On 22 July 2022, the FCA published its financial promotions quarterly data for Q2 2022. Between April and June 2022, 374 promotions were amended or withdrawn following FCA intervention. Retail investments and retail lending were the sectors with the highest amend/ withdraw outcomes and in 58% of cases website or social media promotions were involved.
Alongside the data, amongst other things, the FCA sets out how it currently acts in relation to financial promotions cases. In summary:
- For authorised firms, it uses a range of tools, including the imposition of voluntary requirements (VREQs) or using its powers to impose own initiative requirements. The firm which has communicated or approved the advert then has to withdraw or change it to comply with the FCA’s requirements. In the most serious cases, the FCA will use its powers under s137S of FSMA to ban a promotion or advert.
- Where the FCA sees repeated non-compliance with its rules, it expects these firms to conduct more detailed reviews and provide reports on these findings, particularly on their systems and controls for their financial promotions. The FCA may also ask firms to consider whether any customers may have acted on the non-compliant promotions and to take appropriate action to remedy any harm which consumers may have suffered as a result.
- The FCA conducts daily monitoring to identify websites containing illegal promotions and takes prompt action by publishing an alert on its website requesting that the offending website is taken down.
- For firms identified as potentially acting outside of the FCA’s perimeter, the FCA’s tools include: (i) enquiries; (ii) challenging firms and individuals’ activities via technical correspondence; and (iii) publishing consumer alerts on its website. The FCA escalates the most serious cases to its Unauthorised Business Department’s investigation teams, who can use powers under FSMA to commence civil, criminal and/ or insolvency proceedings.
The FCA is clear that authorised firms issuing and/ or approving financial promotions must take responsibility in making sure all communications of financial promotions are clear, fair and not misleading. This may include oversight of appointed representatives and marketing across all media platforms, such as paid for Google ads or social media websites. The FCA states that it will continue to “intervene swiftly and assertively” where non-compliant financial promotions are identified.