A sponsored search ad, seen in July 2012, stated "EHIC Apply Now - EHIC Replaces the E111 Card. www.nhs-services.org.uk/EHIC Get Your Official EHIC Now!"
The complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading because he believed the URL "www.nhs-services.org.uk" implied a link with the NHS.
Esta Visa Ltd t/a www.nhs-services.org.uk/EHIC (Esta Visa) felt the website was clear in terms of the service offered and said it was clearly marked that they charged for a service. They added that consumers were also quite clearly advised that the cards were free and could be obtained for free, and they also provided a link for consumers to do so. They did not consider that the web domain was misleading, as people could click on the link, but did not have to buy the advertiser’s services. They said they also offered free advice and provided free information to consumers should they choose to e-mail them. They said the website clearly set out that the site was not affiliated to the NHS and stated "Please read the EHIC Facts section below. This website is not connected to or affiliated with the NHS or any government department".
The ASA noted that the website included text at the end of a paragraph on the home page, which stated "This website is not connected to or affiliated with the NHS or any government department". However, we considered that the use of the term "www.nhs-services" in the URL implied the advertiser was the NHS, which consumers would know to be the official provider of health services in the UK. Because that was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
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), 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) and 3.50 3.50 Marketing communications must not display a trust mark, quality mark or equivalent without the necessary authorisation. Marketing communications must not claim that the marketer (or any other entity referred to), the marketing communication or the advertised product has been approved, endorsed or authorised by any public or other body if it has not or without complying with the terms of the approval, endorsement or authorisation. (Endorsements and testimonials).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Esta Visa to ensure they did not imply they were linked to the NHS.