ASA Adjudication on Northgate Solar Controls
Northgate Solar Controls
PO Box 200
13 June 2012
Number of complaints:
A direct mailing for an anti-shatter window film, received in February 2012. On the mailing's envelope, text stated "How safe are you behind your glass? Clear anti shatter window film helps to: Prevent flying glass from explosions Stop spalling if glass is hit Reduce risk by ensuring glass breaks safe Upgrade glass to comply with BS6206 Standards". The envelope also featured an image of the bus in Tavistock Square, which was a target of the 7 July bombings.
The mailing stated "Dear Mr [recipient's name]. Red Alert for Olympics Games You may have already been visited by the Met Police or other Government Agency to warn you of the current highest level security alert which is being issued ahead of and for the duration of the Olympic games. With so many people arriving in the country, the detection of terrorists at the point of entry is more challenging. Infiltration by suicide bombers etc in conjunction with undetected terrorist sleeper cells already in the country, pose a very real threat. The message that the Police and the Home Office are giving includes the precaution to consider the strength of your glazing and upgrade it where necessary with the application of a tough Clear Security Film as a deterrent to lethal flying shards of glass in the event of a bomb blast in the vicinity of your building ...".
The complainant challenged whether the ad was offensive and caused undue fear and distress.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Northgate Solar Controls (NSC) said that the mailing was sent to around 4,400 businesses on their mailing list and was targeted at businesses located in London and the Home Counties only. They said that the mailing was not intended to offend or cause undue fear or alarm but was simply to help minimise the risks in the event of an explosion by the application of bomb-blast film. They said that prior to compiling the mailing, they had been told by a customer based in North London that the Met Police had visited them and told them they needed to have bomb blast film applied before the Olympics due to the increased risk of terrorism and in view of protecting members of the public from shattered glass.
NSC also confimed that since distributing the mailing they had received a complaint about the image of the bus used on the leaflet and has subsequently withdrawn the mailing.
The ASA contacted the Met Police about the mailing, who explained that they did provide protective and counter terrorism security advice to support businesses. However, they said that this work was carried out as part of their usual business and was not specifically linked to the Olympics. They also confirmed that any advice given by them was to businesses based within the 32 boroughs of London. The Met Police said that Counter Terrorism Security Advisors (CTSAs) delivered advice consistent with guidelines issued by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) who were co-located with the Centre For Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI). We noted from the CPNI website that applying transparent polyester anti-shatter film to glass was one of the recommended measures given to businesses to prevent damage from a bomb attack.
The Home Office said they routinely encouraged businesses and other organisations to implement protective security measures, with laminated glass being one such measure. They also cited guidance they had produced in association with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) which advised businesses how to prepare for the Games which included advice on safety and security. This guidance outlined that the government and police had sought to ensure that the necessary protective measures were effective in mitigating security risks but were also proportionate to any potential threats brought by the Olympics.
We noted the advice of the Met Police and the Home Office and considered it in light of the text in the mailing. Firstly, we noted that the mailing indicated that the highest level security alert (critical) had been issued in advance of and during the Olympic Games. The Home Office however clarified that this was not the case and in fact a 'substantial' alert was currently in place, though this was subject to change. We noted that whilst businesses were generally advised that they might wish to install glass security film as part of general security precautions, this advice was not specifically related to the Olympics. We also noted that whilst some Olympic events were taking place outside of London, the biggest impact of the Games would be felt across Central London and in the immediate vicinity of those venues outside of London. We understood that the mailing had been sent out to over 4,000 businesses in London and the Home Counties and considered that it had likely targeted many businesses who were at a low risk of any potential security risks surrounding the Olympic Games. In the case of the complainant who had received the mailing, we noted that they were based almost 50 miles away from the nearest Olympics venue in Essex. We also noted the mailing's references to “suicide bombers” and "undetected sleeper cells" and taking all of the above, considered that the tone of the mailing had exaggerated the potential threat faced by businesses due to the Olympic Games and could have caused undue fear and distress to someone who received the mailing.
With regards to the image used on the mailing's envelope, which depicted the bus in Tavistock Square which was a target of the July 7 bombings, we considered that the inclusion of this image was wholly inappropriate and shocking and was likely to cause serious offence and distress.
We therefore concluded that the ad breached the code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 4.1 and 4.2 (Harm and offence).
The ad must not be repeated again in its current form.