01 February 1998

A RULING published on 21 January by the Advertising Standards Authority has thrown the financial services industry into turmoil. Although the ASA's judgement relates specifically to an ad by phone-based financial services provider Direct Line for its instant access savings account, it has implications for the entire sector. The advertising watchdog insists that the term 'instant access' be interpreted literally, ruling that the time taken for a transfer of funds via the banking system in most cases invalidates the use of the term. Although the ASA has not vetoed Direct Line's using 'instant access' in the account's branding, it insists that all ads make it clear that access to funds is not instant. 'This ruling has the potential to cause more confusion than it resolves', Direct Line protested. '[It] is very confusing and will mean that new terms are introduced which in themselves are likely to provoke further complaints and arguments', moaned the Building Societies Association. Resolving the confusion will take 'some months'.