Cookies policy statement
We are using cookies on our site to provide you with the best user experience.
Disabling cookies may prevent our website from working efficiently. Click ok to remove this message (we will remember your choice).
OK

ASA Adjudication on The Carphone Warehouse Ltd

The Carphone Warehouse Ltd

Support Centre
1 Portal Way
London
W3 6RS

Date:

3 October 2012

Media:

Internet (on own site)

Sector:

Retail

Number of complaints:

1

Complaint Ref:

A12-203236

Background

Summary of Council decision:

Five issues were investigated, four were Upheld and one was Not upheld.

Ad

The Carphone Warehouse website, www.carphonewarehouse.com, included an ad for phones on the Bemilo mobile network. The page was headed “bemilo - the safest mobile network” and stated “Mobile safety for children has never been more important” and “bemilo is the UK’s safest mobile network designed to be used by children and managed by parents”. It also included the claims: “25% of children call or text in a class during school”; “33% spend up to 5 hours a day browsing the web on their phone”; “8yrs old is the average age children get their first phone” and “1 in 10 receive bullying texts or calls”. A link below entitled “Check out our video” led to a video featuring a cartoon character, Milo, who explained how the Bemilo service operated, in a presentation directed towards parents. The ad contained the claims listed on the web page, and the voice-over also said “A third of UK children are sleep deprived as a result of late night texting” with on-screen text at the same time stating “33% are sleep deprived”.

Issue

The complainant challenged whether the following claims in relation to children could be substantiated:

1. "33% are sleep deprived";

2. "1 in 10 receive bullying texts or calls";

3. "25% of children call or text in a class during school"; and

4. "33% spend up to 5 hours a day browsing the web on their phone".

5. The complainant also challenged whether the claim that Bemilo was "the UK's safest mobile network" could be substantiated.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

The Carphone Warehouse Ltd submitted a response which had been formulated jointly with Bemilo Ltd.

1. Carphone Warehouse said the claim that 33% of children were sleep deprived was based on a survey of 2000 parents of children between 4 and 16 years of age who had a mobile phone,which was carried out by a polling company for Bemilo. Parents were asked "Has your child ever been tired due to late night phone use?"; 14.95% said “Yes” and 17.35% said they “Didn't know”. These figures had been added together to make the 33% claim.

2. Carphone Warehouse said the claim that one in ten children was bullied was based on two surveys. In the survey for Bemilo, parents were asked "Has your child ever been bullied through their mobile phone?" and 7.85% said “Yes”. They also used a survey carried out in 2005 by a children's charity; 14% of 770 11- to 19-year-olds said they had been threatened or harassed using text messages. They said they averaged these two figures to make the one in ten claim.

3. Carphone Warehouse said the claim that 25% of children called or texted in a class during school was based on the survey for Bemilo. Parents were asked "Does your child do any of the following whilst in school?"; 14.30% said their child had made or received calls in class and 12.45% said their child had sent or received text messages during class. They said they added these two figures together to make the 25% claim.

4. Carphone Warehouse said the claim that 33% of children spent up to 5 hours a day browsing the web on their phone was based on the survey for Bemilo. Parents were asked "How often do you estimate your child uses the internet on their mobile, each day?"; 33.55% answered "1–5".

5. Carphone Warehouse said the claim "UK's safest mobile network" was based on the fact that Bemilo, unlike any other mobile network in the UK, was a closed network controlled by the parent. They said it was unique in giving parents the ability to introduce specific times when their child could use their phone and for how long. Unlike any other network, parents could also control who their child could contact and who could contact them, as well as screen all SMS messages being sent and received. They were also the only network that could bypass withheld numbers. They said these unique features gave parents the greatest level of control seen amongst UK network providers and were the basis for the claim.

Assessment

1. Upheld

The claim that 33% of children were sleep deprived was based on answers by parents of children who had mobile phones to the question "Has your child ever been tired due to late night phone use?", and 33% was the number who either said yes or that they didn't know. The ASA considered that it was misleading not to state that the claim was based on a survey of parents' views when making such an absolute claim about something difficult to objectively verify. In addition, we did not consider that a child ever being tired due to late night phone use meant that child could necessarily be described as sleep deprived. We also considered it was misleading to include the figures for parents who said they didn't know if their child had ever been tired from late night phone use in the claim. We concluded the claim had not been substantiated.

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

2. Upheld

The claim that one in ten children received bullying texts or calls was based on average figures from two sources, the survey for Bemilo and a survey of children by a children's charity. We considered that it was misleading not to state that the claim was based in part on a survey of parents' views when making such an absolute claim about something difficult to objectively verify. We were also not provided with the full survey data from the 2005 survey and so were unable to assess whether it provided sufficient substantiation for the claim. We concluded the claim had not been substantiated.

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

3. Upheld

The claim that 25% of children called or texted in a class during school was based on answers by parents of children who had mobile phones to the question "Does your child do any of the following whilst in school?"; 25% was the number obtained when those who said their children had either called or texted in class were added together. We considered that it was misleading not to state that the claim was based on a survey of parents' views when making such an absolute claim about something difficult to objectively verify. We also considered that adding together the number of parents who said their children had either called or texted was misleading, because the survey appeared to have allowed parents to select more than one answer to this question, and so it was likely that there was an overlap of parents who answered yes to both questions. We concluded the claim had not been substantiated.

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

4. Upheld

The claim that 33% of children spent up to 5 hours a day browsing the web on their phone was based on answers by parents of children who had mobile phones, to the question "How often do you estimate your child uses the internet on their mobile, each day?". We considered that it was misleading not to state that the claim was based on a survey of parents' views when making such an absolute claim about something difficult to objectively verify. We concluded the claim was misleading.

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

5. Not Upheld

The claim that Bemilo was the "safest mobile network" was based on the fact it was the only network to be designed with parental control in mind and that it offered a number of unique safety features. The complainant believed that there were a number of websites and companies offering parental control services and we acknowledged this was the case. However, the claim made clear that it related to networks, and so we did not consider these other services relevant to the claim being made. A number of other phone networks provided some parental control options, however, none were automatically applied. Features unique to Bemilo included being able to control when the phone could be used, controlling who the child could contact and screening all messages before they were sent or received, and the ad prominently listed these features. We considered that a claim that a product was "safest" would always have an element of subjective opinion, and so it was important that the basis of the claim was made clear. We considered the ad made clear that the basis for the claim was the unique features offered by the Bemilo network, and the fact it was designed for this purpose. We concluded the claim was not misleading and had been substantiated.

On this point we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.38 (Other comparisons) but did not find it in breach.

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form.

Follow Us

For ASA news, including our weekly rulings, press releases, research and reports.
 

How to comply with the rules

For advice and training on the Advertising Codes please visit the CAP website.

Make a complaint

Find out what types of ads we deal with and how to make a complaint.

Press Zone

This section is for journalists only. Here you will be able to access embargoed material, breaking news and briefing papers as well as profile details for the ASA press office.