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Clampdown on dodgy debt advice adverts

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned adverts by two unrelated debt management firms.

Flexible Digital Solutions Ltd and TFLI Ltd were both told that their adverts breached advertising regulations. The firms had 11 separate complaints made against two adverts on Facebook. All the complaints were upheld by the ASA.

Complaints about Flexible Digital Solutions related to a paid-for Facebook ad and a landing page on a website for Save-ExtraS, seen in July 2020.

The ad showed a young man holding up a notice on which handwritten text stated “I am finally debt free! £9412 paid”.

The ad claimed “anyone” could resolve unsecured debt and invited users to take a quiz to see if they qualified. The landing page on the website touted a program called “Debt Relief”.

The ASA challenged if the ads were misleading, exaggerated the speed of the service, and irresponsibly trivialised an application for the service. It also said “Debt Relief was” misleading because there was no “Debt Relief” programme.

Flexible Digital Solutions Ltd blamed an affiliate for running the advert. It failed to respond to several of the ASA’s points.

Six issues were raised about a paid-for Facebook ad and a landing page on a website for Wise Old Mary (owned by TFLI Ltd), offering assistance with resolving debt, seen in July 2020.

It claimed to offer a free service to write-off 85% of debts, targeted women in their 40s, and offered a 90-second ‘eligibility test’.

The ASA challenged whether the term “free service” was misleading because the solution offered was an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) which was likely to incur a fee. It also said the ad exaggerated the speed and ease of the process, and misleadingly implied that the service was specifically for women in their 40s.

The ASA told both firms that the ads must not appear again in the same format.

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