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ASA Adjudication on Timothy Burchell

Timothy Burchell t/a Online Searches

Office 36
88–90 Hatton Garden
London
EC1N 8PN

Date:

2 November 2011

Media:

Internet (on own site)

Sector:

Business

Number of complaints:

2

Complaint Ref:

A11-155560

Ad

The website for Online Searches [www.theukelectoralroll.co.uk] , visited on 14 March 2011, stated "We provide instant and accurate searches of the UK Electoral Roll, UK Electoral Register, Deaths, marriages and UK Property Ownership to the general public and companies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our Enhances [sic] UK Electoral Roll will provide you with the address of any UK individual, their phone number, their date of birth and the names of anyone else at the address."

Issue

1. 192.com Ltd challenged whether the claim "We provide instant and accurate searches of the UK Electoral Roll" was misleading and could be substantiated.

2. One complainant challenged whether the claim "Our Enhances [sic] UK Electoral Roll will provide you with the address of any UK individual, their phone number, their date of birth and the names of anyone else at the address" was misleading because the searches he had requested had never provided a phone number, date of birth or listed others at the address.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

1. Timothy Burchell t/a Online Searches (Online Searches) stated that they had bought the 2009 electoral roll, via a third party, from a direct marketing provider in July 2010. They pointed out that they did not claim to hold the 2011 electoral roll. They provided a pro forma invoice, which they said related to the purchase by the third party, and a signed letter from the sales director of the third party which confirmed that the database they had provided was the 2009 electoral roll. They also provided some example searches.

2. Online Searches provided an example of a search by address, which they believed showed that all individuals at an address would be identified. They explained that they had recently uploaded new datasets that did not hold telephone number or date of birth information and they apologised for having overlooked the update required to the text on the home page. They confirmed that this had now been corrected.

Assessment

1. Upheld

The ASA noted that the pro forma invoice provided suggested the third party had bought the 2009 electoral roll and we also noted that their signed letter confirmed it was this they had provided to Online Searches. However, we received contradictory evidence from 192.com which indicated that the database the third party had bought and subsequently transferred to Online Searches was not the 2009 electoral roll.

We noted that the website referred to "searches of the UK Electoral Roll" and that this was not qualified in any way. We considered that readers would understand this to mean that the site allowed them to search the most up-to-date UK electoral roll. We considered that, whatever its origin, the database used by Online Searches was not the most up-to-date available electoral roll and we therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).

2. Upheld

We noted that Online Searches had updated their site and that it no longer claimed to provide telephone numbers or dates of birth. We also noted that the example provided showed that a search by address could provide the names of all those at that address. We considered, however, that the claim implied that a search by name would return the address of the person searched for and the names of all others at that address. Because we understood that a search by name would not return the names of others at the same address, we concluded the claim was misleading.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).

Action

The claims must not appear again in their current form. We told Online Searches to ensure in future that their website did not mislead consumers regarding the nature and origin of the information they provided.

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