The Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, has welcomed today’s decision from the Advertising Standards Authority to uphold complaints from the Money and Pensions Service, supported by free debt advice charities, about misleading adverts from two lead generation companies.
Online adverts from National Direct Service and Fidelitas Group were found to have misled consumers by suggesting they were associated with free, Government-backed debt advice providers. In these cases, the advertisers did not have the legal permission to give debt advice at all.
The charity welcomed the decision, but warned that more needs to be done to tackle the widespread proliferation of misleading adverts online and the risk they pose to people struggling with problem debt especially in the wake of Covid-19.
The charity is calling for Government action to tighten up the rules by providing the FCA with the power it needs to take action against firms engaging in this practice online and to ensure search engines do all they can to stop such adverts appearing in the first place.
Jane Tully, Director of External Affairs at the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline and Business Debtline, said: “Today’s decision from the Advertising Standards Authority to take action against these lead generation firms is welcome and recognition of the risk these misleading adverts pose to people in debt.
“Action like this to stop misleading adverts appearing online is needed, however as one advert is taken down another often appears. Our concern is that these adverts direct people in need of debt advice down routes that may not be suitable for their circumstances, causing further financial harm down the line.
“At a time when the financial impact of Covid-19 continues to be felt, these adverts pose a serious risk to the longer-term financial recovery of many people in debt.
“The Government needs to step in and to give the FCA the power it needs to tackle this issue head on.”