FCA warnings: Unauthorised websites

11 May 2023

The IPA are continuing to work with the FCA to highlight companies that are either breaching FCA permissions or acting without the required permissions and are offering to give unregulated debt advice. We therefore would like to draw your attention to the following warnings published by the FCA regarding websites that are unauthorised:

www.moneyadvicedebthelp.co.uk | FCA

Debt Help Group Ltd | FCA

Debt Clearers / debtclearers.co.uk | FCA

Anyone seeking debt advice should not use the websites in the preceding warnings and should seek a properly authorised and regulated Insolvency Practitioner (IP). Anyone struggling with debts is encouraged to visit the ‘guides for people in debt‘ section of the IPA website, which includes debt guides and links to organisations such as Money Helper which can assist with getting debt help and understanding the different ways to pay off debts.

Requirements for Insolvency Practitioners

The Insolvency Code of Ethics is very clear (R360.5 – 360.7) on the requirements to comply with relevant codes of practice and guidance in relation to advertising and to ensure that if work is obtained via a third party or a third party conducts marketing activities for an IP, then an IP remains responsible for ensuring that the third party complies with the requirements.

IPs should be aware of the risks highlighted in the ASA Enforcement Notice regarding debt management ads for Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs), Protected Trust Deeds (PTDs), and the required advertising practices. The notice is relevant guidance that sets out the expectations for IPs and lead generation companies to comply with the advertising standards set out by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Failure to comply with this guidance greatly undermines the public interest. All IPs should be aware that engaging with the types of firms highlighted in this alert seriously brings the profession into disrepute, which will result in regulatory action and sanctions against the IP.

Furthermore, the changes to the Statement of Insolvency Practice (SIP) 3.1 relating to IVAs have introduced new requirements for IPs. The changes require IPs to provide greater transparency on the advice given to debtors, in each case, before entering into an IVA, and during its implementation. Failure to comply with these new requirements may lead to regulatory action. IPs need to undertake sufficient due diligence as to whether a debtor has been advised by any referrer and ensure that where advice has been given, they can access all communications accordingly. IPs should ensure that their advertising practices comply with the ASA rules and that they are aware of the new requirements set out in SIP 3.1.

Non-compliance will result in regulatory action, including disciplinary action, and could have serious implications. If any IP is aware of non-compliance, they should follow the Insolvency Code of Ethics. The IPA welcomes receiving information on non-compliance with advertising standards. Any information or evidence of links of unregulated debt advice that leads to a regulated debt solution should be sent to regulation@ipa.uk.com.