial advisor who would contact them by telephone.
We acknowledged that small print at the bottom of the page stated that the advertiser introduced consumers to financial advisors and they were not authorised to provide financial advice. However, we considered that this information was insufficiently prominent and did not override the overall impression created by the ad. We therefore concluded that the ad misleadingly implied that the advertiser provided financial advice and breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 (Misleading advertising).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Centurius Ltd t/a www.comparing-pensions.co.uk not to claim or imply that they were acting for purposes outside their trade or business and to make clear the commercial intent of their marketing. We told them not to misleadingly claim that they provided financial advice.