Ad descriptionA radio ad for the EU Settlement Scheme, heard on 13 April 2019, stated "If you're an EU citizen living in the UK, you will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. The scheme is fully open and you have plenty of time to apply. It is free, and all you need is your passport or ID card and to complete an online form. Support is available if you have any questions. To find out more and to apply, visit gov.uk/eusettlementscheme. Irish citizens or those with valid indefinite leave don't need to apply".
IssueThe complainant, who understood that in some cases applicants also needed to provide proof of address covering the previous five years, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
The Home Office said that at no point was any applicant to the EU Settlement Scheme asked to provide proof of address as part of the application process. They said that the radio ad was part of a wider campaign promoting awareness of the Scheme and how to apply.
It was not possible to include all aspects of the application process in a short ad, and they believed listeners would appreciate that it was neither possible nor desirable to cover all eventualities in this format. However, they believed that the ads accurately described the key elements of the application process in which a passport/ID card was required, and completion of an online form (which included capture of basic details, evidence of residence in the UK and a criminal record declaration).
In most cases, evidence of residence was automatically generated using the applicant’s National Insurance number. The Home Office stated that out of all adult cases on which a decision was made (whether or not the applicant was granted settled status) 73% of applicants did not have to submit any documents as evidence of their residence. They may have had to submit other documentary evidence beyond evidence of their identity and nationality, for example if they were applying as the non-EEA family member of an EEA citizen they may have needed to provide documentary evidence of their relationship. But in that 73% of cases, all the evidence of residence that was needed to make the decision was provided either by automated cross-Government checks or by Home Office records confirming the applicant already held permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain, with nothing further required from the applicant.
The Home Office said that the ad was part of a wider marketing campaign that sought to raise awareness and drive people to their website. In the ad, they explicitly asked listeners to visit the website, which enabled prospective applicants to get more information on how to apply and what it meant to them. They said they had seen over five million visits to the guidance pages and according to their surveys 92% found the information very helpful or fairly helpful.Radiocentre felt that, taking the ad as a whole, listeners would not be misled by the claim complained of because they would know that, in some cases, further documentation was needed.
The ad stated “all you need to apply is your passport or ID card and to complete an online form”. While the ASA understood that the ad referred to the minimum documents that were required to complete the initial application form, we considered that listeners would infer this to refer to the documents they would need to complete the entire process of applying for EU settled status.
Listeners would likely understand that an official application process of this nature would always require some applicants to provide further information in exceptional cases. However, we understood that in 27% of decided adult cases, applicants had been asked to provide documents as evidence of residence. Furthermore, some applicants were also asked for other documents, such as evidence of a family relationship. While we acknowledged that applicants were not required specifically to submit "proof of address" (as referenced by the complainant), some were required to submit further documents beyond those stated in the ad. We considered that the actual proportion who were asked to submit further documents was likely to go beyond what the audience was likely to understand from the claim. In that context, we considered that the ad did not make sufficiently clear that, in some cases, applicants would need to supply documents beyond their passport or ID card.We concluded that the ad breached the Code. The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising).
The ad must not be broadcast again in the form complained about. We told the Home Office to ensure they made sufficiently clear that some applicants to the EU Settlement Scheme would need to provide additional documents beyond their passport or ID card.