Hashtag regulation (part 1)

The Financial Conduct Authority has published new guidance on using social media for financial services brands. Here's everything you need to know about the changes.

According to figures released recently by the Office of National Statistics, more than half of all adults in the UK use social media and this figure rises to 91% among young people. Half of us now use internet banking and the number of people using the internet to find information on goods and services has now passed 70%.

Like many other regulators faced with rapid changes in media consumption, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has struggled to keep pace, especially when it comes to applying the same rigorous standards to social media as it does to traditional advertising and communications from financial institutions. In this blog, we’ll outline some of the key points from the guidance, and in our next blog we'll analyse the implications as well as looking at some future trends.

ONS trends in online behaviour

Online activities by age group. Source: ONS Internet Access – Households and Individuals 2014

It was therefore welcome to see the recent publication of the FCA’s guidance consultation on the regulator’s proposed approach to financial promotions on social media. Far from a new piece of regulation, the document outlines how regulation never intended for social media might apply to character limited contexts like Twitter. Overall the guidance is thorough, covering off many possible eventualities and displaying a pretty good awareness of the dynamics and limitations of social media.

Among the key highlights are:

Enticements to financial activity

Social media posts fall under the purview of the FCA when they include an enticement to financial activity, even if that is implied indirectly through online games, images, videos etc.

Identifying financial promotions

Financial promotions on should be identifiable as such. The FCA suggests using “#ad” to make these sorts of posts easy to identify for consumers without using up character limits. Nonetheless, all normal necessary disclaimers must also be included in such posts, regardless of restrictions on space.

Responsibility for content

The financial organisation is responsible for the content of anything they share (e.g. retweet) if it contains regulated content. However, they are not responsible for the actions of others sharing their content and social media conversations involving groups and individuals not acting ‘in the course of business’ are outside of the FCA’s regulation

While these are not major changes, they do have important implications for brands, especially given the constant rapidity of change in social media usage. In our next blog, we’ll be analysing these implications and the possible challenges for the guidance posed by future trends in social media.

H+K Admin

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search