Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A press ad for Lakeside Country Park, seen in May 2018, stated "This breath-taking Park in Central England offers the opportunity to own a luxury Lodge/park home". Further text stated "The perfect holiday accommodation in a peaceful and scenic location superbly surrounded by stunning countryside...Park Features 12 month holiday licence...Lodges are available for holiday use 365 days of the year".
1. The complainant, who understood that a "park home" by definition was accorded rights under government legislation that could not be fulfilled on the advertiser's land as it was licensed for holiday lets only, challenged whether the claim "park home" was misleading.
2. The complainant also challenged whether the ad was misleading because it did not make clear that the properties could not be used as a main residence.
1. & 2. Cotswold Grange Investments Ltd t/a Lakeside Country Park said that “park home” was an industry term for a mobile home that conformed to British Standard BS3632. The term was not defined in law. They said that a park home could be sited anywhere, and it was the licence of the land on which it stood which determined whether it could be used as a permanent residence. Park homes which stood on a site with a residential licence were protected under the Mobile Homes Act 1983, giving residents security of tenure. Therefore, they could be used as a sole or main residence without breaching the terms of the licence agreement.
Cotswold Grange said that Lakeside Country Park was a holiday park with a holiday licence. They said that the ad itself clearly stated this several times, and there was further information on their website stating that the site was for holiday use only. In future, they were willing to amend the ad to say “This breath-taking Holiday Park in Central England offers the opportunity to own a luxury Holiday Lodge/Holiday Park Home” to make the message even clearer. They also said that they would only advertise in holiday magazines going forward. They did not believe that anyone would understand from the ad that the park homes on their site could be used as a sole residence. They said that experts from the park home and holiday park industry had looked at their advertising and could not see how it could be considered misleading. They also said they had surveyed 100 people at a trade show, and 87 people understood immediately that the site was for holiday and not residential use. The remainder were not interested in park homes and were only looking at touring caravans. Cotswold Grange said that during their time in the industry they had met people who thought they could live in a ten-month holiday caravan, and others who thought they could buy a park home or lodge on a residential site and use it as a holiday home, which they could not. They questioned whether this meant that everyone who advertised parks should include a disclaimer stating that people couldn’t holiday in residential units or live in holiday units.
Cotswold Grange also said that they had recently received planning permission for four non-mobile units on the property to become residential.
They provided a copy of their site licence, the park rules and the agreement customers received before buying. They also provided links to a number of websites discussing park homes.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA understood that the term “park home” was commonly used to refer to a mobile home that could be used as the leaseholder’s main or sole residence. Advice from the Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) defined a park home as “the commonly used term for a mobile home (caravan) on a protected site … within the meaning of the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (as amended)”. A “protected site” was defined as “a site that must be licensed by the local authority. The licence must not have any restrictions on the times of year when the site can be occupied or be for holiday use only”. We acknowledged that units built to the BS3632 standard for residential park homes could be sited on a non-residential site, thus altering their occupational status. However, given the commonly accepted understanding of the term, we considered that many people who saw the ad, who were likely to have some interest in and knowledge of mobile homes, would understand “park home” as referring to a unit that could be used as a main residence.
The ad stated “12 month holiday licence” and “holiday use 365 days of the year”. While we acknowledged that this made reference to the holiday licensing of the site, many consumers would be unfamiliar with the more technical legal details of park licensing, and the implications for their rights. We considered that the references to holiday use, in conjunction with the highlighting of year-round use and the term “park home” were likely to confuse many consumers and give them the impression that units at Lakeside Country Park could be used as holiday homes as well as full-time residences. Given the other elements present in the ad, we considered that the references to holiday use were not sufficient, in the absence of clear qualifying information, to make clear that the units could not be used for that purpose. For that reason, while we acknowledged Cotswold Grange's proposed changes, we did not consider that they were sufficient to resolve the issue.
We understood that prospective customers were provided with further information regarding the park licence before purchasing. However, we considered that it should be sufficiently clear, from the ad itself, that the units could not be used as main residences before consumers undertook the transactional decision to enquire further.
We understood from the advertiser that they had recently been granted planning permission for four residential units on the Lakeside Country Park site, which were not mobile homes, but we had not seen evidence of this. In any case, we considered that even if the licence were changed to mixed use, this was unlikely to alter the situation with regard to the ad, as it related to the mobile holiday units only.
Because consumers were likely to understand from the ad that the units advertised could be used as sole residences when that was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading and breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
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 3.11 3.11 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product. (Exaggeration).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Cotswold Grange Investments Ltd t/a Lakeside Country Park to ensure they did not state or imply that their holiday units could be used for sole residential purposes, for example, by using the term "park home" in the absence of sufficient qualification.