ASA Ruling on Novum Publishing gmbh
Novum Publishing gmbh t/a
United P.C. Publisher
united p.c. Verlag
24 July 2013
Internet (on own site)
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
The website www.united-pc.eu stated "united p.c. publisher - publish easily and at no cost - united p.c. publisher publishes your books and e-books - free, guaranteed, simply!" and "Submit a manuscript or an extract to united p.c. publisher: Manuskripts [sic] per e-mail: [email address ending .eu followed] - Manuskripts [sic] per post: novum publishing gmbh c/o united p.c. publisher [London WC1 postal address followed]".
A complainant challenged whether:
1. the claims "publish easily and at no cost" and "united p.c. publisher publishes your books and e-books - free, guaranteed, simply" were misleading, because he found that there were charges associated with editing, design and promotion which were not clarified; and
2. the ad misleadingly suggested that the advertiser was UK-based.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Novum Publishing gmbh t/a United P.C. Publisher (United Publisher) said their publishing contracts with authors listed the conditions of publishing, the rights of distribution, the sales price and the services provided by the publisher. The services listed in the contract, which included a printable file and marketing text, were free of charge to the author. They said some authors required additional services, which included editing, participation at book fairs and press releases. They said those services exceeded the free publishing contract and were charged for, and that it was up to individual authors to choose whether or not to opt for those additional services or to keep to the free of charge contractual agreement.
2. United Publisher said the legal and contact sections of their website stated that they were an Austrian company with headquarters in Austria. They said their London office was used as an administration office through which authors could send manuscripts and other documentation to Austria, where book production took place.
The ASA noted that the ad used the terms "publish" and "publishes" and stated that that service would be free of charge. We noted that the complainant reported being asked to pay for corrections, designing the front and back covers and the additional cost of publishing an e-book. We asked United Publisher to comment on that and for details of the proportion of respondents who kept to the free of charge contract and the proportion that chose to pay for additional services, but that information was not forthcoming and they did not respond in further detail than is summarised above.
We considered expectations of what would be included in a general offer to publish a book would vary but that respondents were likely to expect some or all of the elements listed above to be included. Because United Publisher had not supplied information that showed other respondents had not incurred similar costs, we concluded that the claims that United Publisher published books free of charge were misleading.
On this point the claims breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Qualification) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).
We noted that the legal and contact sections of www.united-pc.eu listed a headquarters address for United Publisher in Austria but that they also listed an address in London for a UK office. We considered respondents were likely to feel more protected if they were dealing with a company based in the UK or which had representatives based in the UK. We considered that the use of contact details for a London office and a website address that, because it ended ".eu", was ambiguous in that it did not explain that the company was based in a country outside the UK, suggested to respondents that they were dealing with a company that was based in the UK and/or which had a permanent base for conducting business in the UK. We noted from United Publisher's response, however, that that would not be the case because the London office was used simply as a point of contact for forwarding manuscripts and documents to the headquarters in Austria. Because we considered the ad suggested United Publisher was based in the UK when that was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 (Qualification).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told United Publisher not to claim that their service was free of charge if respondents needed to pay costs and not to suggest that they were based in the UK if that was not the case.