Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A direct mailing, for a property company, received on 13 November 2021 was in the form of a letter on personalised headed notepaper. It stated, “You may remember that some months ago I wrote to you expressing my interest in the possibility of purchasing your property. I explained that I was looking for property in and around London as an investment and that I was endeavouring not to use the services of an estate agent, hence my direct approach! I would just like to state that I am still keen to buy something in your area, and would greatly appreciate hearing from you on this matter. Hoping that you may be interested in a private sale it would be a pleasure to meet you for an informal discussion …”. The mailing was signed off with “Once again please forgive my direct approach. Yours sincerely, Raymond J. Chinnock”.
The complainant, who had opted to suppress their personal data so that they did not receive marketing, challenged whether:
1. the ad was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication; and
2. the marketing database used had been run against the relevant suppression files.
Response1. & 2. Chinnock Housing Ltd said that they were a property company originally led by Mr Chinnock who had since retired and that they wrote to people asking if they wished to sell their property. They had obtained the names and addresses from the Land Registry. They said they did not think of the mailings as advertising material and were not aware of the need to run their marketing databases against relevant suppression files.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such. Marketing communications must make clear their commercial intent, if that was not obvious from the context.
The ASA considered that recipients were likely to understand the use of personalised headed notepaper, the references to not using the services of an estate agent, “direct approach” and “private sale” and the use of the first person “I” to mean that the letter had been sent by a private individual interested in purchasing the property, not a commercial property company. We noted that the mailing stated the company’s website address at the bottom of the page. However, we considered that that, by itself, was insufficient to override the impression that it was a letter from a private individual.
For those reasons, we concluded that the mailing was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication and did not make clear its commercial intent and therefore breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 2.1 2.1 Marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such. and 2.3 2.3 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).
The CAP Code stated that consumers were entitled to have their personal data suppressed so that they did not receive marketing. Marketers must ensure that, before use, databases have been run against relevant suppression files within a suitable period. The ASA understood that Chinnock Housing had not run the database against relevant suppression files before sending the letter and therefore had not removed from their mailing list those consumers who did not wish to be sent marketing material. Because of that, the ad breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
Consumers are entitled to have their personal data suppressed so that they do not receive marketing. Marketers must ensure that, before use, databases have been run against relevant suppression files within a suitable period. Marketers must hold limited information, for suppression purposes only, to ensure that no other marketing communications are sent to those consumers as a result of information about those consumers being reobtained through a third party.
(Use of data for marketing).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Chinnock Housing Ltd to ensure that future marketing communications were obviously identifiable as such and made clear their commercial intent. We also told them to ensure that their marketing databases were run against the relevant suppression files before use in order to remove consumers who did not wish to be sent marketing material from their mailing lists.