Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
Two listings on job vacancy websites, seen in September 2020:
a. The first ad, seen on the website www.cv-library.co.uk, featured the advertiser's name at the top. The headline underneath stated "Trainee Project Support/Administrator, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. APPLY NOW". Text underneath stated "Are you looking to build a career in the project sector and have very little or no experience? … We specialise in placing candidates in the project sector using our courses, career progression and placement program [sic] …" Further text explained how the programme worked and text at the bottom of the page stated "Please note this is a training course and career placement programme and fees apply".
b. The second ad, seen on the website www.jobs24.co.uk, was identical to ad (a), except that it did not feature the name of the advertiser.
The complainant challenged whether:
1. ads (a) and (b) were misleading, because they were for a training course and career placement programme rather than a genuine trainee job role; and
2. ad (b) breached the Code, because it omitted the identity of the advertiser.
1. ITOnlinelearning Ltd explained that they offered career placement packages, to provide candidates who had little or no experience in an industry with a pathway to gaining a job in their chosen career. They explained that once a candidate had completed the official exams, their recruitment team worked with the candidate, professionally rewriting their CV and then continued to provide recruitment support by assisting them in their job search. That involved interview coaching and ongoing support to help them find their first role. In relation to ad (a), they said CV-Library were fully aware of what they did as a company and that they went through a process of compliance with them in order to satisfy their guidelines.
In particular, on the landing page of the search results, the ad was branded with a “Learn to Earn” banner; it did not contain any indication of salary expectations for the role; it explained how the programme worked; and concluded with text stating “Please note this is a training and career placement programme and fees apply”. They explained that ad (b) had been put together by their marketing agency who advertised on their behalf and provided them with candidates. The agency negotiated with each publisher independently to ensure the advert met their guidelines; ITOnlinelearning were not involved in that process. They said the agency had been advised on how they operated and how it needed to be clear within their ads that this was a training opportunity with a cost before helping a candidate in their career.
As a result of the complaint, they said they had asked the agency to make advisory changes to the content of ads that were not clear and to try to follow the guidelines set out by CV-Library. ITOnlinelearning maintained the ads were not misleading because it was clear from the content what was involved. They said that unfortunately some people did not read the ads properly and those people were advised over the phone how the programme worked.
2. ITOnlinelearning understood that because the ad had been posted by their marketing agency, rather than themselves, it was not necessary to include that information in the ad.
The ASA noted that the ads were headed “Trainee Project Support/Administrator”. In ad (a) that was accompanied by an “Apply Now” button and specified a geographical location, and in ad (b) it was accompanied by an “Apply via website” button. Text underneath stated “Are you looking to build a career in the project sector and have little to no experience? If you are organised, competent, reliable and are able to communicate well and motivate those around you; [sic] you could have a truly rewarding future as a Project Manager”. We considered consumers were likely to gain the impression from those references that the ads were for a trainee project support/administration role and that candidates who had little or no experience in that sector were welcome to apply for the role.
We noted that text below went on to explain that ITOnlinelearning offered a training course and career placement programme which consisted of completing an industry recognised certification course, and follow-up guidance and advice from the recruitment support team in searching for and securing a job. Text at the bottom of the ad stated that fees applied.
Whilst we acknowledged that the text in the body of the ads explained that the ads were for training and recruitment support for candidates who wanted to move into project management, we considered that it was not sufficient to counter the strong impression given by the headline “Trainee Project Support/Administrator”, “apply now”/”apply via website” buttons and the references “build a career in the project sector” and “you could have a truly rewarding career as a Project Manager”, that the ads were for a genuine employment vacancy. We considered that the text in the body of the ads contradicted rather than qualified the headline text. Although the landing page for ad (a) contained a “Learn to earn” banner, we considered it did not make sufficiently clear that the ad was for a training and career placement programme for which consumers had to pay, rather than a paid employment role with learning on the job.
For those reasons, we concluded that ads (a) and (b) were misleading and breached the Code. On that point, ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify.
Employment marketing communications must relate to genuine vacancies and potential employees must not be asked to pay for information.
Living and working conditions must not be misrepresented. Quoted earnings must be precise; if one has to be made, a forecast must not be unrepresentative. If income is earned from a basic salary and commission, commission only or in some other way, that must be made clear. (Employment).
The CAP Code required that employment agencies and employment businesses must make clear in their marketing communications their full names and contact details. We understood that ad (b) had been posted by ITOnlinelearning’s marketing agency on their behalf. Nevertheless, we considered that because ITOnlinelearning was an employment agency or employment business, as it provided as part of its service, recruitment support and advice, the ad should have included its full name, as required by the Code.
We concluded that because the ad did not include that information, it breached the Code. On that point, ad (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 20.3 20.3 Employment agencies and employment businesses must make clear in their marketing communications their full names and contact details and, in relation to each position they advertise, whether it is for temporary or permanent work. (Employment agencies and employment businesses).
Ads (a) and (b) must not appear again in their current form. We told ITOnlinelearning Ltd to ensure their ads did not misleadingly imply they were offering genuine job vacancies, if that was not the case. We also told them to ensure their full name was included in their ads.