Following a number of upheld motor advertising complaints by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and a recent warning issued by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to motor finance advertisers, are we seeing a clampdown on motor finance advertising, or are advertisers pushing the boundaries? Shoosmiths’ Stephen Dawson writes.

In this article, I will look at recent trends and consider whether we are seeing the start of a more proactive enforcement regime in motor finance advertising, particularly from the FCA.

The ASA recently considered complaints against three separate but similar advertisements by different motor manufacturers.

The themes of the complaints were encouraging or condoning unsafe driving or anti-social behaviour, dangerous or irresponsible driving, and exaggerating the benefits of safety features.

All three complaints were upheld, despite submissions from the advertisers that they did not breach the advertising code and, in a number of cases, that they were simply attempting to highlight the safety features of vehicles rather than encourage any negative behaviour.

Also, as part of the FCA’s November Regulation Round Up, we saw a warning issued to motor finance firms who may not be complying with the financial promotion rules under CONC 3. In particular, some of the main issues raised by the FCA were:

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• Not displaying a representative example when triggered; • Not making the representative APR prominent;

• Not mentioning the legal name of the firm; and

• Not displaying or a lack of prominence of the credit broker statement.

The issues were particularly prevalent in financial promotions on social media platforms, where we know space is at a premium with strict word limits.


Our experience of reviewing thousands of advertisements shows that advertisers are pushing to get more value from their advertisements.

However, we have never seen an advertiser want to be non-compliant, aim to cause consumer harm or seek to encourage anti-social behaviour.

So why are boundaries being pushed? The role of advertising includes building brand reputation, driving sales and reaffirming an owner’s decision to buy into a particular brand or vehicle.

In this increasingly competitive world, the most memorable and often creative advertisements are seen to have the greatest impact. This means advertisers are pushing to be more interesting, more exciting, more creative.

Is this the reason for increasing complaints or possible non-compliance?

I do not believe so. Technology is driving change, both in the vehicles manufactured and the channels through which they are advertised and sold. Driver aids and safety features are far more complex and are becoming much more of a buying factor.

Clearly, advertisers want to highlight these features without being overly
technical or – dare I say it? – boring!

Equally, the advertising of finance is making far greater use of social media to reach consumers.

This comes with challenges: how do you meet the technical regulations and rules, while still producing entertaining and engaging advertising within a relatively confined space?


There is no doubt that the FCA is looking at financial promotions as part of its motor finance review, and we may see a push on compliance and a review of the rules.

However, I believe a review of the CONC 3 rules should be welcomed by advertisers. In my view, a number of the issues related to social media advertising come from the FCA rules not being specifically written for the newer advertising formats and the technological shift; this is what the advertising industry craves.

I do not believe advertisers are deliberately getting things wrong. What I do believe is that they are finding innovative ways to advertise both finance and vehicle safety features in a consumer-friendly way and at the same time trying to fit as best they can within an outdated advertising regime.

So, my final thoughts: increased compliance issues are a mix of increased enforcement and advertisers often trying to advertise new technology using new platforms, under outdated rules in the most compliant way they can.

A simple touch of the new to the inflexible and old rules will give advertisers more flexibility, increased consumer engagement and no damage to consumer protection – which is, of course, the regulator’s very valid aim.