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.

Rule 20.2 states “…Quoted earnings must be precise; if one has to be made, a forecast must not be unrepresentative. If income is earned from a basic salary and commission, commission only or in some other way, that must be made clear”.

When considering changing jobs, one of the key factors is likely to be the salary. Whether they are offering genuine vacancies, business opportunities or a homework scheme, marketers need to be truthful about pay. For the latter two categories, stating a realistic earnings figure might be more complicated but marketers should state the level likely to be attained by an average respondent, not a level based on a few, unrepresentative high performers. Advertisers should avoid using mean averages if they are skewed by high earners and are not reflective of the earnings of average employees unless the basis of the claim is clear. In 2018, the ASA upheld a complaint about a marketing company who had placed an ad stating that weekly earnings were likely to be "£250-£450 per week (average earnings) OTE”. Although the advertiser provided evidence of two sales advisors who had achieved within this range, the ASA did not consider that these figures were representative of an average sales advisor (Vanguard Marketing Ltd, 21 March 2018).  

In considering another case, the ASA considered that factors such as the time of year and regional location might affect earnings and requested that the advertiser send more comprehensive and long-term data relevant to the area in which the ad was published (Praetorian Marketing Ltd, 12 December 2012).

Generally, marketers should be able to prove the veracity of their earnings claims (Anderson Dynamics Ltd, 9 May 2012, Submission Technology Ltd, 6 February 2013 and FM Cosmetics Distribution UK Ltd t/a FM World, 12 October 2022).

Other earnings claims might be found to be misleading because they simply do not state that they comprise a basic salary and a commission or overtime component. A chauffeur company was asked to state the amount of overtime needed to achieve the quoted earnings (Tristar Cars Ltd, 6 October 2004). Marketers should indicate, for example, with claims such as “OTE” (on-target earnings) or “inc overtime”, whether quoted earnings are not basic. If the estimated earnings are entirely commission-based this should be clearly stated. In 2013, the ASA upheld several complaints about job listings that did not make adequately clear that earnings for the role were solely commission based. It ruled that terms such as “earnings are based on completed sales”, “earnings will be performance based” and references to on target earnings (OTE) were ambiguous (Encore Interactive Ltd, 17 April 2013, RH Client Solutions, 13 March 2013 and Platinum9 Ltd, 9 January 2013).

See also: Employment Agencies and Recruitment: General

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