UK markets watchdog blocks 'fin-fluencer'-led surge in misleading ads

FILE PHOTO: FCA signage is seen at its head office in London

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's markets watchdog said on Friday it blocked thousands of misleading online financial promotions last year and that Big Tech needs to do more to protect consumers.

The Financial Conduct Authority said it required firms to amend or remove 8,582 promotions in 2022, 14 times more than the previous year, with so-called 'fin-fluencers' - unauthorised people promoting investments on social media - a key focus.

"The FCA has worked closely with several Big Tech companies to change their advertising policies to only allow financial promotions that have been approved by FCA-authorised firms, but more needs to be done by tech companies to protect consumers," the watchdog said in a statement.

The FCA said it has already acted against several ‘fin-fluencers’ and they will face more pressure from the watchdog in 2023.

The watchdog is consulting on introducing tougher checks for firms which want to approve financial promotions to help crack down on those from unauthorised firms and individuals.

Tougher consumer protections being introduced from July, known as the consumer duty, will also force firms to be more transparent to customers, the FCA said.

Financial sector officials say introducing the consumer duty is proving burdensome, but the FCA has said it was sticking to its timetable, and that firms should accelerate preparations.

Britain's financial services minister, Andrew Griffith, said on Thursday evening that 'caveat emptor' - or buyer beware - meaning consumers have some responsibility for their choices, is an important legal principle.

"We can't endorse a compensation culture for the sector, and we need to give you the clarity about where duties of care lie," Griffith told the annual dinner of TheCityUK.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Ben Dangerfield)