A website for Gemma Sankey, a Canine & Equine Psychologist, www.gemmasankey.co.uk, seen in January 2018, was headed “Gemma Sankey (Msc) TNS: Dip SP & M Lecturer”. Below that, the website included the text “Gemma Sankey ASAB ABS MPAACT (PETbc) NS ASN FASEB EMRA”.
The complainant, who believed that the advertiser did not hold the accreditations claimed in the ad, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
Gemma Sankey responded that they were a full member of the Professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers (PAACT), which they said was governed by The Pet Behaviour Council (PETbc). They stated that PETbc had given them permission to display the acronyms PETbc and PAACT. Gemma Sankey stated that they were a member of The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) and provided screenshots to show that they had paid for membership of that society.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the acronyms stated in the ad to be professional accreditations related to Gemma Sankey’s profession.
The complainant had provided us with evidence that stated that Gemma Sankey had not been accredited by the ASAB Accreditation Committee. The evidence stated that there was an academic society called ASAB, but that members did not need to complete any kind of assessment to be a member and that members of that society were not permitted to use the letters ASAB. We had also been provided evidence from the PETbc that Gemma Sankey had no connection with that body.
Gemma Sankey did not provide any evidence that she held any other accreditations which the other acronyms in the ad might relate to. Furthermore, we were not provided with any evidence that explained what the other acronyms listed in the ad related to, or their relevance to Gemma Sankey’s profession.
Because we did not have any evidence to show Gemma Sankey had obtained the accreditations listed in the ad in the case of “ASAB” and “PETbc”, we concluded that in that regard that ad breached the Code.
We also had not seen evidence that the other acronyms listed were accreditations relevant to Gemma Sankey’s profession, or that Gemma Sankey held those accreditations, and we therefore concluded that the ad was misleading in that regard.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (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 Gemma Sankey not to state or imply that they held accreditation from ASAB or BETbc if that was not the case. We also told Gemma Sankey not to display any accreditation or qualification unless they held documentary evidence that they had obtained that accreditation and could show that it was relevant to their profession.