ASA Ruling on Gladstone Brookes Ltd
Gladstone Brookes Ltd
c/o Forshawes Chartered Accountants
Railex Business Centre
17 October 2012
Number of complaints:
A TV ad, for a claims management service, stated "For years PPI has been mis-sold to millions with their bank loans Fact Reclaiming PPI takes up your time Fact". A clock with the hands turning quickly appeared on screen. The voice-over continued "Gladstone Brookes have helped tens of thousands … and recovered millions of pounds …. Fact ...".
Three viewers challenged whether the claim "Reclaiming PPI takes up your time Fact" misleadingly exaggerated the amount of time taken and difficulty required by consumers applying to reclaim their own PPI premium.
Gladstone Brookes Ltd did not believe they had exaggerated the time a PPI complaint would take a consumer because they had not used any adjectives in the advert and, in order to exaggerate the time taken, they would have had to quantify the amount of time it took a consumer to make a complaint. They said the ad simply stated that "Reclaiming PPI takes up your time …" and they considered that was correct, as consumers could not make a PPI complaint without taking time to do so. They felt that the complainant had misunderstood some of the complexities involved in the process that was required to make a PPI complaint, which did not reflect the work that Gladstone Brookes carried out when dealing with a complaint. They stated that the difficulty was not mentioned nor quantified in the ad.
Clearcast said that the main focus of the ad was a report on customer satisfaction and the ad invited the viewer to find out whether their policy was mis-sold. They understood that the primary complainant considered that the ad implied that reclaiming PPI without using a claims management company (CMC) took up a significant amount of a consumer's time, whereas he understood that it only involved filling in two forms at most and felt that was unlikely to take up more time than contacting Gladstone Brookes. Clearcast reiterated the advertiser’s view that the ad simply stated that reclaiming PPI took up time, but did not enlarge on that statement nor suggest that it took up a significant amount of time. They suggested that one of the main reasons that a consumer might use a CMC was to save time and possibly some frustration, because the CMC would do the work for the consumer. They said CMCs had the knowledge, experience and contacts in the banking world which consumers did not. They said that Gladstone Brookes did not take on cases where they did not think they could successfully reclaim and consumers also had the choice, after talking to Gladstone Brookes and finding out what was involved, not to go any further with their claim.
THIS ADJUDICATION REPLACES THAT PUBLISHED ON 1 AUGUST 2012. THE WORDING HAS CHANGED BUT THE DECISION TO UPHOLD THE COMPLAINT REMAINS.
The ASA understood that the process for reclaiming mis-sold PPI was to complain to the product provider or bank in the first instance, and if the complainant was not satisfied with that response, the matter could then be referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), and that process was the same whether a complainant complained directly or via a CMC. We acknowledged, therefore, that the complainants’ understanding of the process was generally correct. We noted that some cases could require additional work on the part of the claimant, such as collecting and providing paperwork from the time of sale for consideration of the complaint, but also understood that in those cases, even if a claimant was using a CMC, it was possible that the claimant might still have to take additional time of their own to find and forward that paperwork to the CMC.
We acknowledged that the claim “Reclaiming PPI takes up your time Fact” did not specify how much time the claiming process might require, but nonetheless considered that it highlighted the time-consuming nature of making a claim as a particular feature and potential drawback of the PPI claiming process and considered that some viewers would be likely to infer that it was a time-consuming, and some might go so far as to infer that it was a difficult, process. We also noted that the ad featured a ticking clock, which further stressed the notion of time passing. We therefore considered that viewers would be likely to interpret that symbol and the claim “Reclaiming PPI takes up your time Fact” to suggest that an extended amount of time might be required to make a claim and that the process might be complex as well as time-consuming.
Because we understood that the process for most claimants wishing to reclaim PPI generally required making a complaint to the product provider or bank in the first instance, before potentially referring the matter to the FOS, which consumers were likely to consider was a fairly straightforward process, and because we also understood that there was a large amount of advice online about how to make PPI claims, we considered that a claim which implied that it was a time-consuming and, possibly, complex process which was likely to require the services of a third party, was likely to mislead. Although we noted that some consumers might prefer to use the services of a CMC, we considered the ad exaggerated the amount of time taken and difficulty required by consumers applying to reclaim their own PPI premium, particularly for those who might prefer to claim directly and without having to pay for the services of a CMC, and therefore concluded that the claim was likely to mislead.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.12 (Exaggeration).
The claim must not be broadcast again in its current form.