ASA Adjudication on Richard Steel & Partners Ltd
Richard Steel & Partners Ltd
12–14 City Road
16 May 2012
Number of complaints:
a. A regional magazine ad in November 2010 for a funeral directors was headed "Richard Steel & Partners Independent Family Owned Funeral Directors". Text also stated "Four Generations Since 1860" and "Monumental Masons". The ad featured the SIFH (Selected Independent Funeral Homes) logo.
b. A directory ad in 2010 for the same company stated "1860 - 2010 FAMILY OWNED FUNERAL DIRECTORS 150 years of Personal Family Service". It also offered a "Monumental Masonry Service".
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the claim "independent" in ad (a) was misleading and could be substantiated;
2. the use of the SIFH logo in ad (a) misleadingly implied that the advertisers were an independent company;
3. the claims, "Monumental Masonry" in ad (a) and “Monumental Masonry Service" in ad (b), were misleading and could be substantiated;
4. the claim "FAMILY OWNED" in both ads was misleading and could be substantiated;
5. the claim "1860 - 2010 ... 150 Years of Personal Family Service" in ad (b) was misleading and could be substantiated.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Richard Steel & Partners Ltd (Richard Steel) said that the business was ultimately owned by three individuals, Richard Steel, Ian Steel and Mark Allery. They said that Richard and Ian Steel were directors of (and ultimately shareholders in) several other businesses, but did not take an active role in any of the businesses other than the advertised business, at the premises of which they were based as funeral directors. They said Richard Steel was legally separate from the other businesses and also a member of the Selected Independent Funeral Homes (SIFH). They said that they were compliant with the CAP guidance on funeral services and use of the term "independent". They said, in line with this guidance, they believed they could refer to themselves as “independent” even though their shareholders had interests in other funeral directors. For these reasons they believed they were entitled to call themselves "independent".
2. They said they were invited to join Selected Independent Funeral Homes (SIFH) and had accepted. They said membership required the business to be privately owned and independent of any ownership by a large group or chain. They said SIFH was a professional trade organisation that had acknowledged their membership was valid. Because they were a member of SIFH and they believed they were independent they did not believe use of the SIFH logo was misleading.
3. Richard Steel said they provided monumental masonry services to their clients, including advice, sourcing and payment for monumental masonry. They claimed the term "Monumental Masonry" was widely used in the funeral industry to refer to this arrangement and external monumental masons were routinely used by funeral directors.
4. They said the business was "Family Owned" because Richard and Ian Steel owned the majority of the shareholding and took part in the running of the company.
5. Richard Steel provided an invoice from 1921 that contained the claim “Established over 60 years”. They said four generations of the Steel family looked after the business from this time.
THIS ADJUDICATION REPLACES A PREVIOUS DECISION. THE VERDICTS ON POINTS 1 & 2 HAVE CHANGED, MAKING THE COMPLAINT ON THESE POINTS NOT UPHELD.
1. Not upheld
The ASA noted all the shares in Richard Steel were owned by Steel Allery Ltd, the shareholders, which comprised two members of the Steel family and Mr Allery, and that the Steel family participated directly in the running of the business in Winchester, as funeral directors. We therefore concluded that use of “Independent” in the phrase "Independent Family Owned Funeral Directors" in ad (a) was accurate.
On this point we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation) but did not find it in breach.
2. Not upheld
We noted that Richard Steel was a member of Selected Independent Funeral Homes (SIFH) and concluded that use of the logo in ad (a) with its reference to independent was not misleading, for the reasons given (at 1) above.
On this point we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) but did not find it in breach.
We noted Richard Steel’s explanation that it was common practice for funeral directors to advertise that they provided a masonry service. We also noted ads that made a distinction between providing their own masonry services and sourcing the service externally, by stating 'memorial consultants' for the latter. We considered that consumers would infer from the claim "monumental masons" and "monumental masonry services" that the business had their own masons. Because we understood that Richard Steel sourced these services externally, we concluded that the claims were misleading.
On this point the ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
4. Not upheld
We noted the advertiser's response that Richard and Ian Steel owned the majority shareholding of the business and took part in the running of the business. Because of this we concluded that the claim "family owned" in both ads was not misleading.
On this point we investigated the ads under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation) but did not find it in breach.
5. Not upheld
We noted the 1921 invoice provided by Richard Steel contained the claim “Established 60 years”. We also noted the history of the business and its ownership provided by Richard Steel and concluded that the claim “1860 - 2010 ... 150 Years of Personal Family Service” in ad (b) was not misleading.
On this point we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation) but did not find it in breach.
Richard Steel must make clear when referring to monumental masonry services in future that this was sourced externally.