ASA Ruling on Your Local Plumbing Company Ltd
Your Local Plumbing Company Ltd
2 Molesey Road
Walton On Thames
25 May 2016
Internet (on own site)
Number of complaints:
Claims on www.yourlocalplumbingcompany.co.uk, seen in September 2015, stated "For a free estimate please call [telephone number] or contact us".
The complainant, who said they had been charged an investigation fee, challenged whether the claim "free estimate" was misleading and could be substantiated.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Your Local Plumbing Company Ltd explained that they did not charge for estimates, but when specialist technical diagnosis was required by a customer there would be a charge. If asked to estimate the cost of fixing a known problem they would do so for free, but when they were asked to identify a problem it would be outside of the offer. The offer was for a no obligation free estimate for work such as a new boiler or bathroom, but if the request was for a broken boiler, which required a diagnosis, then there was a charge. They said that was made clear along with their charges at the time of booking.
Your Local Plumbing Company said if they visited a customer and the attending engineer considered that diagnostic work was required, the customer would not be told the nature of the fault until they had written agreement from the customer to start work. Customers would therefore be aware of the costs that would be incurred. If the customer declined to accept the diagnostic work, they would not be charged for the visit.
The ASA understood that diagnostic work might be required in order to identify a fault. However, we considered that consumers would expect the checking of a fault to be part of the diagnostic process required to provide a quote and therefore covered by the “free estimate” claim in the ad. We also considered that consumers would understand the offer to cover all the plumbing services offered by the advertiser and not just straightforward work or easily identifiable problems.
We understood that if a customer declined the diagnostic work they would not be charged, but without paying for the diagnosis they would not be given an estimate for the likely cost of the work that needed to be carried out. We considered consumers would interpret the claim “free estimate” to mean that Your Local Plumbing would offer a quote following an assessment or diagnosis and customers would be able to decline that work without incurring a cost. However, because the estimate was only free in certain situations and there was a charge for any diagnostic work, we concluded that the claim “free estimate” was misleading.
The claim breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Your Plumbing Company Ltd to ensure that future ads did not claim that estimates were free unless consumers would not be charged for diagnosing a fault.