General insurance advertising is subject to statutory control by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 and the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Financial Promotion) Order 2005.
The FCA regulates the technical aspects of non-broadcast insurance adverting. However “non-technical” aspects of insurance marcoms (for example, offence, social responsibility, superiority claims, fear and distress and competitor denigration) are likely to fall within the remit of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code.
- What products are considered ‘General Insurance’?
General insurance products are those that are regulated by the FCA and include household, motor (including some car breakdown cover), travel, pet, payment protection, private medical insurance, term (life) assurance, critical illness and extended warranties.
- Socially responsible
The Code states that all ads should be socially responsible by being prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. An ad for life a life insurance provider featured an image of a man leaning the front of his head against a wall with his arms by his side with text which stated “… Life insurance to die for”. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received a complaint stating they believed the ad was alluding to depression and male youth suicide. The ASA considered that although it was not the intention to have a connection to suicide or depression, the as created the impression that he felt isolated and was in despair. They considered the combination of the text the image, trivialised the issue of suicide and was therefore irresponsible (DeadHappy Ltd, 11 December 2019).
- Harm and offence
A magazine ad for photography insurance, featured three men, each wearing a different style of underwear. The text that accompanied the image was “Can’t see the wood for the trees”. The ASA investigated if the ad was sexist and degrading to men and was therefore offensive. As the issue complained about was regarding taste and decency then this was investigated by the ASA as this was not considered a technical aspect of the product. The ASA considered that taking the image and the strapline together, the ad had the potential to cause serious offence to some people and so breached the Code (Versatile Insurance Professionals Ltd, 22 February 2012).
Claims regarding non-technical aspects of the product
The ASA may investigate complaints about the truthfulness of some claims that do not relate to the specific characteristics of the product. It upheld complaints against RAC Motoring Service’s claim “Breakdown cover – whether you’re the driver or a passenger in any vehicle, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year” on the grounds that the RAC policy did not include the driver or passenger of a taxi or private hire vehicle (RAC Motoring Services Ltd, 23 November 2005). Marketers should, of course, hold evidence to support such claims in line with Rule 3.7 of the CAP Code. In 2013, the ASA ruled against a Direct Line ad that highlighted the company’s flood coverage, because it omitted to say that they would not insure houses that had been subject to floods in the past ten years (Direct Line Group Ltd, 10 April 2013).
- Further guidance
If they are unsure about the legislation they need to comply with, marketers should consult a solicitor or the FCA. Under FCA guidance, insurance advertisements should be clear, fair and not misleading. Please note however that the FCA does not pre-approve proposed financial marketing communications for authorised firms. Technical guidance is available on specific matters or rule interpretations only, not on the advertisement as a whole.
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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