Advertising Standards Authority rejects MAS “free advice” complaints

The Advertising Standards Authority has rejected adviser complaints over the Money Advice Service’s controversial TV ad which claimed it offers free, independent advice.

In July, Money Marketing, Mortgage Strategy’s sister publication revealed the ASA had launched a formal investigation after it received 80 complaints.

The ad began airing in June and included a voiceover claiming: “Our advice is independent and unbiased. Oh, and it is free, how is that for a breath of fresh air?”

Complainants claimed thereference to advice was misleading, arguing the MAS provides information rather than advice.

Complainants also challenged the independent and unbiased claim.

In its adjudication, published today, the ASA says: “The ASA considered that most consumers would understand the references to ’advice’ in the ad to mean the advertisers offeredgeneral 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.”

The ASA had already narrowed its investigation after rejecting a number of initial adviser complaints.

Yellowtail Financial Planning managing director Dennis Hall, who was one of the complainants, says: “The ASA cannot rule against the use of words that we might think are inflammatory but I am disappointed that more advisers did not exp ress a view. You have to make a stand or you get walked over.”

Essential IFA managing director Peter Herd also made a complaint. He says: “It is a complete and utter whitewash. I would like the MAS to clearly spell out that it can only provide information. We need to educate the public that advice needs to be paid for and the Government should back that message.”

An MAS spokeswoman says: “We have noted the ASA’s decision and welcome the outcome.”