Three websites for individual companies associated with the brand Conservatory Outlet, www.conservatoryoutlet.co.uk, featured several testimonials. A testimonial on website (a), www.clearviewhome.co.uk stated, "... our beautiful conservatory and new front door entrance ... We would like to thank everyone at the Clearview from the first visit to your showroom to the completion of our beautiful conservatory and new front door entrance ... from a very satisfied customer. Mr & Mrs Archer, Blackburn". This testimonial was repeated on website (b) for Kendal Trade Frames Ltd t/a Planet South Lakes Ltd, www.planetsouthlakes.com. The testimonial was identical except for the customer name, Mr & Mrs Cobley, Morecambe.
A second testimonial on website (c), www.housemasterhome.com stated "My orangery is now finished and I have to say I have enjoyed the experience of the whole programme of work ... Mr & Mrs French, St Albans, Hertfordshire". A similar testimonial appeared on website (a) with the customer name of Mr & Mrs Cook, Liverpool, with the word "conservatory" instead of "orangery".
The complainant challenged whether the testimonials were genuine.
Conservatory Outlet Ltd said in order to prove a testimonial was genuine they would have to search hundreds of written testimonials from their outlets. They said they have removed those in question and would replace them with more recent testimonials obtained from their new online customer review centre. They said reviews and testimonials were stored online along with details of customers who submitted them.
The ASA noted the advertiser's willingness to remove the testimonials subject to the investigation. We noted that subsequent revisions had removed repeated versions of the testimonials, however, two original testimonials continued to appear. We asked the advertiser to provide evidence that the testimonials were genuine; this was not submitted. Because we did not see documentary evidence that the testimonials were genuine or consumers who submitted them had given their permission for them to be used, we concluded the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (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), 3.45 3.45 Marketers must hold documentary evidence that a testimonial or endorsement used in a marketing communication is genuine, unless it is obviously fictitious, and hold contact details for the person who, or organisation that, gives it. and 3.48 3.48 Marketing communications must not feature a testimonial without permission; exceptions are normally made for accurate statements taken from a published source, quotations from a publication or references to a test, trial, professional endorsement, research facility or professional journal, which may be acceptable without express permission. (Endorsements and testimonials).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told the Conservatory Outlet to ensure all testimonials used in their advertising complied with the CAP Code.