A leaflet for Ben’s Gutters, for gutter cleaning, delivered on 24 August 2021, was presented in the form of a compliments slip. Text which appeared to be handwritten stated “Hello, we are cleaning your close neighbours [sic] gutters over the next few days. Maybe you would like yours cleaned too. Please call me on [mobile number] for an estimate. Best Regards, Ben’s Gutters [smiley face]”. The header of the ad included a telephone number beginning 0800 and a website and email address.
IssueThe complainant, who believed that the overall impression of the ad was that it was from a local tradesperson working in the area, but who understood that the ad was from a national company, challenged whether it was misleading.
Ben’s Gutters Ltd said text which appeared to be handwritten was used simply as a way of standing out from other leaflets and was a technique they had used for over ten years. They considered it was part of their branding. They said the company’s office was in East Grinstead and that their cleaners were located mostly in the south east of England. Some were based in other areas which included Bristol, Brighton, Manchester and Wales.
The leaflets were distributed around the areas where the cleaners were based. Quotes were given by phone and were booked in the personal diary of the cleaner for that area. They said the price of a gutter clean was between £55 and £150 depending on the size and height of the property and that it was, therefore, not worthwhile for cleaners to travel out of their local area. Any further work at the same property was carried out by the same cleaner, who was a tradesperson local to that area.
They found potential clients were increasingly likely to request quotes by email or by text to the mobile number given in the ad. Nevertheless, the ad contained their 0800 number and their website address for enquirers who wanted to look into the background of the company.
Following previous contact from the ASA, they had changed the sign-off of the leaflet to read “Best Regards, Ben’s Gutters”, which they believed helped the recipient realise they had been contacted by a company rather than an individual.
The ASA considered the ad contained certain elements that were likely to give recipients the impression that it was from a local, small business or tradesperson. In particular, the handwritten style of the text on a compliments slip, the informal and individual sounding company name, “Ben’s Gutters”, the text “Please call me on [mobile number] for an estimate” and the apparently hand-drawn smiley face symbol after the sign-off.
We acknowledged that the ad also included an 0800 telephone number, website and email addresses, a more formal version of the company name (“Ben’s Gutters Ltd”) and VAT and Companies House numbers, all of which, we considered, were elements more likely to be associated with larger companies.
While the ad therefore contained elements likely to be associated with both large companies and small traders, we considered the overall impression was that the ad was from a small, independent, local business currently working at neighbouring properties.
We considered the principle of supporting a small, independent, local business was likely to be a significant factor in a consumer’s decision to respond to the ad. However, while we acknowledged that the work was carried out by individual tradespeople who were local to their area, Ben’s Gutters was itself a larger company working in various parts of the country. Because we considered the ad gave the overall impression that it was for a local small business or tradesperson, when that was not the case, we concluded it was likely to mislead.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Ben’s Gutters Ltd to ensure that their marketing communications did not, through their content or presentation, give the overall impression that they were for a local small business or tradesperson.