The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned two paid-for tweets on Twitter and a website for Money Advice Club, articles.moneyadviceclub.co.uk, which were seen in May 2019.
Two issues were investigated, both of which were upheld.
The first tweet, (Ad A), posted on 7 May 2019, stated “Thousands Of British Seniors Are Qualifying For A Fully Covered Funeral Programme”. The tweet contained a link to an article on the Money Advice Club website entitled “Check If You’re Entitled To A Fully Covered Funeral Programme”.
The second tweet, (Ad B), posted on 14 May 2019, stated “People Born Before 1959 Qualify To Avoid Funeral Costs …”. The tweet contained a link to the same article as the first ad.
The website (Ad C) featured an article entitled “Brilliant Pre-Paid Funeral Plans Taking The UK By Storm”. Further text stated “Thousands of savvy Brits are snapping up this funeral plan and saving their loved ones £1000s in funeral costs”. The article offered links to obtain a quote for a funeral plan through Peace of Mind Funeral Planning.
Five complainants, who understood that fully funded funeral plans were not available through Money Advice Club, challenged whether ads A and B misleadingly implied that consumers could avoid funeral costs.
The ASA challenged whether the ads falsely implied that the marketer was acting for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession and did not make clear their commercial intent.
Mortgage Complaints Bureau Ltd said they stopped advertising on Twitter soon after running the promoted tweets. They said that fully funded funeral plans were not available through Money Advice Club and ads A and B were intended to invite consumers to read the advertorial content in ad C which they linked to. They said ad C made it clear that by freezing the cost of a funeral at today’s price consumers would avoid rising costs.
2. Mortgage Complaints Bureau said that ad C was an advertorial that linked through to the relevant landing page where consumers could make a decision to engage for further information about the specific service they were interested in. They said it contained a footer which explained that the article was a promoted story (advertorial) and not a news article or blog. The footer gave a definition of an advertorial as well as an example of how they were used to advertise a product or interest.
The ASA noted the claims “Thousands Of British Seniors Are Qualifying For A Fully Covered Funeral Programme” and “People Born Before 1959 Qualify To Avoid Funeral Costs …” in ads A and B. It also noted the headline claim “Brilliant Pre-Paid Funeral Plans Taking The UK By Storm” in ad C and text beneath it which stated “Thousands of savvy Brits are snapping up this funeral plan and saving their loved ones £1000s in funeral costs”. Ad C, to which ads A and B were linked, also contained a banner at the top of the web page which stated “Act Now To Save Loved Ones From Rising Funeral Costs” and contained a link entitled “GET MY QUOTE”.
In that context, the ASA considered that consumers would understand from the ads that subject to certain qualifying criteria, they could be accepted for the funeral plan referenced which would avoid funeral costs.
The ad watchdog had not seen full details of the advertised funeral plan, such as the qualifying criteria or the terms and conditions. It also noted the further text in ad C which stated “It doesn’t take long to sign up and you won’t even need to take a medical” and the emboldened text alongside it which stated “in fact, you’re guaranteed to be accepted”. The ASA understood, in fact, that rather than finding out whether they fulfilled the qualifying criteria for the advertised funeral plan and obtaining a quote, consumers were sent to a website for Peace of Mind Funeral Planning, www.peaceofmindfunerals.co.uk, which contained the text “Over 50s Cover from £7.54* a Week”, “Guaranteed Approval, No Medical required” and “FREEZE FUNERAL COSTS at today’s prices”.
It therefore appeared that a funeral plan which allowed consumers to avoid funeral costs was not available through Money Advice Club, nor did consumers have to fulfil certain qualifying criteria in order to obtain the plan. Also, the ASA had not been provided with evidence that consumers could avoid the full costs of funerals through the advertised plan.
The ASA concluded, therefore, that the ads were misleading. On that point, the ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer was acting for purposes outside its trade, craft or profession and should make clear their commercial intent if that was not obvious from the context.
As above, the ASA considered that consumers would understand that subject to certain criteria, they might qualify for the advertised funeral plan. However, as highlighted, the ads linked through to a website for Peace of Mind Funeral Planning. The website, in fact, required consumers to input their personal information, such as their full name, post code, email address and telephone number and stated “One of our dedicated funeral plan advisors will be in touch by phone on one of the below numbers shortly to let you know of our pre-existing plans, bespoke packages and payment plans that suit you”.
Moreover, the ASA understood that one of the directors of Mortgage Complaints Bureau Ltd was also a director of Peaceofmindfunerals.co.uk, a trading name for Open Media Group Ltd. Consequently, we understood that Mortgage Complaints Bureau were principally a lead generating company that facilitated the passing of consumers’ personal information to another business in order to contact them, rather than a company offering a specific funeral plan.
The ASA regulator acknowledged Mortgage Complaints Bureau’s comments in relation to the footer on ad C. However, it did not consider it to override the overall impression created by the ad that they were offering a funeral plan.
Because each of the ads were principally for a lead generating company rather than for funeral plans and that was not made clear, the ASA concluded that Mortgage Complaints Bureau falsely implied they were acting for purposes outside of their trade and the ads therefore breached the Code.
On that point, the ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 2.3 (Recognition of marketing communications).
Mortgage Complaints Bureau was informed that the ads must not appear again in the form complained of. The ASA told Mortgage Complaints Bureau Ltd to ensure their future ads did not claim they provided funded funeral plans which allowed consumers to avoid funeral costs unless that was the case. The regulator also told them not to imply they were acting for purposes outside of their trade.