Summary of Council decision:Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
The home page of www.windowscrappagefunding.co.uk, seen in March 2019, stated "Millions of pounds of funding for homeowners to upgrade their windows. Get up to £2500 scrappage fee for your old windows. Thousands of homeowners across the UK have already upgraded to Category ‘A’ energy efficient windows. Apply Today to see if you qualify".
Text beneath this stated "Percentage of funding already taken up in England ... 44%", "Percentage of funding already taken up in Scotland ... 52%", "Percentage of funding already taken up in Wales ... 89%", accompanied by graphics illustrating this. A web page entitled "Energy Efficient Windows" stated "Eco Funding Plan ... homeowners have until now not had access to any funding to carry out essential upgrades. The new eco funding plan enables homeowners across the UK to upgrade their windows to Catagory [sic] A+ energy efficient windows that can reduce energy bills by up to 21% and improve the EPC rating of the property whilst helping the UK reach carbon emissions targets".
1. The ASA challenged whether the ad falsely implied that the marketer was acting for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession; and2. The complainant challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that windowscrappagefunding.co.uk provided access to funding to help people upgrade their windows, when they understood that such funding did not exist.
The commercial agreement did not provide for exclusivity of interest generation for Clearwin alone, and Clearwin did not influence the commercial operation of arrangements KS Online had with other clients. Clearwin said that interest generated through third parties accounted for just 5–10% of their total business.
As part of their marketing strategy, they offered a series of subsidies to potential customers. The Kairos Group (of which Clearwin Ltd was a part) owned and operated a recycling plant which recycled any waste materials they generated as a result of installing new products. Any financial gains were passed back to the customer in the form of a “scrappage” subsidy. The size of the subsidy was dependent on the number of new uPVC products ordered from them.
Due to the complexity of the recycling operation, the discount model was based on an estimated model rather than direct savings. Clearwin said that although they believed that the information on the website was grounded in fact, they accepted that the details on the website were not correctly aligned with their marketing strategy, and they had advised KS Online that they expected corrective action to be taken. They said that they had neither orchestrated nor authorised practices focused on “funding” within their sales or marketing operations. They provided customer-facing documents relating to the subsidies they said were available to customers.
KS Online did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by KS Online’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer was acting for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession. It further stated that marketing communications must make clear their commercial intent if that was not obvious from the context. The website stated "Millions of pounds of funding for homeowners to upgrade their windows. Get up to £2500 scrappage fee for your old windows. Thousands of homeowners across the UK have already upgraded to Category ‘A’ energy efficient windows. Apply Today to see if you qualify". It also stated “Eco Funding Plan ... homeowners have until now not had access to any funding to carry out essential upgrades. The new eco funding plan enables homeowners across the UK to upgrade their windows”. There was no reference to a commercial sales company. However, we understood that windowscrappagefunding.co.uk was in fact a lead generation website for the sale of replacement windows.
We concluded that the ad falsely implied that Clearwin Ltd was acting for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession, and did not make clear its commercial intent, and that it therefore breached the Code. On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 2.3 (Recognition of marketing communications),
The ASA considered that consumers would understand that the website would allow them to apply for official funding to help them upgrade their windows and make their homes more energy efficient. The website also referred to the percentage of funding already taken up in England, Scotland and Wales. We considered that this reinforced the impression that the website was promoting a nation-wide government scheme for which limited funding was available, and encouraged consumers to act quickly to improve their chances of getting funding. While we acknowledged that Clearwin said they offered subsidies to some customers, we did not consider that was likely to meet the consumer expectations created by the website.We considered that the claims in the ad as consumers were likely to understand them had not been substantiated. We concluded that the ad was misleading. On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Clearwin Ltd and KS Online Ltd not to falsely claim or imply that they were acting for purposes outside their trade or business and to make clear the commercial intent of their marketing.
We told them not to misleadingly claim that they were offering consumers access to official funding for home upgrades if that was not the case.