ASA Adjudication on gumtree.com Ltd
16 May 2012
Number of complaints:
Campbell Lace (Beta)
A TV ad for Gumtree, seen on 1 February 2011, featured a man swapping his car for a bag of money. The voice-over said "If you need to move your motor, get it on Gumtree. You can buy or sell anything for free."
The complainant, who believed there were restrictions on what could be sold on the website, because she was unable to sell some puppies, challenged whether the claim "You can buy or sell anything" was misleading.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Gumtree.com Ltd (Gumtree) said users could buy or sell anything for free as long as the items were legal and not in breach of Gumtree's posting rules. They also said they had recently been in contact with Trading Standards regarding the sale of puppies and the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999, which indicated that keepers of a licensed breeding establishment were guilty of an offence if they sold a dog otherwise than at a licensed breeding establishment. They said, in order to comply with the legislation, they had a policy which placed limitations on people posting ads for more than two animals per year. They said the complainant may have fallen within their definition of a commercial breeder and was therefore prevented from posting their ad.
Clearcast said they approved the claim "You can buy or sell anything for free" on the basis that the agency assured them this was the case. They said the only exclusion was isolated to illegal items and that, other than these, no further items were excluded that viewers would reasonably expect to be interested in buying or selling online. They believed trading illegal items was not of reasonable interest to viewers to warrant additional clarification.
The ASA understood the complainant believed the claim "You can buy or sell anything for free" was misleading because restrictions applied to the number of puppies that could be sold. We noted the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 indicated that commercial breeders were only able to sell dogs at a licensed breeding establishment. We also noted that, in order to prevent commercial breeders posting ads and therefore breaching the legislation, Gumtree placed limitations on sellers who posted ads for more than two animals per year. We considered that most viewers would understand from the claim "You can buy or sell anything" that they could buy or sell any variety of items, and not that they could necessarily sell any item in unrestricted quantities. We also considered that they would expect all items to be required to comply with Gumtree's posting rules and any legislation relevant to the item. Because users could buy or sell up to two puppies per year for free we considered that the claim "You can buy or sell anything" did not require qualification and that the ad was not misleading on those grounds.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising) and 3.10 (Qualification) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.