An increasingly popular way of seeking customers for financial products and services is to send advertisements through the post.

The technique relies heavily on the use of lists - usually computer-generated - of people grouped by, say, where they live, shares they've purchased, and so on. Using a list lets the provider of the product or service closely target his advertising to the people most likely to buy.

Extra rules e-mail is another form of printed advertisement and as such is covered by the British Code of Advertising Practice, as well as the other codes and laws already looked at above. But e-mail poses particular problems: as it's sent to a restricted group of people it's more difficult to keep a check on the advertisements, and most e-mail advertisements are inviting you to take up an offer there and then, often employing the help of special gifts and inducements to this end. So there is a e-mail Services Standards Board which monitors e-mail on behalf of the Advertising Standards Authority, and the Code includes extra rules covering such areas as offers of free gifts.

WARNING Pick a financial product on its own merits;

don't be swayed by the offer of a free gift. If the product or service is better than, or at least as good as, others of its type, then you can look on the gift as a real perk. But if you buy the product or service without regard to its own worth or the alternatives available, your `free' gift could turn out to be very expensive. Note that the rules require that a free gift should arrive within 28 days. If it arrives damaged or broken, you are entitled to a replacement.

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Types of Adverts

Advertisements are divided into three types, with different rules applying to each:

- simple advertisements. These give just the name of the advertiser and an indication that they're in the business of giving loans or credit. They're the sort of advertisements that might appear on a business card or a complimentary book of matches, say.<> - intermediate advertisements. These must give a certain amount of information - for example, name of the advertiser, phone number and/or address for getting a written quotation, conditions attached to the loan such as the need for security or insurance, or a requirement... see: Types of Adverts

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