Two websites, www.holzmeisterhausltd.co.uk and www.holzmeister.co.uk, for a house building company both featured, on their home pages, photographs of houses. They also featured a testimonial from a "Penny & Jim from the South Coast": "We have been happy to work with Mike during all the stages of construction of our new German home. He has been most conscientious, efficient and meticulous to detail throughout - always ready to visit at times convenient to ourselves. He remained in close contact for the whole development and liaised on our behalf with excellent suppliers and fitters in both Germany and the UK. Mike commissioned, on our behalf, an excellent English architect who listened to our requests carefully and adapted our design to meet building specifications. Initially, he accompanied us on a visit to the German house assembly factory and explained all stages of the house construction very knowledgeably. He gave us sound advice for the financial transactions and ensured that appropriate vehicles were used for access to our very restricted site. We are very happy to recommend him to others and indeed have already done so".
The complainant challenged whether the testimonials on the websites were misleading, because they understood they referred to houses that were built by a previous company.
Holzmeister Haus Ltd (Holzmeister) said they owned the rights for all of the pictures on their website. All projects displayed on the website were managed either by Holzmeister, partners and associates of Holzmeister, or under the management of the director of Holzmeister. They submitted the contact details for one of the testimonials, that of "Penny and Jim from the South Coast", and said they had received authorisation to display all testimonials on the Holzmeister website.
They pointed out that the testimonial from “Penny and Jim from the South Coast”, referred to "Mike", who was the director of Holzmeister. The other testimonial, from “Barbara and David, from Pevencey”, also referred to "Mike". They stated that the previous company referred to by the complainant, that initially managed the projects, was Hanlo Ltd (Hanlo): the "Mike" referred to in the testimonials was a director of Hanlo until that company ceased trading in August 2012, he was now the director of Holzmeister.
Holzmeister said it was incorrect to state that Hanlo built the houses referred to by the complainant because only the build of the shells, excluding ground work and foundations, was managed, but not built, by Hanlo. The shells were manufactured by an external contractor. They said this arrangement was made clear on the website's "Craftsmanship & Automation" section, which referred to the "German manufacturing partners".
They said three-quarters of the projects were managed by the current director of Holzmeister, after Hanlo's insolvency. Holzmeister were a building contractor and all of the building work was carried out by external suppliers. They said it was neither common practice nor a legal requirement to refer to external suppliers in marketing material. They did not believe that they had a requirement to refer to a previous company that initially worked on some aspects of the build, but was now no longer trading.
Because they had permission to use the testimonials and because they referred to work that had been organised and managed by their current director, Holzmeister did not believe that the website was misleading in this respect.
The ASA noted that the projects referred to in the testimonials were organised and managed by Holzmeister's current director. We also noted that the testimonials did not refer to Holzmeister specifically, but to the experience of working with "the project manager" or "Mike" and to the customers' general satisfaction with the builds.
Because the testimonials referred to work organised and managed to completion by Holzmeister's current director, and we understood that they had permission to use the testimonials on the website, we considered it was not necessary for Holzmeister to state that the projects were initially managed by a different company. We therefore concluded that the websites were not misleading in this respect.
We investigated the testimonials under 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) and 3.46 3.46 Testimonials must relate to the advertised product. (Testimonials and endorsements) but did not find them in breach.
No further action necessary.