A listing for a job, seen on www.reed.co.uk, stated "IT Engineer ... Job type: Contract, full-time or part-time ... "£14,000 - £18,000 per annum ... Due to on-going contracts we are always looking for experienced and trainee IT Support Engineers to work on various contract [sic] with our national and multi-national partners. As an IT Support Engineer, you will be responsible for monitoring and maintaining our client's computer systems and networks. Installing and configuring computer systems, diagnosing hardware and software faults and solving technical and application problems. For those who impress at interview, a full 2 weeks intensive practical training course may be provided to bring your skills up to necessary standard required".
The complainant challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that a job was available, because he understood that applicants were only invited for interview to determine their eligibility for a training course run by the advertisers.
Cerco IT Training and Recruitment Ltd (Cerco) explained that they were a recruitment partner and worked with some of the UK's IT System Support Companies. They said they either recruited candidates for current jobs or based on perceived future demand.
They said individuals responding to their ads were invited to an interview which included a technical test to ascertain whether they held the skills required for the role. After the interview, Cerco explained that candidates were either deemed unsuitable, lacking in technical ability, or ideal for employment with one of their clients. Cerco stated that if a candidate was proficient, they would be put through a number of security checks before being offered to their customers for paid work, and were placed as quickly as possible. They explained that those lacking technical ability could be invited to attend a 10-day training course, for which they would have to fund their own travel, sustenance and accommodation, but the course itself was free of charge. They highlighted that the training was only offered to candidates that Cerco was confident they could place in future, and that the training was provided at a cost to Cerco, which they hoped to recoup when candidates secured roles. They said, however, they could not guarantee those individuals who chose to undertake the training a job, and that in the current economic climate they were right not to do so.
They stated that the ad in question was associated with roles supporting a specific client that required engineers that could work on the project straight away, but that they also intended to create a contingency workforce for the project and to meet other client demands in the area.
The ASA noted that the ad stated "Due to on-going contracts we are always looking for experienced and trainee IT Support Engineers to work on various contract [sic] with our national and multi-national partners". We noted, however, that the ad was entitled "IT Engineer", later stated "As an IT Support Engineer ...", and referred to a single client, as well as setting out elements of the role. We therefore considered that the overall impression of the ad was that Cerco was recruiting candidates for the specific role of "IT Engineer" with a particular client.
We also considered that most consumers reading the ad would understand the claim "For those who impress at interview, a full 2 weeks intensive practical training course may be provided to bring your skills up to necessary standard required", to mean that if they were successful at interview they might be invited to a "refresher" course, or similar, before commencing the role of "IT Engineer" with the client referred to in the ad.
We understood from Cerco's response that the ad promoted a post with a specific client which was immediately available, but they also required additional candidates for a contingency workforce for both that post and other roles in the area. We noted that Cerco had not provided any evidence to confirm that the role "IT Engineer" was a genuine vacancy, or that candidates who responded to the ad and were successful at interview were placed in the role. Similarly, we understood that those candidates invited to undertake further training were not guaranteed any role with Cerco, but would also be added to their database to be considered for future roles and clients.
In the absence of any evidence to confirm the role was a genuine vacancy, and because we considered the ad did not make clear that some successful candidates, including those invited to attend the training course, would be added to Cerco's pool of candidates rather than gaining immediate employment in the advertised role, we concluded that the ad was misleading and in breach of the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), 20.2 20.2 Employment marketing communications must relate to genuine vacancies and potential employees must not be asked to pay for information.
Living and working conditions must not be misrepresented. 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. (Employment) and 20.9 20.9 Marketing communications for vocational training or other instruction courses must not give a misleading impression about the potential for employment that might follow.
Marketing communications must make clear significant conditions for acceptance onto vocational training or instruction courses, such as the level of attainment, and significant conditions likely to affect a consumer's decision to embark on a course, such as the cost or the duration of a course. (Vocational Training and Instruction Courses).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Cerco not to state or imply that specific roles with specific clients were available if they were not genuine vacancies, and to clearly communicate whether a candidate was applying for a particular role or the opportunity to be added to a database to be considered for future opportunities.