UK regulator upholds only one misleading advertising complaint against Forex firm

Maria Nikolova

While misleading ads gain ground in the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has thus far upheld only one complaint over such ads against an FX company – it is against a firm offering Forex seminars.

Advertising of Forex, CFDs and binary options has become the focus of regulatory attention over the past several months, with France having banned the advertising of high-risk financial products and the Netherlands looking to implement similar measures against “harmful financial products”. More recently, FinanceFeeds has reported of another trend with regards to advertising of Forex and binary options – misleading advertising by certain brokers via the improper use of names related to Switzerland and/or top-class financial institutions like banks and exchanges.

FinanceFeeds decided to take a look at how (if at all) the UK authorities control the advertising of financial products or any ads whatsoever on an online trading company website. The focus of our interest this time was on any restrictions or the possible action taken against violators of such rules.

Forex

The website of the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) shows only one ruling has ever been made by the body with regards to a firm offering Forex products and/or services.

The ruling in question is against WIN Investing, a company offering Forex seminars. The ASA decision upheld a complaint concerning advertisements of a set of seminars on the company’s website published in November 2016. The regulator agreed with the complaint that the claims regarding the seminar price and the awards purportedly associated with these seminars were misleading. WIN Investing could not substantiate its claims and the ASA ordered it to remove the misleading ads.

Speaking of regulatory action with regards to advertising by Forex firms, let’s note that ASA’s database shows that 10 cases involving FX companies have been informally resolved thus far. Actually, the 10 cases were resolved between 2012 and 2015. After that, the single case involving a Forex firm is the above-mentioned Win Investing case.

Binary options

The situation is not very clear. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) refers complaints or any enquiries with regards to binary options brokers to the Gambling Commission.

The Gambling Commission, in its turn, has lately tightened the oversight of advertising of gambling products and services. The Commission has teamed up with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to raise standards in the area of advertising of such products in order to avoid misleading of customers.

FinanceFeeds has examined the documents on ASA’s website with regards to gambling advertising, and let’s admit that some particular points are actually made with regards to misleading ads.

For instance, according to a Guidance on the UK Code of Advertising by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP):

“Marketing communications must not:

suggest that gambling can be a solution to financial concerns, an alternative to employment or a way to achieve financial security”.

The Guidance also says that

“Advertisements must not mislead consumers by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner. Material information is information that consumers need in context to make informed decisions about whether or how to buy a product or service.”

The readers may decide on whether binary options brokers comply with the above-mentioned rules.

Stunningly, however, ASA has not ever reviewed a complaint against a binary options firm over advertising. There are no rulings and settlements in ASA’s database mentioning “binary options”.

Misleading advertising on the rise

Whereas complaints and rulings against misleading advertising by online trading companies in the UK remain scarce, the overall trend is that such ads are on the rise. About 72% of the complaints the ASA received in 2016 concerned potentially misleading ads.

Last year, the ASA resolved more than 29,000 complaints relating to just under 16,000 ads. In addition, the body resolved 5,425 cases on its own initiative. As a result of these efforts, 4,584 ads were either changed or removed.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media. It applies the Advertising Codes, written by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP).

The ASA may take action based on just one complaint – it is a good thing that the body does not play a numbers game: the issue is whether the ad rules have been broken. In case advertisers and broadcasters persistently break the Advertising Codes and refuse to co-operate with the ASA, it can refer them to other bodies for the further action, such as Trading Standards or Ofcom.

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