The website homepage, a Facebook post and a Twitter post for Unique Funeral Plans:
a. The homepage for the Unique Funeral Plans website, www.uniquefuneralplans.co.uk, seen in April 2022, had text that stated, “Safety. Your money is kept safely in an investment trust: The Sterling Trust Corporation Ltd. It is ringfenced and so if anything happens to us, both your plan and refund are 100% secure and safe”. The text appeared beneath a graphic of a padlock within a circle.
b. The post on the Unique Funerals Plans Facebook page, posted on April 2022, had the same text as ad (a). Beneath the text was an image of an older man and woman in an apple orchard, kneeling down and smiling at each other.
c. The post on the Unique Funerals Plans Twitter page, posted on April 2022, had the same text as ads (a) and (b), but also included the website address uniquefuneralplans.co.uk. Beneath the text was an image of an older man and woman on a moped.
IssueThe complainant, who understood Sterling Trust Corporation were not associated with the advertiser, challenged whether the ads were misleading.
Fox Milton & Co Ltd t/a Unique Funeral Plans said that Sterling Trust Corporation had been appointed as a trustee, but they no longer had a relationship with them. They stated their ads were placed by their outsourced Social Media Manager at a time when they were using Sterling Trust Corporation to act as managers of the Unique Funeral Plan Trust. They had asked their Social Media Manager to remove all references to the Sterling Trust Corporation and requested that the third-party website manager and host remove the reference on the homepage.
Unique Funeral Plans said it had never been their intention to mislead and apologised if their ads had done so.
The ASA acknowledged that Unique Funeral Plans had removed the claims associating them with Sterling Trust Corporation.
The ASA noted that a statement on the Sterling Trust Corporation website confirmed that they were not currently appointed by Unique Funeral Plans, and were not associated with them in any way at the time of the ads’ appearance.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. While we noted Unique Funeral Plans’ comments that Sterling Trust Corporation had previously been appointed as a trustee, because we had seen no evidence to support the claims that money was kept in trust with Sterling Trust Corporation at the time the ads were live, and because Sterling Trust Corporation had publicly denied acting as a trustee for Unique Funeral Plans when the ads were current, we concluded that the ads were misleading.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. 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. (Misleading Advertising).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Fox Milton & Co Ltd t/a Unique Funeral Plans to ensure future ads were not misleading.