UK Office of Fair Trading Threatens Future of Pay Per Click and Social Media Marketing in Financial Services

By Cleardebt, PRNE
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

LONDON, September 7, 2011 -

Fair Trading Guidance for the Debt Management Industry in the UK Could Ban Companies From Advertising on Google, Twitter and Facebook - and the Credit Industry Could be Next

The OFT’s guidance, revised and published for consultation on 14th June, finds Google and Twitter “inappropriate” for debt management companies. The guidance proposes to impose restrictions on the use of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising and social networking.  The industry was given until September 6th to respond.

Andrew Smith, director of marketing and external affairs for ClearDebt and spokesperson for The Debt Resolution Forum (DRF), commented: “The DRF believes that, as long as a licensee’s search engine marketing is legal, that intellectual property and defamation laws are enough to ensure its proper use and any further restrictions would be a restraint of trade.”

This OFT document represents draft guidance for all licensees actively practising debt counselling and debt adjustment.

The guidance also extends to cover involvement in forums and blogs, and the use of contextual advertising (targeted advertisements based on the content of websites on which the adverts appear).

The document states “The OFT considers that search engine sponsored links and online messaging forums which limit the number of characters are unlikely to be an appropriate means of providing consumers with sufficiently balanced and adequate information.”  Preventing organisations from using advertising platforms could raise objections to restraints being placed on commercial freedom.

The guidelines that have been issued to the debt market could soon be applied to the credit industry, which is currently under government review.  ’Credit’ is the 5th most expensive term to bid for on Google, at $47.12 per click. Text ads appearing in the Google search results were responsible for 97 percent of the Google’s revenue over the past year.

Andrew Smith, of ClearDebt and the Debt Resolution Forum, comments:  ”It seems to DRF that as long as profiles within social applications and content of linked pages are compliant, that there should be no reason to restrict licensee’s use of these media. Enforcing this restriction would leave commercial licensees without a legitimate right of rebuttal or being able to defend company reputation.”

“The DRF also believes that to impose the requirement that any content on social networks should be identified, as a promotional statement would be inaccurate, unfair and a restraint of reasonable commercial freedoms and business practices.”

“It is understood that statements made by a licensee should be compliant wherever they appear, but content on Facebook/Twitter and other social networking is not necessarily only marketing communication. It can also be conversational, informational or campaigning. We agree paid-for content should be distinguished as such and, on the internet, should link to pages that are fully compliant. We believe a clear distinction needs to be drawn between paid-for social media and ordinary day-to-day use of social media by licensees.”


Notes to Editors

You can download the OFT Guidance direct from the OFT website (PDF) Most the information relating to this story is on page 32.

Andrew Smith is available to comment. He is the spokesman for Debt Resolution Forum and has spent more than 25 years in professional services marketing.

Will Critchlow, Director and Search Marketing specialist at Distilled Ltd, is also available to comment.

For more information, please contact 
Lexi Mills lexi.mills(at)distilled(dot)co(dot)uk 
London: +44-(0)20-7183-0767 Mob: +44-(0)79-2102-0345



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