A website for Marketing Position, businesscostcomparison.co.uk, included a page for comparing waste companies, seen in June 2021, which stated, “Search the Market For Waste Quotes”. Below that, the page gave options which allowed consumers to input their waste disposal needs. Below that, the website stated that its service would “Search the network Waste management experts will search the network to find the best free quote for your needs” and “Compare Provider Quotes Choose the best collection provider with the cheapest quote for your needs”. The website stated that it would “Compare over 200 waste suppliers”, that it would “Compare more providers than anyone else” and that it had “Exclusive deals available from top UK waste collection providers”.
IssueThe complainant, who understood that the only supplier that Marketing Position would recommend was CheaperWaste Ltd, challenged whether the claims “search the market for waste quotes”, “[comparing] over 200 waste suppliers” and “choose the best collection provider with the cheapest quote for your needs” were misleading.
Marketing Position Ltd responded that the website www.businesscostcomparison.co.uk provided customers with a cost comparison service for businesses, including for business waste collections. However, they said that they did not provide the underlying services, which was provided by brokers in the relevant fields. With regard to that part of the website complained about, they said that the “broker” was CheaperWaste Ltd. Marketing Position stated that whilst it was true that their service would recommend only CheaperWaste; CheaperWaste did not itself collect waste. They said CheaperWaste would themselves search the market widely for suitable waste quotes. They therefore considered that the claims in the ad were not misleading because they accurately described the service provided. They accepted that the involvement of a third party could have been made clearer and said they would therefore make changes to their website.
CheaperWaste did not consider that the web page was their advertising or that they should be held responsible for it. They said that they had a contractual agreement with Marketing Position under which they paid Marketing Position for leads provided, but that they did not pay for Marketing Position to make any marketing communications on their behalf or have any control over the content of the websites or other channels that they operated. CheaperWaste confirmed that their service did select an appropriate sub-contractor for individual customers, but that process was not a simple cost comparison and they did not carry out cost comparison exercises as would justify the claims on the website.
The purpose of the ad was to generate leads for CheaperWaste, and the ASA understood that CheaperWaste had entered into a contract with Marketing Position to generate leads for their service. We therefore considered that both parties were jointly responsible for ensuring that such marketing complied with the CAP Code.
The CAP Code required that marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer was acting as a consumer or for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession. It also required that marketing communications made clear their commercial intent.
We considered that consumers (as defined in the Code to include business consumers) would understand the presentation of the claims “Search the Market For Waste Quotes”, alongside “Search the network Waste management experts will search the network to find the best free quote for your needs” and “Compare Provider Quotes Choose the best collection provider with the cheapest quote for your needs”, “Compare over 200 waste suppliers”, “Compare more providers than anyone else” and “Exclusive deals available from top UK waste collection providers”, to mean that the ad was an independent price comparison service for business waste collection services. They would understand that to mean they could submit their details, following which they would receive a number of quotes from a range of companies based on the details they submitted.
However, the ad was a website operated by the lead generation firm Marketing Position, which had been paid to generate leads for the company CheaperWaste. We also understood that, whatever details were submitted by the consumer, they would always recommend CheaperWaste.
Marketing Position stated that the service provided by CheaperWaste involved a price comparison service where they would provide users with the service as described in the ad. We understood that CheaperWaste may select appropriate sub-contractors for their customers, however, they did not operate as a price comparison service of the type that would allow customers to “search the network to find the best free quote”.
Because the ad did not make clear that it was for the purposes of lead generation and that they provided consumers’ contact details to a provider of waste management services rather than providing comparisons themselves, and because the website misleadingly presented the service offered as a comparison service, when we understood that it was not, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer is acting as a consumer or for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession; marketing communications must make clear their commercial intent, if that is not obvious from the context.
(Recognition of marketing communications),
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer 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 the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (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 Marketing Position Ltd and Cheaperwaste to ensure they did not misleadingly imply that they were acting for purposes outside their trade, for example by presenting websites designed to generate leads for other companies as independent comparison websites. We also told them to ensure that ads accurately presented the nature of the services offered and did not misleadingly imply that they were price comparison services if that was not the case.