The Booksy app, an appointment booking service for hair and beauty businesses, seen in February 2023, listed several barbershop venues. Text underneath the listings stated “BOOKSY RECOMMENDED”, alongside a thumbs up icon.
The complainant, who understood that businesses paid a fee to be listed as “Booksy Recommended”, challenged whether the “Booksy Recommended” venue listings were obviously identifiable as marketing communication.
Booksy UK Ltd t/a Booksy confirmed that the “Booksy Recommended” label formed part of the paid for “Booksy Boost” service which was available to businesses on the platform, and for which Booksy charged a one-time fee. They also stated that those businesses which opted in to the “Booksy Boost” service were ranked higher in search listings within the app.
In response to the complaint, Booksy proposed to update their terms and conditions to explain that the label formed part of a paid-for service and that they would email consumers advising them of that amendment. They also said that, in the future, they would make further amendments to the website and their app which would explain the label to consumers.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such, and they must make clear their commercial intent if that was not obvious from the context.
We understood that businesses who signed up to the “Booksy Boost” service would appear higher in the search rankings within the app and that the label “Booksy Recommended” would be applied underneath their venue listing. We further understood that Booksy charged a referral fee for that service. As such, we considered the venue entries that appeared in the ad with the “Booksy Recommended” label were paid-for search listings and were, therefore, ads for the purposes of the CAP Code.
We then considered whether the ad was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication and whether it made its commercial intent clear. We noted that the ad did not contain any information which made clear that the venue entries or the “Booksy Recommended” label were paid-for media. In the absence of clear and prominent identifiers, we considered that consumers were likely to interpret the wording of the label to mean that the venue was genuinely recommended by Booksy, rather than being a marketing communication.
We welcomed Booksy’s assurance that they would implement changes to their future advertising. However, we considered that changes to the terms and conditions of the website would not make it immediately clear to consumers that the recommendations they saw on the app were paid-for marketing communications.
Because the promoted venue listings did not make clear upfront their commercial intent, we concluded the ad was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication, and therefore breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 2.1 and 2.3 (Recognition of Marketing Communications).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Booksy UK Ltd t/a Booksy to ensure that their future ads were obviously identifiable as marketing communications and that the commercial intent was made clear.