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.
On independent search engines and price comparison websites, the CAP Code covers paid-for results and preferential listings respectively but it does not cover the ‘natural’ results in either case. ‘Natural’ results are seen as the product or service of the website and, as such, are not considered ads for the purposes of the Code.
However, if a price comparison website is not independent, for example by being very closely connected to the companies it purports to compare, the entirety of the website including the ‘results’ could potentially be considered advertising (LCE Ltd t/a Compare the Gold Price, 8 January 2014).
‘Pay per click’ and other paid-for or sponsored listings on search engines are covered by the Code and should be clearly distinguishable from the natural listings (Freeserve plc, 16 June 2004).
When it comes to price comparison websites, even if natural results have been paid for they might not automatically be considered ads. However, if a brand pays a premium for prominence or preferential positioning within the results, those particular entries would fall within the scope of the Code.
Claims made by the provider of a search engine or price comparison service on their own website about the service they provide could potentially be considered within remit (See ‘Remit: Own websites’).
Updated 28 September 2016