On 7 April, ASA published 2 more rulings on the advertising of debt advice services, this time by Flexible Digital Solutions Ltd (FDS) and TFLI Ltd t/a Wise Old Mary (TFLI). As with their previous rulings, both resulted from ASA’s proactive monitoring of ads, and involve paid-for Facebook ads and webpage content.
The FDS Facebook ad included the following “Anyone can now resolve unsecured debt: credit cards – lines of credit – personal loans. Take this 60-second quiz to qualify!”. Text underneath stated “Finally, This Special Program helps getting out of debt!” next to an “Apply Now” button. The TFLI ad text stated “Important Message For Women In Their 40’s [sic] – Up to 8.3 million British people are currently unable to pay off their debts or household bills – Whilst 24% of British people said they lose sleep over the amount of money that they owe – It doesn’t have to be this way! – 1000’s [sic] of qualifying individuals can write off up to 85% of their debts … Wise Old Mary offer a free service to 1000’s [sic] of women in their 40’s [sic], helping to change lives for the better – Why not take this free 90 second eligibility check now: [website address]”.
Unsurprisingly, the ads were found to be in breach of the CAP Code: None of the ads made clear that the solution offered was likely to be an IVA and the risks and fees involved with that, and both exaggerated the speed and ease of the process. The FDS ads were also found to be misleading by not making clear that there were restrictions on suitability for an IVA/DMP and were irresponsible by trivialising an application and encouraging consumers to make an enquiry without giving it serious consideration by using a “quiz” format. Similarly, TFLI ads were found to be misleading by exaggerating the amount of debt that could be written off and implying that their service was specifically for women in their 40s. The ads also did not make clear that they passed on leads to a third party.
These rulings are further examples of the much more proactive methods being used by ASA to test a market’s compliance with the advertising rules. Influencers are also currently in the same firing line and we expect this trend to continue as ASA works on flexing its muscles.