The FCA has released a report showing a significant increase in its intervention activity during 2022 in response to poor financial promotions compliance in authorised firms and activity involving unauthorised firms and individuals.
The report cites significant improvements to the digital tools the FCA uses to spot problem firms and misleading adverts, and in particular an increased capability to search across social media to identify illegal financial promotions more quickly and in larger volumes. The FCA says it has worked closely with several big tech companies to change their advertising policies and influence the role they play in protecting consumers.
The FCA says that so-called "fin-fluencers" (influencers that produce financial social media content) have been a growing concern and that it is working with other regulators to educate unauthorised individuals on their obligations. The FCA warns that in the most serious cases it will refer fin-fluencers issuing illegal financial promotions for criminal investigation.
The report also sets recent action within the context of new regulation, including the regulation of pre-paid funeral plans and the recently strengthened rules for high-risk investments. A December review of 67 crowdfunding and peer-to-peer firms to assess compliance with the first wave of the new rules for promoting high-risk investments revealed a non-compliance rate of 60%. The FCA warns that it will be looking at more firms and will closely monitor compliance against the second wave of new rules which came into force on 1 February 2023.
Overall the FCA remains concerned regarding levels of compliance, both in terms of the financial promotion rules applicable to authorised firms and the potential for illegal promotional activity by unauthorised firms and individuals, particularly via social media, and will likely look to make further significant interventions during 2023 where it identifies consumer harm.
It is more important than ever that financial promotions are responsible and clear so consumers can commit to appropriate financial products.