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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:

12 December 2012

Media:

Television, Internet (on own site)

Sector:

Leisure

Number of complaints:

2

Agency:

IMD

Complaint Ref:

A12-200493

Background

Summary of Council decision:

Three issues were investigated, all were Upheld.

Ad

Two ads on sports.williamhill.com and a TV ad made claims about the odds available during various sporting events:

(a) One web ad stated "BEST PRICES ON THE BEST HORSES BET NOW" and "ROYAL ASCOT SATURDAY 23RD JUNE 2012".

(b) Another web ad stated "EURO 2012 BEST PRICES ON THE BEST TEAMS".

(c) The TV ad, which focused specifically on text betting, stated "Best Odds Guaranteed on all UK & Irish Horse racing".

Issue

One complainant challenged whether:

1. the claim "BEST PRICES ON THE BEST HORSES" in ad (a); and

2. the claim "BEST PRICES ON THE BEST TEAMS" in ad (b) were misleading and could be substantiated, because he believed that better prices were available from other bookmakers.

3. A viewer also challenged whether the claim "Best Odds Guaranteed on all UK & Irish Horse racing" in ad (c) was misleading, for the same reason.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

BCAP Code

Response

1. William Hill Organisation Ltd (William Hill) said information that explained the basis of the "Best Prices on the Best Horses" claim was included on the main betting page, within the horse racing category on the sports page and in various other places throughout the site. They were unable to provide screen shots of the web pages that contained that information, but they provided a screen shot that showed how the same claim was explained to consumers when used during "Cheltenham 2012".

2. They were unable to provide the terms or key information relating to "Best Prices on the Best Teams", but stated that that information would have been presented in a similar way to "Best Prices on the Best Horses" and that there would certainly have been clarity provided on the website. They said they understood the importance of retaining information to substantiate their claims and that they would ensure they did so in future.

3. They said information regarding "Best Odds Guaranteed" was contained on their website and they provided a screen shot taken from the site. They believed that "Best Odds Guaranteed" had been used for some time in the industry and that the phrase "terms apply" was an accepted form of wording to direct viewers to further information about offers. They said they were aware that some consumers believed that the claim was a comparison with their competitors but they felt they had taken steps to ensure that clarity was provided by making the basis of the claim clear and readily accessible on the website. They did not believe they should be held responsible if consumers did not read and understand the information provided.

Clearcast said they did not regard "Best Odds Guaranteed" as a superior best price claim, but as a guarantee to give the best odds and price to customers. They said they clarified the meaning with William Hill and were satisfied from the assurances provided that "Best Odds Guaranteed" was an industry term that consumers would understand and that under the guarantee the customer would always receive the best odds available on UK and Irish horseracing from William Hill between the time they placed their bet and the time the event started.

Assessment

1. Upheld

The ASA noted that no qualifying text was included to explain the basis of the claim and we considered that consumers would therefore understand it to mean that William Hill offered prices on horses running at Royal Ascot on Saturday 23 June 2012 that would not be bettered by their competitors.

We understood that the claim was intended to refer to William Hill's commitment to provide the best prices (leading or matching the leading prices), on those horses that typically finished in the top three, during the Ascot race meeting. However, we had not seen comparative information regarding the prices offered by William Hill and their competitors for any horses at that meeting. We therefore concluded that the claim "BEST PRICES ON THE BEST HORSES BET NOW" had not been substantiated and was likely to mislead.

On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.38 (Comparisons).

2. Upheld

We noted that no qualifying text was included to explain the basis of the claim and we considered that consumers would therefore understand it to mean that William Hill offered prices across the betting markets available throughout the Euro 2012 football tournament that would not be bettered by their competitors.

We were pleased that William Hill had resolved to retain the information necessary to substantiate their claims in future. However, because we had not seen evidence that substantiated the claim "BEST PRICES ON THE BEST TEAMS", we concluded the claim was likely to mislead.

On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.38 (Comparisons).

3. Upheld

We acknowledged that "Best Odds Guaranteed" was a commonly used industry term and we considered that it was in effect a guarantee, in this case from William Hill, that customers would receive whichever was better; the price when they placed their bet or the Starting Price. However, we noted that the ad appeared on terrestrial television channels and we considered that most viewers of those channels would not be familiar with "Best Odds Guaranteed". We considered that those without knowledge of the industry would interpret the claim to mean that the odds available from William Hill would not be bettered by other bookmakers.

We noted that the ad provided numbers to which viewers could send text messages to begin betting and we considered that they could not therefore have been expected to have read the information about "Best Odds Guaranteed" on the website, particularly as the ad did not direct them to the website. Furthermore, we considered that the offer when fully explained would contradict rather than clarify their understanding of the claim. Because the intended meaning of the claim was unlikely to be understood by most viewers, we concluded that it was likely to mislead.

On that point, the ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation) and 3.38 (Comparisons).

Action

The ads must not appear or be broadcast again in their current form. We welcomed William Hill's commitment to retain appropriate substantiation for future claims and we told them to ensure that they did so. We also told them to ensure that future ads did not imply that their odds could not be bettered by other bookmakers, if that was not the case.

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