THIS RULING REPLACES THAT PUBLISHED 17 MAY 2023. THE WORDING OF THE ASSESSMENT HAS CHANGED BUT THE DECISION TO UPHOLD THE COMPLAINT REMAINS.
A TV ad for Windsor Mint, seen on 3 December 2022, promoted a coin commemorating Princess Diana. The voice-over stated, “To mark this year’s twenty-fifth anniversary of her tragic death, an exclusive gold coin has been issued […] This especial collectible has been minted in the highest quality proof in one two-hundred ounce fine gold.” On-screen text appeared which stated, “Minted in 1/200 ounce 24-carat gold”. The voice-over continued, “This 24-carat gold coin is now available for just £29.95, saving £85 on the regular price of £114.95 [...] This special offer is only available until the 31st of December.” Images of both sides of the coin appeared on-screen with the text “40 mm” underneath. The voice-over continued, “Order now […] to secure your Princess Diana fine gold coin.”
The complainant challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that the coin was exclusively made from 24-carat gold.
HMK V AG t/a Windsor Mint said the advertised coin weighed one two-hundredths of an ounce, and that its entire weight comprised 24-carat gold. The coin’s diameter was 40 mm, and it was 0.063 mm thick. It was produced through a special minting technique that allowed small weights of gold to be rolled out across large diameters. The coin was sealed in foil for protection but could be removed. They provided a coin to demonstrate what consumers would receive.
Because the coin’s weight, diameter, and gold content were referenced by the voice-over and on-screen text, they believed that the ad accurately represented the coin’s characteristics. They provided a test report, produced by a third-party precious metal laboratory, which indicated that the purity of the gold that the coin contained was determined to be 99.97%. They also provided a certificate of authenticity from the third-party company that minted the coin. That certificate listed the coin’s weight as one two-hundredths of an ounce.
They believed that the coin’s thickness would be irrelevant to viewers’ decision to purchase it. Instead, viewers’ attention would largely focus on the coin’s gold content, price, diameter, the event or individual commemorated, or the quality of any featured designs. As a dimension, the diameter of coins would be particularly important as it dictated their size upon viewing from the front. For that reason, this measure was usually quoted in ads for coins. In contrast, the thickness of coins frequently varied across their face due to the presence of raised decorative elements. As such, quoting the thickness of coins, in addition to their diameter, would not amount to a reliable indication of their overall volume. Even then, the volume of the coin would not be of primary interest to viewers because of their understanding that a coin’s weight would also depend on the density of the metal in question. On that basis, they believed the thickness of coins was not material information which ads were required to include.
Because viewers would be aware that there was no standardised ratio between the diameter and thickness of coins, they would not have any expectations regarding the thickness of coins quoted as having a certain diameter. Nonetheless, they explained that, together with the density of gold, the quoted diameter and weight necessitated that the coin was very thin. However, viewers could also infer that the coin was thin on the basis that 40-mm, 24-carat gold coins were normally much more expensive than the advertised price.
Clearcast supported the advertiser’s view that the ad gave an accurate overall impression of the coin. They were satisfied that the advertiser’s evidence supported the claims “Minted in one two-hundred ounce fine gold” and “24-carat gold coin”. While some viewers may not have understood the meaning of the claim “1/200 ounce fine gold”, the vast majority of viewers would understand the “24-carat gold coin” claim. They did not believe that the thickness of a coin was material information that ads needed to explicitly state. Thicker 24-carat gold coins of the same diameter tended to be considerably more expensive than the advertised product by virtue of their higher gold content. For that reason, they believed that the advertised price gave a reasonable indication of the coin’s dimensions. They added that it was rare for the thickness of commemorative coins to be explicitly indicated in ads. Because such products were collectibles, viewers interested in purchasing them were likely to have experience of other similar products and therefore be knowledgeable regarding their likely attributes. Those viewers would primarily focus on the value of coins and their appearance upon display. However, if they were specifically interested in the coin’s thickness, they would receive a fair impression via consideration of other information the ad made available.
The complainant had challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that the coin was exclusively made from 24-carat gold, because they did not believe that to be plausible given the stated diameter of the coin. The ad referred to the product as a “gold coin” throughout and on-screen text indicated that its diameter was 40 mm.
The ads’ visuals gave a flat view of the coin’s faces. Another shot depicted the coin from an angle, but in a display case so its outer edges were not visible.
We considered that consumers would expect the dimensions of a product sold as a commemorative coin to resemble those of coins circulated as legal tender. While there was variation in the thickness of coins which were legal tender, in the absence of information in the ad to the contrary, consumers would not expect commemorative coins to be significantly thinner than them.
Although references to weight were made in the voice-over (“one two-hundred ounce”) and on-screen text (“1/200 ounce”), those claims all appeared alongside references to the high purity of the coin. In that context, we considered consumers would not understand them as referring to the total weight of the coin. Instead, they were more likely to interpret them as additional technical references related to the gold’s purity. We therefore considered that few consumers would understand from the references to weight that the coin must therefore be very thin. While we recognised that a solid gold coin of the 40 mm size advertised would be worth significantly more than the coin’s advertised price of £29.95, the ad nonetheless gave the overall impression that it was comprised of pure gold and took the form of a typical 40 mm coin.
While the test report substantiated that the coin was entirely comprised of 24-carat gold, it only weighed 0.14 g (1/200 oz) and was 0.063 mm thick. We considered those measures were very small for a 40 mm coin. For comparison, information on the Royal Mint website reflected that a 50p coin with a smaller diameter of 27.33 mm was more than 28 times as thick (1.78 mm). Likewise, a 24-carat gold coin issued by the Royal Mint with a diameter of 32.69 mm weighed 28.35 g (1 oz). Examining the sample product received, we noted that the coin itself appeared to be flexible and was laminated in thin plastic, subsequently encased in two additional layers of plastic, then housed within a square display case.
We considered that the coin’s atypical thinness was material information regarding the product’s main characteristics which was likely to affect a consumer’s transactional decision. In the absence of any such information, the ad implied that the coin took the form of a typical 40 mm coin when that was not the case.
We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 and 3.3.1 (Misleading advertising).
The ad must not be broadcast again in the form complained of. We told HMK V AG t/a Windsor Mint to ensure their future ads did not mislead by omitting material information regarding the dimensions of coins where they differed from what consumers were likely to expect.