A decision not to uphold complaints against a banking giant's advertising campaign claiming it offers customers "impartial" financial guidance has been dubbed "shocking and disgusting".
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says NatWest's MoneySense advertising campaign, promoting its in-house financial advice service, might be misleading but says it will not be taking action against the bank, part of RBS.
Donna Hopton, director of cherryFind, which lead the campaign against the advert, says: "Thousands of financial advisers and also many consumers across the UK will share our sense of shock and disgust at the ASA's decision not to uphold our complaint made against the NatWest's campaign which suggests it provides impartial financial guidance to its customers."
A recent Which? investigation suggested just four out of 20 MoneySense reviews attended by undercover researchers provided impartial information without any attempt to promote NatWest products.
The ASA ruling comes the day after the financial ombudsman (FOS) revealed NatWest had 60% of almost 2,400 customer complaints against it upheld.
cherryFind's chief complaint concerned the term ‘impartial' being used by the bank, arguing it could cause confusion given that, in terms of financial services products, NatWest can only offer its own to customers.
"The fact of the matter is NatWest can only sell its own products and it has used the MoneySense campaign to get people into its branches to do just that, not to provide impartial advice," Hopton adds.
"It is a scandal that could and should have been avoided. Consumers need bodies like the ASA to look after their needs but, in this, they seem to have failed miserably."
Louise Hanson, head of campaigns at Which?, adds: "This is a disappointing judgement. I fail to see how the ASA can reconcile the kind of biased sales pitch our mystery shoppers got from MoneySense 'advisers' with the advertising of an 'impartial' service."
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