A website and a circular letter for ADT Fire & Security, seen in February 2018:
a. The website www.adt.co.uk stated, “93% of burglars said they would avoid a ADT alarm”.
b. The circular letter stated, “93% of burglars avoid homes with an alarm system”. Below that, the leaflet stated “Source: Home Office report, decision-making by house burglars, 2004”.
The complainant, who understood that the Home Office report used a small sample size and cautioned that there were many other situational factors that would affect a burglar’s decision, challenged whether the claims in ads (a) and (b) were misleading.
ADT Fire & Security plc responded that they believed that ad (b) misstated the source of the statistic. They told the ASA that the claim in both ads was sourced from their own research rather than the Home Office report and provided a copy of that report.
With regards to the research, ADT Fire & Security said that it was conducted in 2012 and involved 106 interviews lasting 10 to 15 minutes, and 8 in-depth interviews of approximately 30 to 40 minutes with ex-burglars. The research was carried out by an independent marketing company who informed ADT Fire & Security that the sample size was seen as acceptable and robust in research terms and comparable to similar samples used in academic and social research (and larger than the sample size used in the Home Office report).
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claims in ads (a) and (b) to mean that 93% of burglars would avoid homes that had an alarm system, and in the case of ad (a), that 93% of burglars would avoid an ADT alarm system specifically. We considered that consumers would be likely to take those claims as factual, and in particular that those consumers who saw ad (b) would understand the claim was supported by evidence from the 2004 Home Office report. We therefore expected the claims to be supported by evidence.
We considered the evidence provided by ADT Fire & Security to support the claims in the ads. The study involved interviews of former burglars who were, as reported at the time of the study, reformed.
The study said that a number of factors were deterrents against burglary at a given residence. It reported that a burglar alarm would be a deterrent all of the time for 44% of the burglars questioned, and some or all of the time for 78% of burglars questioned.
The study also went on to state that 66% of the burglars surveyed agreed strongly or agreed somewhat, that a bell-only alarm system would deter them, but that 94% agreed strongly or somewhat that a monitored alarm system would have been a greater deterrent than a bell-only system. The study noted that of the burglars interviewed, 67% knew about ADT “well” and 27% knew “a little” about it. However, when asked directly in a comparison with a range of other brands, the study showed that 59% agreed strongly that a system by ADT would be a deterrent from committing a burglary and 93% agreed when asked the question of whether “a monitored alarm from ADT” would put them off, but simultaneously only 78% considered that an alarm would put off a burglar some or all of the time
We considered that there were some contradictions in the results of the study. Although of those questioned, 93% agreed strongly or somewhat that “an ADT monitored system would put them off” committing a burglary, only 67% of respondents stated that they knew ADT well. Although we acknowledged that 27% of burglars also stated that they knew ADT “a little”, the study did not indicate what was meant by that or whether those who only knew ADT “a little” would be likely to identify the system or knew if ADT alarms were monitored alarm systems. We also noted that the study rated alarms as one of a number of situational factors that would affect that decision and overall that only 78% considered that an alarm would put off a burglar even some of the time. Whilst we accepted that the overall picture of the study was that a monitored alarm was more of a deterrent than a bell alarm system, the study contained contradictory results and we therefore did not consider that it supported the claims that “93% of burglars said they would avoid an ADT alarm” or “93% of burglars avoid homes with an alarm system”.
We also reviewed the 2004 Home Office report, referenced in ad (b), which ADT Fire & Security had said was quoted in error. We noted that the study did not support the claim made in the ad as it did not mention ADT alarms specifically, did not differentiate between different types of alarm and noted that 84% of burglars considered an alarm to be a situational factor that would influence their decision to offend.
Because the study referenced in ad (b) and the study provided by ADT Fire & Security to support the claim made in both ads did not support the claims made in either ad, we concluded that the claims in ads (a) and (b) were misleading.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told ADT Fire & Security plc not to claim that 93% of burglars would avoid an ADT alarm or an alarm system more generally unless they held sufficient evidence to support the claim.