A TV ad, for a credit card provider, stated "At American Express we go above and beyond to make the impossible possible 24/7. We've personally delivered replacement cards; found doctors who speak your language; tracked down lost wedding dresses; delivered three star dining under a million stars; we've even returned a loved one home. Impossible, it's two letters too long. American Express. Realise the potential."
A viewer, who had his credit card stolen when in Spain and was told a replacement card could not be delivered to him, challenged whether the claim "We've personally delivered replacement cards" exaggerated the capability of the service and was misleading.
American Express Services Europe Ltd (American Express) said the ad did not state or imply that they would always, in every circumstance, personally deliver replacement cards to all Cardmembers wherever in the world they were. They said the ad used a range of unrelated, specific examples (supported by employee testimonials) to convey the principal message – that they provided a high level of service to their Cardmembers. They referred to the relevant sections of their Cardholder Agreement, which contained their obligation to replace a card once they were notified it had been lost or stolen. They said they would offer the Cardmember a range of delivery options; including having a replacement card couriered to them or sent to the nearest American Express Travel Office. They said registered post could sometimes be quicker than a courier service within the UK and that the option of a courier in most countries throughout the world meant that the delivery of replacement cards was broadly consistent with the example used in the ad. They said the majority of replacement cards were sent by registered post/courier but that there were some high risk mailing countries where the postal/courier services might not be available. In these cases, however, they would use all available means to provide a replacement card.
American Express said they could not confirm exactly how long it had taken replacement cards to reach their Cardmembers (because they relied on third parties for delivery) but that they had checked their performance against internal service standards for their UK based Emergency Card Replacement Team and had established that replacement cards were dispatched within the requisite timeframe in 100% of cases. They had also checked the number of complaints they received in 2012 and had noted that the time taken for replacement cards to arrive was not a common theme amongst them.
American Express said they were unable to establish why the complainant had been told that a replacement card could not be couriered to him in Spain. They said it appeared that the customer service representative had not correctly followed the procedures for dealing with the complainant's request and that they would shortly be re-emphasising the correct procedures for emergency card replacement to their teams.
Clearcast said they had understood the ad to refer to occasions where American Express had gone beyond what was contractually required of them. They said they received a testimonial from the American Express employee who had personally delivered replacement cards to a Cardmember, and they did not believe the script suggested that that would be done in every case.
The ASA considered that viewers would understand from the ad, and specifically the opening statement, "At American Express we go above and beyond ...", that one of the reasons they should consider using American Express was a high level of customer service; exemplified by the instances mentioned in the ad. We considered that viewers would interpret the claim "We've personally delivered replacement cards" to mean that there had been an occasion where a member of American Express' staff had hand delivered cards to a Cardmember. We also considered they would infer that Cardmembers generally received a high level of customer service when requesting replacement cards.
We understood that American Express' procedures included a number of delivery options including registered post, collection from their offices and a courier service for those who urgently needed their new cards. American Express could not explain why the complainant had not been offered his replacement cards by courier, and we considered that the complainant was justifiably disappointed by the level of customer service he received. However, we noted that American Express had a dedicated Emergency Card Replacement Team that worked to tight turn-around times (from card request to dispatch) and were instructed to offer Cardmembers a number of options, including courier, to receive replacement cards. Because of that, and because the example of personal card delivery in the ad was genuine, we concluded that the ad was unlikely to mislead.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Advertisements must not mislead consumers 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 consumers need in context to make informed decisions about whether or how to buy a product or service. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead consumers depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the advertisement is constrained by time or space, the measures that the advertiser takes to make that information available to consumers by other means. (Misleading advertising), 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is 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), 3.10 3.10 Advertisements must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification) and 3.12 3.12 Advertisements must not mislead by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product or service. (Exaggeration), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.