Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
The website www.thebarcodesshop.co.uk promoted barcodes. The home page included a large image of a 13-digit barcode beginning with "50". Text stated "We sell UK EAN barcodes that won't be never [sic] refused in UK shops ... EAN-13 (GTIN-13) GS1 Accepted worldwide, our UK barcodes are ready to use for labelling any kind of product ...". At the bottom of the page appeared a number of logos including those of "ISO9001", the "Barcode Numbers Trade" and "Verisign". Footnote text stated "DISCLAIMER: The Barcodes Shop, Inc. is an authorized reseller of EAN numbers issued by the US companies that joined the Uniform Code Council (now GS1-US) prior to August 28, 2002. Their rights over their EAN number banks are a direct consequence of the class action settlement reached December 15, 2003 in the Superior Court in and for the state of Washington, county of Spokane. The customer knows and accepts these facts, avoiding this way the de facto monopoly created by the GS1". The same disclaimer appeared on the web page entitled "Terms and Conditions".
Barcodes Ltd challenged whether:
1. the claim "The Barcodes Shop, Inc. is an authorized reseller of EAN numbers issued by the US companies that joined the Uniform Code Council (now GS1-US) prior to August 28, 2002" was misleading and could be substantiated;
2. the claim "We sell UK EAN barcodes" was misleading, as it was contradicted by the claims that the company sold barcodes issued by US companies; and
3. the logos at the bottom of the page misleadingly implied that the company was a member of, or approved by, those organisations.
Global Barcodes SL did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by Global Barcodes' lack of substantive response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 1.7 Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code. (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a substantive response to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
1., 2. & 3. Upheld
We considered that businesses wishing to purchase barcodes might have concerns regarding their provenance and be reassured that Global Barcodes were an "authorized reseller" of barcodes previously issued in the US, and claimed to offer genuine "UK EAN" numbers. We also considered that the presence of the logos at the bottom of the web page implied that Global Barcodes were affiliated with, or endorsed by, those companies, and gave the site greater legitimacy and authenticity. We noted, however, that Global Barcodes had not provided any evidence to confirm that they were an authorised reseller of EAN numbers sourced from the US, that they sold UK EAN barcodes, or that they had any relationship with the organisations whose logos appeared on the site. In light of that, we considered that Global Barcodes had not substantiated the stated and implied claims regarding the source of the barcodes or their relationship with the companies whose logos appeared, and concluded that they were 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), 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification), 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 claims must not appear again in their current form. We referred the matter to CAP's Compliance team.