A radio ad broadcast in May 2014 on 106 Jack FM (Bristol) for an instructional course stated "I was looking for a new challenge, I've always been a good listener and a friend suggested that I try counselling. Now I can work when I want, where I want and earn over £45 an hour. With Chrysalis courses you can become a fully qualified counsellor, psychotherapist or hypnotherapist. Chrysalis is the UK's largest trainer in talking therapies. Courses start in Birmingham this Spring. Search Chrysalis courses and let yourself grow. This course has changed my life."
The complainant, a qualified counsellor, challenged whether claim "Now I can work when I want, where I want and earn over £45 an hour" exaggerated the likely earnings that could be achieved as a result of completing the referenced courses.
Chrysalis Not for Profit Ltd t/a Chrysalis Courses said they had approached the National Counselling Society (NCS) to make an independent assessment of the claim and that it had carried out a survey which they believed demonstrated that 50% of counsellors were charging £45 or more as stated in the ad, and in some cases, significantly above it. They also provided a link to a government funded graduate careers website which stated that counsellors could earn between £30 and £50 per hour. They believed that their graduates would earn at the higher end of this spectrum because Chrysalis courses included dual training and marketing advice. They provided a copy of the referenced survey.
Celador Radio said they had cleared the ad based on the fact that the claim had previously been cleared by the RACC (when the ad was broadcast in 2013) and based on a submission from Chrysalis.
The ASA considered listeners would understand from the claim "Now I can work when I want, where I want and earn over £45 an hour" that practising counsellors who had completed a course through Chrysalis were likely to earn at least £45 an hour.
We noted that no evidence was provided regarding the average earnings of counsellors who had graduated through Chrysalis and that they had therefore not demonstrated that its graduates were earning at the upper end of the £30−£50 per hour rate referenced on the official graduate careers website in relation to private practitioners.
The survey carried out by the NSC had been sent to over 3000 registered counsellors, but only 238 responses were received. We considered that such a low response rate was unlikely to provide a reliable average earnings figure for private counsellors. Furthermore, although the survey responses demonstrated that 48% of counsellors reported that they were earning £45 an hour or more, it did not demonstrate such earnings were typical as over 52% of the respondents reported earnings of between "under £30" and "£40" per hour.
Finally, and most significantly, the questionnaire had been issued and responses received after the ad had been broadcast, suggesting that the evidence was not available when the ad was broadcast.
We therefore considered that the earnings claim had not been substantiated and concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is 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 25.1 25.1 Advertisements offering a qualification, a course of instruction in a skill or a course that leads to a professional or technical examination must not exaggerate the resulting opportunities for work or remuneration. (Instructional courses).
The ad should not be broadcast again in its current form. We told Chrysalis Courses to hold robust evidence that potential earnings were likely to be achieved before referencing those earnings in advertising.