A website for an introductions agency, www.singlecatholics.co.uk, included the title "Online Dating for Single Catholics". Under the heading "Welcome to Single Catholics" text stated "Are you a single Catholic searching for friendship, romance or long term relationships? Welcome to Single Catholics, a community created especially for UK singles who share the Catholic faith. Single Catholics has been especially created to help single Catholics from all parts of the United Kingdom safely and securely, with 100% confidentiality. Using traditional dating methods it can be hard to meet a special person who shares your interests and your Catholic faith. With thousands of single Catholic members Single Catholics can help you find friendship and love. Single Catholics is exclusive for like-minded members who are seeking to share their lives in the Catholic faith. Our members come from every region of the UK so you're sure to find someone local to you. We offer more than just introductions - read the Single Catholics blog for guides on how to find success on establishing long-lasting relationships based on the Catholic core values. Joining the Single Catholics community will increase your chances of finding the love to last a lifetime. Why Join Single Catholics: Exclusive community of UK Single Catholics; Free to Join and Browse; UK Phone Based Customer Support; Thousands of members online every day; Instant Messaging to Connect Quickly; Search for compatible Single Catholics by registering for free! Single Catholics is guaranteed safe and secure. Meet your soul mate while maintaining your faith by joining us today!"
The complainant, who understood that available profiles were drawn from a pool which included non-Catholics and that there was no way to filter non-Catholics out of search results, challenged whether the claims in the ad were misleading and could be substantiated.
Inch by Inch Ltd , who owned the site, stated that they did not consider the use of 'Catholic' rather than 'Christian' to be a problem. They said that the site was 'hard niched' to Christians, which meant that only those identifying as Christian would be allowed to join, but that this did not limit non-Catholic Christians from using the site. However, they said that as soon as they received the complaint they took steps to alter the wording of the site to replace references to 'Catholic' with 'Christian'.
Global Personals Ltd, who administered the service, did not provide a response.
The ASA understood that the site was a 'portal' through which the Global Personals’s dating pool could be reached, and that access through Single Catholics was limited so that only those identifying as Christians could use it. We considered that, while it was therefore accurate to refer to Catholics as Christians, it was not the case that all Christians were Catholics and that this distinction was likely to be of importance to those interested in a dating site called 'Single Catholics'. We noted that the ad addressed Catholics specifically and made references to finding a partner who shared a Catholic faith, and considered that consumers were likely to interpret these claims to mean that the site was restricted to only those identifying themselves as Catholics. We understood that non-Catholics' profiles would be included in searches and therefore concluded that the ad was 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. and 3.10 3.10 Qualifications must be presented clearly.
CAP has published a Help Note on Claims that Require Qualification. (Qualification).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Inch by Inch Ltd and Global Personals Ltd not to imply that their site was for Catholics unless they could demonstrate that all the members of the site had that status.