ASA Adjudication on Visa Express Co Ltd
Visa Express Co Ltd
1 July 2009
Internet (sponsored search)
Holidays and travel
Number of complaints:
A sponsored link on a Google search page, for the United States Visa Waiver Program, was headed "ESTA Application Website". It stated "www.estauk.com Welcome to the U.S. ESTA Application Website".
An internet user believed the ad was misleading because it gave the impression that it was the official US Government ESTA website whereas she understood it was a commercial company that charged for filling in the forms.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
Visa Express said they were a professional agency for Electronic System Travel Authorization (ESTA) assisting customers by collating personal information, checking for accuracy, filling in a customers ESTA application and applying for travel authorisation to the United States on their behalf. They said their website stated that they were a private company and had no connection with the US Government or U.S. Embassy. They believed their website was clear, but, if an applicant mistakenly believed their company was a US Government agency when applying for ESTA, they said they would provide a full refund. They said there were a number of ESTA agencies on the internet that also charged for a similar service. Visa Express believed that, based on their refund policy, their advertising was not a problem.
The ASA noted the Visa Express website stated that they were not affiliated to any US Government department or Embassy. However, we considered that the claims in the sponsored link "ESTA Application Website" and "Welcome to the U.S. ESTA Application Website" implied the advertiser was an official US Government ESTA website. Because Visa Express was not, we concluded that the sponsored link was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 6.1 (Honesty) and 7.1 (Truthfulness).
The ad must not appear again in its current form.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)