Marketers should not make explicit or implied claims that are likely to mislead consumers about the location of their offices. Particular caution is advised if marketers wish to make direct or implied claims about having a “local” presence.
It is often the case that consumers will want to support businesses that are based in their local area because they feel that it contributes to the local economy and will support their local community. Marketers may be keen to tap into this loyalty by highlighting the specific locations they work in or make claims to offer “local” services. However, care should be taken to prevent such claims from misleading consumers about the location of the business and the area that is likely to benefit from the using the business or its services.
Typically, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is likely to take the approach that advertisers who claim or imply that they are “local” to a specific area would need to demonstrate a permanent registered office or branch in that area. The ASA is unlikely to consider mail forwarding addresses (ghost addresses) to be sufficient to support a claim of a presence in a particular area. The ASA also is likely to take the position that using a listed address at serviced offices which are available for use by marketers are also not likely to be sufficient to support a “local” claim.
Marketers that employ staff or have contractors in specific locations where they do not have a permanent office presence are unlikely to be able to support an unqualified “local” claim. However, marketers wishing to communicate the availability of a service in a specific area are likely to be able to reference those locations (e.g., “we have expertise in [location]” or “we do jobs in [location]”) provided the ad does not otherwise imply (by inclusion or omission) a physical local premises.
The ASA upheld complaints about an estate agent’s ad which was headed “Wymondham & Hethersett 01953 469275” and which included the small print “haart of WYMONDHAM & HETHERSETT”. The ASA concluded that the ad implied that the estate agent had a physical branch at Wymondham & Hetherset when this was not the case (Spicerhaart Estate Agents Ltd, 2015). Similarly, and ad which states “… you can now find us in 12 locations!” followed by a list of locations with a different phone number alongside each one, including a ‘Poulton Branch’ was considered misleading because, although the agency did have a serviced office in Poulton, they not have a fully operational branch or property agents with expertise of the local area (Leftmove Estate Agents Ltd, 17 April 2019).
Even if the ad does not explicitly state that the marketer has a local presence, some marketing techniques can create the impression that the marketer is a small local business or individual tradesperson. Using handwritten text and informal language can contribute to this impression. The ASA considered that an ad which stated “Hello, we are cleaning your close neighbours [sic] gutters over the next few days. Maybe you would like yours cleaned too. Please call me on [mobile number] for an estimate. Best Regards, Ben’s Gutters [smiley face]” in handwritten text on a leaflet which looked like a compliments slip created the impression that the ad was a small, independent, local business currently working at neighbouring properties. Although the ad also included an 0800 number, website, and full company name,, this was not enough to negate the overall impression given (Ben’s Gutters Ltd, 22 December 2021).
Marketers who employ individuals who may have a specialist knowledge of a local area are likely to be able to make references to that “local” knowledge, provided their marketing does not otherwise imply a physical premises of the company in that specific area. In 2017 the ASA ruled that an ad for an online only estate agent which referred to “Local Property Experts” was unlikely to mislead because it was clear the estate agent (at that time) only had an online presence and it was clear that the individuals in question were experts to the referenced local area, rather than implying a permanent local premises for the company (Purplebricks Group plc, 25 October 2017).
Source: Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)
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.
How can we help!
Our range of innovative solutions can be tailored to suit your unique requirements, no matter whether you’re currently working from home, or are continuing to go into the office. Our services can be deployed individually or combined to form a broader solution to release your energies and focus on your clients.
Call Us Today on 020 8087 2377 or send us an email.
Connect with us via social media and drop us a message from there. We’d love to hear from you and discuss how we can help.