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.
Marketers should not make explicit or implicit claims that are likely to mislead consumers about the location of their offices. Particular caution is advised if marketers wish to make direct or implied claims about having a “local” presence.
It is often the case that consumers will want to support businesses that are based in their local area because they feel that it contributes to the local economy and will support their local community. Marketers may be keen to tap into this loyalty and may wish to highlight the specific locations or make claims to offer “local” services. However, care should be taken to prevent such claims from misleading consumers about the location of the business and the area that is likely to benefit from the using the business or its services.
Typically, the ASA is likely to take the approach that advertisers who claim or imply that they are “local” to a specific area would need to demonstrate a permanent registered office or branch in that area. The ASA is unlikely to consider mail forwarding addresses (ghost addresses) to be sufficient to support a claim of a presence in a particular area. The ASA also is likely to take the position that using a listed address at serviced offices which are available for use by marketers are also not likely to be sufficient to support a “local” claim.
Marketers that employ staff or have contractors in specific locations where they do not have a permanent office presence are unlikely to be able to support an unqualified “local”. However, marketers wishing to portray the availability of a service in a specific area are likely to be able to reference those locations (e.g. “we have expertise in [location]” or “we do jobs in [location]”) provided the ad does not otherwise imply (by inclusion or omission) a physical local premises.
In 2014, the ASA upheld a complaint about a company offering a 24 hour locksmith which implied it had permanent offices in Gloucester, when evidence was not supplied to demonstrate that this was the case (LOM Facilities Management Ltd, 3 December 2014).
The ASA took a similar approach in relation to an estate agent’s ad which was headed "Wymondham & Hethersett 01953 469275" and which included the small print "haart of WYMONDHAM & HETHERSETT". The ASA concluded that the ad implied that the estate agent had a physical branch at Wymondham & Hetherset when this was not the case (Spicerhaart Estate Agents Ltd, 2015).
Marketers who employ individuals who may have a specialist knowledge of a local area are likely to be able to make references to that “local” knowledge, provided their marketing does not otherwise imply a physical premises of the company in that specific area. In 2017 the ASA ruled that an ad for an online only estate agent which referred to “Local Property Experts” was unlikely to mislead because it was clear the estate agent (at that time) only had an online presence and it was clear that the individuals in question were experts to the referenced local area, rather than implying a permanent local premises for the company (Purplebricks Group plc, 25 October 2017).