Is your website compliant?

Many of the FCA rules around firms’ websites are those related to financial promotions. Not every website is a financial promotion but the FCA Handbook states:

“The test for whether the contents of a particular website may or may not involve a financial promotion is no different to any other medium. If a website or part of a website, operated or maintained in the course of business, invites or induces a person to engage in investment activity or to engage in claims management activity, it will be a financial promotion.”

In general, ATEB would expect a typical adviser website to be a financial promotion and so the overarching requirement of financial promotions that they should be clear, fair and not misleading applies, along with several other FCA rules and guidance of which more shortly.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also imposes a number of legal requirements on what can and cannot be published on a UK website, in particular around the use of online reviews. And the Advertising Standards Authority code of rules also have something to say on the matter although many of these rules do not extend to the content of a website itself beyond the clear, fair and not misleading principle.

Primary references
Direct reference to and familiarity with the key aspects of the following rules and guidance will be of value in ensuring your website is compliant … or you can just ask ATEB!

COBS 4 Financial Promotions Designated Investment Business
COBS 5.2 E-Commerce Designated Investment Business
ICOBS 3 Distance marketing – Insurance
CONC 3.1 Financial Promotions – Consumer Credit
CONC 2.7 Distance marketing – Consumer Credit
CONC 2.8 E-Commerce – Consumer Credit
MCOB 3 Rules relating to mortgage lending and intermediation
PERG 8.22 The Internet
DISP 1.1A.11 and DISP 1.2 Requirements to provide information on the FOS
FG 15/04 FCA Finalised Guidance – Social Media and Customer Communications

The Data Protection Act 2018 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) are also relevant so the Information Commissioner’s Office website is also a useful point of reference.

What does this all mean in practice?
The outcome of all these related rules and guidance is that firms should review their websites against each of the following aspects.

Aspect

Overall presentation

Clear, fair and not misleading?

About us

Are visitors interested that you run marathons?

Testimonials or reviews

These must be genuine

Topical information

Last year’s news is not topical!

Regulatory statement

Do you need it?

Appointed Representatives

What about ARs?

Financial Ombudsman Service information

Include or not?

Financial Services Compensation Scheme

Include or not?

Firm details

What information is required?

Cookies

Managing cookie permissions

Privacy Notice

Required

Terms of business

Required or good practice?

Placement of disclosures or warnings

Where should disclosures and warning be located?

Use of business logos and trade marks

Do you have permission to use them?

What about ICOBS or CONC firms?

Additional requirements apply

Links to third-party websites

How should you handle these?

Approval, archive and audit trail

Keep a copy of every version of the website

Note that there are additional requirements for websites that facilitate sales of products but those are not within the scope of this article.

Important Note: ATEB news is intended to provide general information ONLY. The content, including any views expressed or guidance provided, does not replace the need to comply fully with FCA Rules and Guidance. Unless you have discussed news article content with ATEB, and specifically how it relates to your circumstances, then ATEB disclaims all liability and responsibility and actions arising from any reliance placed upon it. For the avoidance of doubt therefore, any reliance you place on such information without our consultation is at your own risk.

ATEB Compliance offers compliance and regulatory advice.

ATEB Suitability provides report writing software for the financial services market.

Our View

As will be seen from the above, there is far more to having an adviser website than creating a few flashy pages. To start with, whether you are creating a new site or refreshing an existing site, you need to ensure that the website designer/creator has a grasp of applicable rules. And, because the website is almost certainly a financial promotion, it will need to be formally approved and version control applied.

There are significant data privacy requirements for all adviser websites, which, in our experience, many sites do not satisfy. And additional requirements apply where the website actually facilitates sales of a financial product.

Unfortunately, many of the rules are more involved or nuanced than it is appropriate to try to do justice to in this article.

What we can say is that many of the websites that we are asked to review fall short of one or more of the rules.

Action Required By You

  • Consider whether your website could benefit from a compliance review;
  • Contact ATEB if you would like to discuss how we can help.

About the Author

Technical Manager - Often referred to as the Oracle or the Sage, Alistair has a wealth of financial services experience. He is our go-to Technical Manager and enjoys nothing more than a complicated conundrum. Feel free to test his renowned knowledge by getting in touch.

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