ASA has ruled against three Instagram stories for lead generation company Ashteck Media Ltd t/a Debt Slayers, seen in December 2020 and January 2021. The ruling, published on 2 June, covers 4 issues:
- The three influencers concerned, Helen Briggs, Myles Barnett, and Chloe Ferry, posted stories on Instagram which invited readers to swipe up to the Debt Slayers website. They had informal commercial relationships with Debt Slayers that covered the Instagram posts, with Debt Slayers dictating the contents of the posts and paying the influencers for posting these. There was nothing in the posts, such as a clearly shown “#ad”, that made clear to consumers they were ads. ASA found that they were not obviously identifiable as marketing communications, in breach of CAP Code Rule.2.1.
- Barnett’s post included the claims, “One of my friends just got 81 percent of his debt wiped off … So swipe up, and you can wipe off a big, big chunk of your debt” in ad (a), and “THIS IS A NEW FULLY REGULATED SCHEME THAT CAN HELP YOU WRITE OFF 85% OF THE DEBT!” ASA found that consumers would interpret this to mean that contacting Debt Slayers would enable them to immediately begin to resolve their debt problems. However, Debt Slayers only passed consumers’ details on to a third party. Creditors would then need to agree to an IVA and a payment schedule drawn up. ASA found the claims over-simplified the process, exaggerated the speed and ease with which debts could be reduced, and were therefore misleading under CAP Code Rule 3.1.
- There was no mention in the ads of any of the risks or fees associated with an IVA. The ads should have made consumers aware that there were risks associated with the form of debt support Debt Slayers would put them forward for. As the ads did not make those risks and fees clear, they were misleading in breach of CAP Code Rules 3.1 and 3.3.
- ASA found that the claims, “One of my friends just got 81 percent of his debt wiped off … So swipe up, and you can wipe off a big, big chunk of your debt” and “…WRITE OFF 85% OF THE DEBT! … SWIPE UP NOW” in two of the posts, linking to Debt Slayers’ website, would be interpreted by consumers to mean that Debt Slayers provided debt counselling themselves and that it would deal with the entire process of consumer debt problems. It was not clear that Debt Slayers was only a lead-generating company that passed on consumers’ details to third-parties, and did not provide debt counselling or debt management services. The commercial intent was not clear. As a result, the ads were in breach of Rules 2.3 (recognition of marketing communications) and misleading under Rule 3.1.
Once again, this ruling causes no surprises, and reaffirms ASA’s intention to ensure that debt advice services remain in the spotlight until they are fully compliant with CAP Code requirements. There is no sign that ASA has informally resolved any similar cases since 2018. We expect to see this trend of formal investigations and published rulings continuing for some time.