Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
CAP understands that consumers may be keen to purchase products and services from UK based companies rather than non-UK companies and that this could be due in part because they would like purchase from UK companies which supports the UK economy and employment. CAP also understands that the location of a company offering distance-selling may affect how transactions are dealt with (such as delivery duration/costs and return processes) and may also have an impact on additional charges such as local rates (from the sender) and transfer fees.
The CAP Code states that ads which contain prices should include material information such as the name and geographical address of the marketer (Rule 3.4.2).
In light of this, CAP recommends that marketers who include prices do not present themselves (directly or through implication) as being a UK company if they are not. Care should especially be taken where prices are presented in UK pound sterling and/or where a website URL has a UK domain. CAP also recommends caution with presenting a company as being entirely UK based if that company is UK registered but where transactions and/or orders are processed and sent from outside the UK and are therefore subject to a longer delivery time with the potential for additional charges.
In 2018, the ASA ruled on a website selling shoes which was understood to process payments and orders from China. The ASA considered that because the website had co.uk domain and allowed an option to choose prices in “GB Pound”, the overall impression was that the company had a UK base. Because there was nothing in the website to make clear the advertiser was based in China or that this was location from which the orders would be sent, the ASA ruling that it was misleading (Wilfredandalice.co.uk, 6 June 2018).
Similarly, in 2013, the ASA ruled that content on a battery website, which included (amongst other things) the URL ‘www.uk-battery-shop.co.uk’, the Royal Mail logo and prices in pound sterling; implied that they were a UK company when in fact they were based in China (UK-battery-shop, 12 February 2014).
In 2017 another Chinese based company promoted clothes via a website with a co.uk domain and also included a specific UK billing address. As with other similar cases, this website included prices in pound sterling and listed the Royal Mail logo. Despite the fact the “About Us” page specifically stated that the company were based in China, the ASA ruled that the overall impression was that they were UK based and because they were not, the ad was considered to be misleading. (Missydress.co.uk, 24 June 2015).
This is by no means a new or rare issue as can be seen in the following rulings: (95Max.co.uk 29 March 2018, Top Battery.co.uk 12 February 2014, XT-Tec Ltd, 19 February 2014, Quandies Ltd, 4 November 2015 and Seamaple HK Ltd, 28 August 2013).
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