A TV ad for Mortgage.Claims, a mortgage assessment company, shown in December 2018 and January 2019, has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The ad featured a couple deciding to make a claim to establish whether their mortgage had been mis-sold.
The woman said, “Guess what I’ve found out? We could be due tens of thousands of pounds.” The man replied “Really?” The woman continued, “The people at Mortgage.Claims have worked it all out. They find the mistakes, work out if we’ve been overcharged or mis-sold.” The man said, “I bet you only get a few hundred quid.” The woman replied, “Actually, they’ve assessed over 20,000 mortgages and people are claiming tens of thousands of pounds.”
On-screen text stated “Mortgage.Claims is a trading name of ME Legal and Financial Limited. ME Legal and Financial Limited is regulated by the Claims Management Regulator in respect of regulated claims management activities” and provided the registration number. The voice-over stated, “It costs nothing to find out if you could be owed thousands. Go to [website].”
Three complainants, including a mortgage advisor, who understood claims for mortgage mis-selling were referred to a third party, challenged the claim that “people are claiming tens of thousands of pounds”.
Mortgage.Claims said cases assessed by ME Legal and Financial Ltd had been settled via a panel law firm by way of the FSCS. They provided supporting documentation. They said their current panel solicitor would only accept cases that had a quantum value of £20,000 or more. Mortgage.Claims stated that the amounts of redress involved in such claims were substantial and that their three-stage vetting process ensured that the merits of the claim had been comprehensively established prior to introducing cases to law firms. They stated that redress in excess of £20,000 had been obtained for a significant number of people who had used the advertiser’s services.
Clearcast said they were advised that the majority of the cases being assessed related to claims worth between £60,000 and £130,000. They understood that the most regularly assessed quantum passed to the law firm for further action was £128,000, with the majority (60%) falling in the £60,000 to £130,000 range. Clearcast had been provided with 10 examples of cases that had been successfully processed where claims were awarded by the FSCS and FOS, two government bodies that had recognised mortgage mis-selling as a valid claim and had accepted Mortgage.Claims’ expert witness report to quantify the value of compensation that should be awarded.
The ASA noted the claims under investigation appeared in direct succession “Actually, they’ve assessed over 20,000 mortgages and people are claiming tens of thousands of pounds”. In light of that juxtaposition, the ad watchdog considered consumers would understand that a significant number of the 20,000 mortgage claims with which Mortgage.Claims had been involved had resulted in payment awards of over £20,000.
Mortgage.Claims had provided supporting documentation showing redress of over £20,000 had been awarded to seven claimants via FSCS and to two claimants via FOS, which the ASA understood represented a sample of the successful claims handled by ME Legal and Financial Ltd and a law firm.
The ASA said it noted that those claims were represented by a panel law firm and understood the assessment work had been carried out by ME Legal and Financial Ltd under its former name, My Legal Club. The ASA understood that of the 20,000 files relating to mortgage mis-sales which had been assessed by ME Legal and Financial Ltd, a number had been passed to their law firm, having been assessed as having high prospects of success and with a claim value of over £20,000.
The number of files passed was commercially sensitive information and was not to be disclosed publically, but the advertisers did confirm the number to the ASA, as well as the number of historic mortgage mis-selling cases they had assessed where claimants had received payment awards of over £20,000 after making a claim.
The ad regulator said it acknowledged that a number of cases involving ME Legal and Financial Ltd had resulted in redress of over £20,000, but did not consider that the number of historic cases was sufficient to represent a significant number of claimants, in the context of the ad’s claims.
Because the ASA considered that consumers would infer from the ad that a significant number of the 20,000 claimants who had referred a claim via the business now operating as Mortgage.Claims had received payment awards of over £20,000 after making a claim, which it considered was not the case, the ASA concluded the claim “people are claiming tens of thousands of pounds”, when appearing in conjunction with the claim “They’ve assessed over 20,000 mortgages”, was misleading.
On that point, the claim breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation) and 3.12 (Exaggeration).
The ad is not allowed to be broadcast again in its current form. The ASA told ME Legal and Financial Ltd t/a Mortgage.Claims to ensure that they did not exaggerate the number of claimants who had received payment awards of over £20,000 after making a claim.