How to make sure your small print is fair

Magnifier-01-01The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a campaign aimed at ensuring firms include fair terms in their contracts and materials.

The campaign is aimed particularly at the holiday and travel industries, but has lessons for all firms.

If you market regulated financial services, The FCA’s financial promotions rules include their own requirements around small print, including the need to have the right disclaimers, displayed with correct prominence.

What does the CMA campaign cover?

The new campaign is a world away from what people might expect from a government initiative.

It aims to be interactive and engaging, with a quiz on the rules around consumer contract terms. You can also choose the areas you need guidance on and access tailored advice on those issues.

It also features a number of individual guides looking at terms and small print in some specific areas – including deposits, advance payments and cancellation charges, and subscriptions. This is a topical one, with subscription services a fast-growing trend; it’s predicted that the UK subscription box industry will be worth £1bn by 2022.

The campaign asks businesses to take a pledge to improve their small print and terms.

How can you get small print right?

If you work in a regulated sector, getting terms, conditions and other small print right is vitally important. Failing to do so can mean risking regulatory breaches. The FCA takes issues of suitability and disclosure very seriously.

So, how can you make sure you meet expectations around your terms, conditions and small print?

  • Understand the FCA’s rules on financial promotions. The regulator has strict requirements when it comes to advertising and marketing regulated products. Familiarise yourself with its financial promotions rules.
  • Disclaimers are an important element of these rules. You need to make sure you include any relevant disclaimers in your promotions.
  • There are also stringent requirements around how these disclaimers are included – the FCA’s prominence rules state how large they need to be and where they need to be displayed.
  • Your Compliance team are your allies here. They have a good understanding of what the regulator is looking for. If you can write content that lives up to FCA requirements, it will be easier for your Compliance colleagues to approve – meaning you get faster sign-off.
  • Speaking of compliance approvals, these are another essential element of the financial promotions process. Getting your content – including your small print – past your Compliance team is a crucial step in getting your products and services to market. Read our tips on making your approvals process as slick as it can be.
  • There are ways to mandate Compliance team review, ensuring that no non-compliant material leaves the business. An online library that locks down pre-approved content, and can watermark material that hasn’t had the go-ahead, can help here. Automated workflow solutions enable you to project manage your marketing campaigns, ensuring the right approvals happen before material is released.
  • Small print can be a minefield of jargon and terminology. Make sure you understand the terms you should be using (our blog on understanding compliance jargon may help here) – and that you communicate them in a clear way to your audience.
  • And remember that terms and conditions – and all other FP compliance rules – don’t just apply to hard copy materials. Your website and social media also fall under the same strict FCA rules. Make sure they’re compliant too.

Make it easier to meet regulatory compliance requirements

The CMA campaign provides a good nudge to revisit your small print – do your terms and conditions make the grade?

If you want to make it easier to comply with regulatory requirements, around small print or any of the other financial promotions rules, you might want to explore the potential of automated workflow solutions.

Automation can reduce paperwork and admin, remove duplicated effort, speed your promotions to market and make your regulatory compliance more robust.

Find out more in our free whitepaper on The benefits of automated workflow systems. You can download a copy here.

Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.

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