Advertising of credit
There are rules on how financial services and credit can be advertised. The lender providing the credit has to make sure that these rules are followed. Lenders must not publish, display, or submit any advertisement that breaks the rules.
The Central Bank of Ireland monitors advertising for the services that it regulates.
The credit provider (the lender) is responsible for ensuring that its advertisements comply with these rules. Lenders must not publish, display, or submit to others (for example, a publisher) any advertisement that breaks the rules.
To check whether a financial services firm is regulated by the Central Bank, you can check the register at registers.centralbank.ie.
In general, advertising of financial services and credit must be clear, fair, accurate and not misleading. Headline claims and offers must be balanced with information such as risks, fees and charges so that you can make fully informed choices.
The main laws on the advertising of credit are set out in the Consumer Credit Act 1995, as amended.
Any advertising of credit agreements that includes an interest rate or the cost of the credit must include standard information. This is set out in the European Communities (Consumer Credit Agreements) Regulations 2010.
This standard information must use a representative example and specify clearly:
- The borrowing rate (fixed or variable or both) and details of any charges included in the total cost of the credit to the consumer
- The total amount of credit
- The annual percentage rate of charge (except in the case of an overdraft)
- The duration of the credit agreement (if applicable)
- If the credit is in the form of deferred payment for a specific good or service, the cash price and the amount of any advance payment
- The total amount that you are required to pay and the amount of the instalments (if applicable)
For mortgages, if the loan will be secured on a residential property this must be stated. A warning must be included if possible fluctuations of the exchange rate could affect the amount you pay.
If you are required to also agree to another service (such as insurance) in order to access the credit agreement as advertised, and if the cost of this service is not known in advance, this requirement must be stated clearly.
Consumer Protection Code
The Central Bank of Ireland has a Consumer Protection Code which includes rules on advertising. The Code applies to most of the financial services firms that are regulated by the Central Bank.
Firms must act honestly, fairly and professionally and must not mislead you about the advantages or disadvantages of any product or service. The Code does not apply to hire purchase or consumer hire agreements – see Advertising hiring agreements below.
Advertisements must clearly represent what the advertiser is offering to the consumer. The rules in the Code cover advertising in all formats, including:
- TV, radio, print
- Outdoor advertising, such as billboards, window displays, advertising on public transport, at bus stops and rail stations
- Online advertising, including banners, pop-ups and other forms
- Video streaming, micro-blogging and comment feeds on social media sites
- Internet discussion sites
- Websites and marketing sites
- Search engine sponsorships
- Promotional materials (such as text messages)
- Competitions and advertorials that promote products or services
Under the Code, advertising for financial products and services must ensure that:
- Information is clear, accurate, up to date and written in plain English
- Promotional materials and advertisements are clear, fair and accurate and do not mislead you
- Key information is not hidden in the small print
Advertising hiring agreements
Financial accommodation is the term used to describe a hire purchase agreement, a consumer hire agreement or the provision of a service. Advertisements for these must include:
- The kind of financial accommodation, for example, hire purchase or other arrangement
- The cash price of the good sor service
- The total cost of credit or the hire-purchase price
- Details of the number, amounts and timing of instalments
- Details of any deposit involved in agreement
- The numbers of instalments that need to be paid before you will receive delivery of goods
- Any details concerning another form of credit, which might be used as a comparison in the advertisement
An advertisement for credit cannot be described as being interest free if it has conditions that would have extra cost, such as requiring a maintenance or insurance contract.
Consumer hire agreements
There are additional rules that apply to consumer hire or leasing agreements. The fact that ownership does not pass to the consumer in a leasing agreement must be stated in any advertising. The statements "Letting, Hiring or Leasing of the Goods Only" and "The Goods Remain the Property of the Owner" should be included. These statements should be in at least as prominent a position as the cost and shown in a box if it is a visual advertisement. The amount that is payable by the hirer must be indicated in the advertisement and include all amounts, including taxes.
Moneylending Regulations introduced in 2020 restrict how licensed moneylenders can offer and promote loans. Advertisements by moneylenders must be fair and not be misleading.
They must be clearly presented and be clear about the type of service being advertised.
If the loan is a high-cost product, advertisements must include a clear warning and prompt you to consider alternative loans from other lenders.
For loans under €200, the requirements set out above in ‘Standard information’ apply.
The Central Bank of Ireland has published questions and answers on the moneylending regulations (pdf).
Read more about the rules that apply to moneylenders.
If you feel that any credit advertisement or promotion is unclear, inaccurate or misleading, the Central Bank of Ireland has information on how to make a complaint.
The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) has a Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications in Ireland which includes ASAI standards for advertising financial services and products. If you make a complaint to the ASAI, the ASAI will check whether the complaint relates to the ASAI Code of Standards. The ASAI may advise you that your complaint should instead be dealt with under the Central Bank Code of Conduct.