ASA Adjudication on UK Official Services
UK Official Services
4200 Waterside Centre
Birmingham Business Park
23 November 2011
Internet (on own site)
Number of complaints:
Claims on a replacement certificate website, which appeared in June 2011 stated "Welcome to UK Official Services!...You can order a replacement certificate online or by post through UK Official Services. We provide government replacement UK certificates in England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, and overseas registration of UK citizens ... We provide government approved and official birth certificates, marriage certificates and death certificates from England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Whether you need a replacement birth certificate for passport application, social security or immigration, or are conducting family history research, we are here to help".
The website included a Frequently Asked Questions page and a trust mark which stated "Guaranteed Official Certificates".
Under the terms and conditions page of the website, claims stated “1. Searches & Refunds. UK Official Services searches are based on the information provided by you and we cannot be responsible for any fake or inaccurate information supplied ... 4.What we will not do with your information. UK Official Services Ltd is a registered company under the UK Data Protection Act (1998) ... 9. Complaints and Correspondence. Complaints can be made in writing to the address shown below or via email to info@ukOfficialServices.co.uk . UK Official Services Ltd, 215 St Saviours Road, Saltley, Birmingham, B9 1HW. Company registration number: 6664759...”.
One page provided information about replacement UK birth certificates and claims stated “All UK birth certificate [sic] supplied are full long form certified copies for England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Rep. of Ireland (EIRE) and include parents [sic] names ... Birth certificates for England and Wales available from ourselves date from 1837 to eighteen months prior to the current date, which is when the local registers which are transcribed by the registrar at the local register office are made available nationally to the General Register Office. Registry Office is often used instead of Register Office. Although the latter is the official term, which is why the central office is known as the General Register Office or GRO, both are commonly used and would be recognised...”.
The Home Office Identity & Passport Service challenged whether the website misleadingly implied it was the government's General Register Office (GRO).
CAP Code (Edition 12)
UK Official Services (UKOS) believed the website made clear that their services were no relation to the service offered by the GRO, the complainant. They said that when consumers visited their website, in particular, their ‘Terms and Conditions’ page, it made clear that they were a registered company and that they were not the GRO. They said that their website clearly stated that the replacement certificates were created by the GRO or the local registry offices.
The ASA noted that UKOS referred to the GRO in some detail on its website and that UKOS provided the same service as that of the GRO. Whilst we noted that the website did include information such as UKOS’ company registration number, we also noted that that information only appeared at point 9 on the ‘terms and conditions’ page. We considered claims such as “Welcome to UK Official services”, “we provide government approved and official ... certificates” and “guaranteed official certificates” implied that UKOS was the government service from which consumers ordered and bought replacement certificates. We considered that references to ‘official’ and ‘government’ when referring to the certificates could mislead consumers into believing they had bought a certificate from the GRO. We therefore concluded that the claims were misleading.
The claims breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising).
The claims must not appear again in their current form. We told UK Official Services not to imply that they were the GRO.