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ASA Adjudication on eSmart Media Ltd

eSmart Media Ltd t/a Best Medical Cover

33–35 Victoria Street
Douglas
Isle of Man
IM1 2LF

Date:

18 April 2012

Media:

Internet (on own site)

Sector:

Financial

Number of complaints:

1

Complaint Ref:

A11-166186

Background

Summary of Council Decision:

Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.

Ad

Two sponsored search results and a website for Best Medical Cover:

a. The sponsored link stated "Bupa Health Insurance - Compare the Bupa Health Insurance Online Get the Best Quote Today!"

b. The sponsored link stated "Best Health Insurance/ [website] Compare All Major Health Insurance Providers in UK Online. Get a Quote  Compare Quotes Online - Calculate Costs - Cheapest Health Insurance Bupa [website].

c. The website included the claims "Best medical cover", "Get the Best Health Insurance Deal", "[W]e have access to exclusive UK deals from Bupa", "We are independent and impartial", "You can search the market with 1 form" and "We search the market to find you the best medical insurance deal". The website also included the text "Great Deals from" followed by health insurance logos, including the Bupa logo.  

Issue

Bupa challenged whether:

1. The Bupa logo and trademark on the website and the claim 'We have access to exclusive UK deals from Bupa' were misleading because the site did not always lead to a Bupa quote being offered.

2. The claims "Compare the Bupa Health Insurance online", "Best medical cover",  "Instant Quotes", "Compare Quotes Online", "[W]e search the market to find you the best medical insurance deal" and "You can search the market with 1 form" misleadingly implied that the service searched the whole of the market and provided instant quotes through the website, when they understood that they offered quotes from  single product providers and provided this information through a call back service.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

1. eSmart Media Ltd (eSmart)said they had removed the claim "We have access to exclusive UK deals from Bupa".  However, with regard to the use of the logo they stated that they were an introducer of health insurance businesses to several health insurance intermediaries across the UK.  They explained that 90% of the enquiries were sent to a broker who was able to provide quotes for the main providers, including Bupa, and as such they believed it was not misleading to make use of the Bupa logo.   They stated that their main broker was able to make direct arrangements with the insurance providers, including Bupa, based on information supplied during their correspondence with the consumer and that they were then able to make direct contact with Bupa and set up the arrangements accordingly. They provided a letter from an insurance broker with whom they said they worked closely, which stated that they provided consumers who used the Best Medical Cover website with quotes from all the major health insurers, including Bupa, and which also stated customers were free to choose the insurance plan that best suited their needs.

2. eSmart said the claim "Best Medical Cover" was not a statement but a brand name and that it merely referred to the fact that it was a high quality service.  They added that the words "instant" and "online" referred to the web based service and that all quotes were provided over the phone and followed up by an e-mail.  They stated that they did not engage in any 'offline' activities and that it was therefore correct to refer to the service as "online", because it was a generic term to explain the overall online service.  They stated that the word "instant" was used to reference the speed of their service and short period of time to obtain any quotes; a customer could get their quote in five minutes or less.  They stated that they had replaced the claims "We search the market to find you the best medical insurance deal" with the text "we search the leading insurers to find you the best medical insurance deal". They stated that the claim "You can search the market with one form" had also been removed.  They provided a letter from an insurance broker with whom they said they worked closely, which stated that they provided consumers who used the Best Medical Cover website with quotes from all the major health insurers, including Bupa, and which also stated customers were free to choose the insurance plan that best suited their needs.

With regard to the call back service, they stated that the customer was provided with a disclaimer before they submitted their enquiry which stated that they would be contacted by telephone by an advisor and that they (the consumer) needed to agree to the terms and conditions.  They stated that a user of the service was therefore made aware of the procedures and the service that they would receive. They provided examples of confirmation e-mails that had been sent from their main broker to customers who had used the online form and which provided them with quotes from a selection of health insurance providers, including Bupa, alongside copies of brochures from those providers.

Assessment

Upheld

1.  The ASA understood from eSmart that although a relationship existed between the broker and Bupa in order for policies to be set up directly, they did not offer special deals whereby a policy could be obtained cheaper and understood that they did not believe the website implied such discounts were available.  We noted eSmart had removed the claim "We have access to exclusive UK deals from Bupa" and welcomed the changes to the website. However, we considered the claims would be understood by consumers to mean that eSmart could facilitate a special deal directly with those health insurance providers which may not be available if the consumer approached that provider directly and, because this was not the case, we considered that the claims were misleading.    

We also noted eSmart believed that it was not misleading to use the Bupa logo because the main health insurance broker it used provided quotes from Bupa and was able to set up a health insurance policy on behalf of its customers.   We noted the majority of quotes provided by eSmart were from a broker who was able to provide quotes from the whole market, including Bupa, and set up arrangements with those insurance providers directly.  However, we noted the remaining brokers were single product providers and could not offer Bupa insurance.  We therefore considered that, without qualification to indicate that some enquiries would results in quotes that were not from Bupa, the use of the Bupa logo was misleading.  

On this point ad (c) breached CAP Code (edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation).    

2. Upheld

We noted eSmart believed the claims were accurate and that they had provided a letter from a health insurance broker which stated that it undertook the work to obtain health insurance quotes for eSmart. We also noted the letter from the insurance broker stated that it provided customers with quotes from the main health insurers, including the complainant, and understood that Bupa did have an arrangement with this broker.   However, although we understood that 90% of the quotes provided to consumers following contact with eSmart resulted in quotes from Bupa, we noted there were some instances in which consumers would be contacted by a broker that was only able to offer a quote from one insurance provider and therefore did not receive quotes from the whole market. Furthermore, we considered that the claims "Compare the Bupa Health Insurance online" "Compare Quotes Online" from ads (a) and (b) and the claims "Best medical cover", "Instant Quotes", [W]e search the market to find you the best medical insurance deal" and "You can search the market with 1 form" from ad (c) implied that the website would itself generate a selection of results from a variety of leading health insurances providers.  However, we noted consumers who had completed an online form received a telephone call from the broker who had carried out research based on the information completed by the consumer on the Best Medical Cover website and considered that this did not fall within the consumers' expectations of the service referred to in the ads because it did not provide consumers with an instant selection of quotes for them to view online. We therefore concluded that, without qualification to indicate that some enquiries would result in quotes from one insurance provider and information to state that quotes were provided via telephone/e-mail, the claims "Compare the Bupa Health Insurance online" "Compare Quotes Online" from ads (a) and (b) and the claims "Best medical cover",  "Instant Quotes", "we search the market to find you the best medical insurance deal" and "You can search the market with 1 form" from ad (c)  were misleading.

On this point ads (a), (b) and (c) breached CAP Code (edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation).

Action

Ads (a), (b) and (c) should not appear again in their current form.

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