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Websites have been told that they must not publish share tips, even reproducing them from authorised sources, unless they are qualified to give financial advice or are exempt under the 1986 Financial Services Act.

The issue has been sparked by a report by Reuters about investor site, Sharepages.com. The site has suspended tipping while it applies to the FSA to "resolve compliance issues" concerning its advice.

Under the Act, newspapers, magazines and periodicals are exempt from the need to be qualified to give advice. Online publications must meet the FSA's lawyers' criteria of being a periodical to be allowed to continue publishing advice. This judgement will be made in each individual case, but concerns whether there are distinct editions of the publication or some kind of numbering system.

The FSA told us that people who are unsure of their site's status should contact the FSA for clarification. A spokeswoman said that as many as 500 people and organisations contact the agency every year for authorisation.

"It is not important where the information comes from, whether it is on the back of an envelope or on a Website. The vehicle is irrelevant, what matters is whether the source of the advice is qualified to give it, or is exempt under the 1986 Financial Services Act," she said. ®

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