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ASA Adjudication on William Hill Organisation Ltd

William Hill Organisation Ltd

Greenside House
50 Station Road
Wood Green
London
N22 7TP

Date:

17 March 2010

Media:

National press, Point of sale

Sector:

Leisure

Number of complaints:

1

Complaint Ref:

110859

Ad

a. One ad, in the Racing Post, was headed “William HILL Best Prices FACT” and listed the odds for various sporting events. Very small print stated "Best Prices Fact based on price comparison taken from RP Saturday's Pricewise table 08/08/08 - 06/06/09 *Initial bet of £20 or more. Free bet is a win single added to your account on settlement of first bet. Free Bet must be on a different event to the initial stake. Free bet stake not included in any winnings, valid for 7 days. Correct promo code must be used."

b. Another ad, also in the Racing Post, was the same as ad (a), but arranged the information differently.

Issue

The complainant challenged whether the claim "Best Prices FACT" was misleading, because:

1. the comparison excluded some of the competitors who did not advertise in the Racing Post;

2. it was presented as a general claim, but referred only to a small subset of markets offered by the advertiser and omitted information about the margin charged, and

3. it related to last seasons prices and not the current season.

CAP Code (Edition 11)

Response

1. William Hill Organisation Ltd (William Hill) said the ads covered telephone and online betting. They said their claim to offer the best priced football product was substantiated by the football prices quoted in the Racing Posts Pricewise table, which was a well-known tipster and price information service in the Racing Post. They said the Pricewise football table, which appeared on match days, listed the online prices offered by major bookmakers for the 90-minutes odds on English and Scottish football division matches. They said the major bookmakers advertised in the Racing Post and Pricewise was the industry benchmark of price comparison. They said that their analysis of the Pricewise table, throughout the 2008/09 football season, showed that William Hill had a higher number of best prices than its competitors. They said that, with regard to phone and online betting, the claim was made on the basis of the contents of the Pricewise table.

2. They said the online/phone comparison was made on the 90-minute match prices that appeared in the Pricewise table and that showed they offered the greatest number of best prices. They said the question of bookmakers margin was not relevant and they had not claimed it in their football press advertisements.

3. They said that the ads clearly stated that the comparison related to the 2008/09 football season and because the ads were shown at the beginning of the 2009/10 football season, the previous seasons prices were the fairest and only substantive comparison that could be made.

Assessment

1. & 2. Upheld

The ASA noted that the claim "BEST PRICES FACT" was qualified by very small print at the bottom of the ads, which stated "Best Prices Fact based on price comparison taken from RP Saturday's Pricewise table ..." We understood that the claim was based on pricing information the advertisers had compiled themselves from the Racing Posts Pricewise table. Although we noted that the advertisers maintained that major bookmakers were featured in Pricewise, we understood that Pricewise might not include some major bookmakers and that it was based on one betting market only; a 90-minute match price bet on English and Scottish football league matches. We understood that there were many other betting markets for football, for instance, the half time score and first scorer. We noted that the qualifying text did not provide any information relating to the way the Pricewise table was compiled, such as the bookmakers, markets or margins it included, and considered that consumers would infer that the claim "BEST PRICES FACT" was generally applicable to football betting markets. In addition, we were concerned that the qualification was not legible, because the text was too small.

Because the ads did not provide sufficient clarification qualifying the data on which the claim was based, and because we considered that consumers were likely to understand it as a general claim, for which we had not seen substantiation, we concluded it was likely to mislead.

On this point, the ads breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 6.1 (Honesty), 7.1, 7.2 (Truthfulness) and 19.1 (Other comparisons).

3. Upheld

We understood that the claim "BEST PRICES FACT" was based on the Pricewise 2008/9 football season prices, but acknowledged that the ads were published before the 2009/10 season began. We noted that the claim was qualified in the very small print at the bottom of the ads, but noted that it was placed next to a list of odds and considered that readers would infer that "BEST PRICES FACT" related to the 09/10 odds listed in the ads, rather than understanding that it related to a comparison they had carried out on the basis of the 2008/9 Prisewise football table. In addition, we were concerned that the qualification was not legible, because the text was too small.

Because we considered that readers would understand that the claim related to the 09/10 odds listed in the ads, which it did not, we concluded it was likely to mislead.

On this point, the ads breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 6.1 (Honesty), 7.1, 7.2 (Truthfulness) and 19.1 (Other comparisons).

Action

The ads must not appear again in their current form.

Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)

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