FSA mortgage rules confuse advertisers

Tough new rules on mortgage advertising, which come into force at the end of next month, could catch lenders and media owners unawares, says a specialist lawyer.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA), which takes over mortgage regulation on October 31, will require APRs (annual percentage rates) to be amended in all advertising copy immediately they change, rather than simply being “correct at time of going to press”.

This is likely to have an impact on advertising in directories, which have not been given a special dispensation. Clarke Willmott advertising lawyer Linda Gregory says: “All companies will be able to say is: ‘We offer mortgages.'”

Thomson Directories marketing executive Graham Clifford says: “The biggest problem is finding someone who knows what is happening. Most people don’t seem to know what the guidelines are.”

Unlike the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the FSA is refusing to offer a copy approval service and will not publish complaints or adjudications unless they lead to serious disciplinary action, leaving practitioners in the dark.

An FSA spokesman says: “The ASA has its own methodology. We will publish what we want to. Financial promotions is an area that has not been very satisfactory and we will be watching mortgage ads very carefully.” Companies breaching the rules can be ordered to withdraw ads or fined.

The new rules also state that if a television mortgage ad is aired during a programme designed to promote credit, it must also show APRs. Gregory says the FSA is refusing to define which programmes would fall into this category.

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