Instagram posts fronted by three reality TV stars urging people in financial trouble to sign up to a service that claimed to be able to wipe out their debts have been slammed and banned by the ad watchdog for misleading consumers.
Three Instagram stories for lead generation company Debt Slayers, seen in December 2020 and January 2021, ran on the accounts of Geordie Shore’s Chloe Ferry, who has 3.7 million followers, Ex On The Beach’s Helen Briggs (630,000 followers) and The Only Way Is Essex’s Myles Barnett (227,000 followers).
Barnett’s stated: “One of my friends just got 81% of his debt wiped off. So if you’ve got debt above £5,000 – it could be credit cards, catalogues, car finance … a loan, anything like that, swipe up, there’s more information on there… I know it’s weird times at the moment and everyone’s finances have taken a hit. So swipe up, and you can wipe off a big, big chunk of your debt.”
Swiping up on three stories took consumers to Debt Slayers’ website where consumers were encouraged to sign up for an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) through a third-party.
The Advertising Standards Authority received three complaints, two challenged whether the posts were obviously identifiable as marketing communication and two complainants challenged whether the ads exaggerated the ease with which debts could be reduced.
All three complainants challenged whether the ads made clear the risks associated with an IVA, which is a way to avoid bankruptcy in which an individual’s main assets are usually protected. Under an IVA, an insolvency expert helps people in debt strike a deal with their creditors.
The agreements usually allow people to pay off debts over a fixed period and can mean not needing to repay the full amount.
In response to the ASA investigation, Ashteck Media t/a Debt Slayers said it had “informal agreements” with the three influencers to produce the Instagram posts and that consumers who contacted the firm as a result of the posts were made aware of the risks and fees associated with IVAs.
It had even amended the wording of its marketing campaigns to ensure it was clear to consumers that they passed on leads to third parties rather than providing debt management services themselves. It also insisted it had ceased using influencers to promote its service.
But the watchdog was having none of it. In a far reaching ruling, the ASA not only concluded that the posts were not obviously identifiable as marketing communications, they also over-simplified the process and exaggerated the speed and ease with which debts could be reduced and failed to explain that Debt Slayers’ was a lead-generation company.
Concluding that the posts were misleading on five separate points, the ASA banned all three “stories” and said: “We told Ashteck Media to ensure their ads did not exaggerate the speed or ease with which debts could be reduced, that they made risks and fees of IVAs and other debt management services clear, and that they made clear that they passed on inquirers’ details to third parties and did not provide the service themselves.”
All three influencers have since vowed never to work with IVA, debt lead or debt management services in the future.
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