In February 2000, Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) launched a Help Note on Claims that Require Qualification. It explains that qualifying claims should not contradict the primary claims that they are clarifying. It lists variables that might determine how prominent a qualifying claim needs to be. It introduces the concept of a “qualifying ladder” and gives guidance on the use of asterisks and footnotes.
Key principles explained in the Help Note include:
- the nature of qualifying claims – these can expand on primary claims, or qualify them in other ways, but should not constitute so great a qualification as to actually contradict the primary claim;
- the prominence of qualifying claims – this, and other factors such as whether they need to be asterisked to primary claims, varies depending on their size, clarity, positioning, significance, the content and layout of the rest of the marketing communication, the medium used and the prominence of the primary claim; and
- footnotes – footnotes should be clearly visible to a normal-sighted person reading the marketing communication once, from a reasonable distance and at reasonable speed (Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) decisions: British Telecommunications plc t/a BT, 10 Mar 1999; Buy.com Ltd, 9 Aug 2000 and British Gas Trading Ltd, 17 Oct 2001). Readers are most likely to look for qualifying text at the bottom of the marketing communication.
Marketers offering car finance deals should note that, following several ASA decisions published in August 1999, marketing communications referring to monthly payments must include a prominent reference to the fact that a deposit and optional final payment may be required e.g. “Yours for just £199 a month, plus deposit and optional final payment”. The details of these costs can usually be stated in a less prominent qualifier (ASA decisions: MG Sports Cars; Ford Motor Company Ltd; Chrysler Jeep Imports UK; The Appleyard of Ayr; and Mercedes-Benz (UK) Ltd, all August 1999. See also ASA Monthly Report editorial 11 August 1999).
In 2013 the ASA ruled that Vodafone’s website was misleading, because it did not make clear that the monthly price of SIM-only call plans could increase during the length of the contract. The potential to increase the price in line with inflation was stated in the terms and conditions three clicks away from the monthly prices, but the ASA considered it should be made clear on the same page as the monthly price, (Vodafone Ltd, 6 February 2013). Likewise, they considered a leaflet promoting monthly mobile contracts should have made clear the advertiser’s right to raise prices in line with inflation during the course of the contract (Hutchison 3G UK Ltd, 19 December 2012).
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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