Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, one of which was Upheld. The other was informally resolved after the advertiser agreed to amend their advertising.
A website for APC Agri Supplies Ltd, seen on 31 May 2017, featured a page headed “Redi-Bed”. Text stated “Tom Crawford has been using Redi-Bed successfully on his farm for almost 5 years …”.
The complainant, who understood that APC Agri Supplies was formed in February 2017, challenged whether the testimonial was misleading and could be substantiated.
APC Agri Supplies Ltd said that they had obtained the testimonial from their supplier, who had been supplying to the customer for five years. They said that their supplier also featured the testimonial in their own literature.
APC Agri Supplies said that both their supplier and the customer were happy for them to use the testimonial because the customer had purchased material through their company. They said that it was difficult to receive documentary evidence within the farming industry but confirmed they had received verbal approval.
The ASA noted that the CAP Code required marketers to hold documentary evidence that a testimonial or endorsement used in a marketing communication was genuine and contact details for the person who gave it.
We acknowledged that the testimonial related to the length of time the customer had used the product rather than how long they had been buying it from APC Agri Supplies. As such, we did not consider that the testimonial was misleading because it pre-dated the formation of APC Agri Supplies. However, we noted that we had not seen documentary evidence that the testimonial was genuine or that the consumer who submitted it had given their permission for it to be used. Because of that, we concluded that 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) and 3.45 and 3.47 (Endorsements and testimonials).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told APC Agri Supplies Ltd to ensure that they held signed and dated proof for all featured testimonials.