Last Wednesday (6 August), the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) released their latest supervisory approach to social media guidance for financial services. Digital media are becoming the media of choice and firms are increasingly using social channels for their communications. The FCA acknowledge this and intend their rules to be media-neutral so that the information customers receive is always clearfair and not misleading.

The FCA's objectives are to promote consumer protection and effective competition in the interests of consumers

The proposed guidance is open for consultation until 6 November and comments are welcomed by the FCA.

In the short and snappy spirit of social media, we've done all of the lengthy reading for you and summarised the key points you need to know:

 

The FCA's supervisory approach

 

  • If your post includes an invitation or inducement to engage in financial activity, the FCA considers it a financial promotion.
  • For a financial promotion to be inside of these regulations, it must be made 'in the course of business'. This means that there must be a commercial interest on the communicator's part.
  • Financial promotions for investment products must be identifiable as such. The generally accepted way to do this is to include #ad in character-limited media such as tweets.
  • Each communication must be considered individually and comply with the relevant rules. For example, a tweet must be considered separately to a LinkedIn post, and both must comply.
  • Firms are required to include risk warnings in promotions for certain products/services.
  • When including an image within a post, e.g. a tweet, the image must also be compliant with the inclusion of risk warnings.
  • For the investment sector, image advertising is exempt from most of the financial promotions rules and guidance, but must comply with the 'fair, clear and not misleading' rule.
  • Insurance and banking firms cannot rely on image advertising exemptions.
  • Responsibility for breaches lies with the communicator. You are responsible for your original posts or for posts you share. However, if your post gets shared, e.g. retweeted, the responsibility lies with the sharer (the retweet-er, for example).
  • Firms should have a system in place for a person of  'appropriate competence and seniority' to sign off digital media communications.
  • Firms should keep records of any significant communications, and should not rely on social media channels to maintain these. As we've seen numerous times in recent months, platforms like LinkedIn have the tendency to make sudden changes with little or no notice, often resulting in the loss of information.

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Next steps

The FCA plan to commission consumer research to understand how financial promotions are received, used, and contextualised through social media communications.

You can send your comments by email to Richard.Lawes@fca.org.uk

To download the full guidance consultation, click here.

If you have any questions regarding the FCA guidelines or any other social media issues, get in touch by email or on Twitter.

photo credit: paz.ca