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Advertising watchdog denies conflict with Govt on ‘misleading’ MAS

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The Advertising Standards Agency has denied that the Government declaring the Money Advice Service’s branding “misleading” conflicts with its own verdict on the service.

A 2011 advertising campaign sparked 80 complaints to the ASA after the MAS advertised its services as “free, independent advice”.

At the time, the ASA ruled customers would understand the campaign referred to more generic information and guidance rather than full, regulated advice.

But the ruling was thrown into question when the Government’s proposals for reforming public sector guidance admitted the MAS branding was “misleading” because it does not offer regulated services.

An ASA spokesman says: “The advert claims and the nature of the complaints we received about it in 2011 weren’t focused on whether MAS provided regulated advice.

“Moreover, in our ruling we found that: ‘… the advertisers offered general information, guidance and advice on financial issues and products in a general sense, rather than providing “advice” in the specific, technical and commercial way that IFAs offered’.

“If anyone believes that circumstances have changed and has concerns that, further to the Government’s announcement, MAS’s marketing claims are currently misleading then we encourage them to lodge a complaint with us so we can assess things further.”

But Thameside Financial Planning director Tom Kean says: “To say the MAS branding wasn’t confusing is just factually inaccurate, and even to say that it was free was wrong because the financial services sector, and therefore their customers, were paying for it.

“The ASA need to look at it again and admit they were wrong. They need to send a signal out to other organisations that you can’t get away with woolly language.”

Essential IFA managing director Peter Herd adds: “The ASA got it completely wrong, but we also need to see the FCA being more proactive. Part of our feedback to the FCA review was to stop confusing the boundaries of guidance and advice.”

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