Britannia takes down TV ads, working with FMA over UK pension ads

Britannia Financial Services, a UK pension transfer agency whose advertisements feature “financial motivator” Brendon Johnson, has tweaked its website and paused television advertising after the Financial Markets Authority raised concerns about people feeling “press ganged” into shifting retirement funds.

The markets watchdog has raised concerns about some advertising which emphasises the need to transfer UK pensions before April 2015 to avoid incoming tax and legislation changes, which may create either a loss of access to the pension fund or a lump sum tax charge to the incoming cash. Alun Rees-Williams, a director at Britannia, told BusinessDesk the company was working with the financial markets watchdog, and in the meantime had put its TV ads on hold until mid-January as well as making a number of changes to its website in October, with further changes implemented today.

“Everyone who advertises at all around the transfer of UK pensions funds to New Zealand comes under that warning,” he said. “We have been working with the FMA up to this point in relation to our advertising. We have been obviously working with them in conjunction with Chapman Tripp and Stategi in Auckland just to make sure we’re not doing anything that’s misleading or deceptive which is what the FMA are talking about.”

Yesterday, the FMA said it was concerned the sense of urgency will cause false alarm and has asked for some materials to be removed from publication, it said in a statement that did not single out any one provider.

“We are concerned that people are feeling press-ganged into transferring their pension scheme entitlements from the UK and being put under pressure to act now,” said Elaine Campbell, the FMA’s director of compliance said in a statement. “We are concerned that tax issues and a misleading sense of urgency are being exploited by some providers to scare people into transferring their money, without offering a balanced view of the potential pros and cons involved.”

One New Zealand-based UK pension transfer adviser, who didn’t want to be identified, said the culprits of deceptive advertising were mainly British companies based in Spain and that although the regulator may have concerns, their business was to inform people of the changes. They said their business had not been contacted by the FMA.

A spokesman for the FMA said a number of New Zealand-based business had been contacted, but declined to name them.

Rees-Williams didn’t think there was a problem with misleading advertising in the industry and that pension transfer companies were acting “in good faith” to let people know about changes in UK and New Zealand tax and legislation.

“I can’t speak for anyone else, I can speak for Britannia and we’ve always tried to remain factual with our advertising. We’ve never put anything deliberately misleading or deceptive in an advertisement at all,” Rees-Williams said. “Is there a problem? Personally I don’t think there is but the FMA are just trying to make sure that everyone has a balanced approach. Yes, there are reasons to transfer your pension, and yes there is reason to leave them behind. ”

The FMA notes that ‘old age’ state pensions provided by the UK government at retirement are not transferrable, so this warning does not apply to these pensions.

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