A website for Clement Windows, www.clementwindows.co.uk:
a. The home page included text that stated "With a history of steel window making dating back over 100 years, every project we undertake is designed and manufactured using our great experience and understanding of steel windows and doors".
b. A web page headed "Clement's 100 Year Heritage" included text that stated "It began over 150 years ago with the building of Paxton's Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851. Thomas Edward Clement was a young apprentice glazier working on what was to be the most spectacular metal and glass project of the age. Throughout the Victorian era and the early part of the twentieth Century the Clement family continued its association with steel windows and glass. Brothers Jack, Gerry, Tom and Rob Clement all served their country in the First World War before returning to develop the business. Their vision being to provide only the finest steel windows to enhance the appearance of country houses and public buildings. This remains our passion. For over 100 years and without interruption the Clement family have been carefully manufacturing premium quality steel windows. All our windows and doors are lovingly hand crafted in our own factory using our exceptional experience. Past clients include many recognisable names and steel windows made by Clement have been fitted into numerous high profile landmark buildings". The web page included further detailed information and photos about their heritage.
The complainant, who believed the company had only been recently established, challenged whether the claim "100 year heritage" and other references to their heritage were misleading.
Clement Holdings Ltd said their website promoted the four companies within the group, Clement Holdings Ltd (est. 1991), Clement Polska (est. 1999), Clement Windows Ltd (est. 2010) and Clement Windows Projects Ltd (est. 2010). They said that a previous company within the group, Clement Steel Windows Ltd had gone into administration in 2009. They said that a restructured Clement Group had established the two new companies in 2010 and that the group acquired from the administrators of Clement Steel Windows, the general trade of the company and some of the assets. As part of that purchase they agreed to take over the liability to complete unsatisfied orders from residential clients. However, they did not take on all of their liabilities. They said that because no insurance backed guarantee had been taken out by Clement Steel Windows, customers of that company who had a warranty problem with their windows were not covered. They said that as a result of those events the restructured Clement Group had purchased an insurance backed guarantee for all residential customers, which meant that customer deposits and warranties were fully protected in the event of company failure.
Clement said that the Clement family had a long standing history within the steel window industry and they were proud of their knowledge and heritage, and it was that which they were trying to communicate on their heritage page. They said the claims were factually accurate and they were not trying to mislead. They believed that although heritage could influence consumers, the most important factor in their buying decision was the look and quality of the windows.
The ASA considered that the claim in ad (a) that Clement had "a history of steel window making dating back over 100 years" and the numerous references to heritage in ad (b), which was headed "100 Year Heritage", would be understood by consumers to mean that Clement had a continuous trading history dating back 100 years. Ad (b) also stated "For over 100 years and without interruption the Clement family have been carefully manufacturing premium quality steel windows". Whilst we understood that Clement were aiming to communicate the Clement family's history within the steel window industry, we considered that consumers would understand the claims to relate to the companies within the group. We understood that Clement did not have a continuous trading history over the past 100 years. We also understood that one of the Clement group companies had gone into liquidation in 2009 and that the new companies established in 2010 had not taken on all of Clement Steel Window's debts and liabilities, and therefore considered it was misleading to trade on Clement Steel Window's reputation and trading history. We concluded that the claim "100 year heritage" and other references to their heritage were misleading.
Ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (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 ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Clement not to state or imply that they had a continuous trading history dating back 100 years, or to trade on the reputation and trading history of previous companies unless they had taken on all of their debts and liabilities.