Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
A website for Masters Barbering of Excellence, a barbering training course provider,
www.mastersbarbering.co.uk, seen on 5 February 2017, featured headline text, “Looking to become a barber?... Check out our award winning fast track courses …” The drop-down menu headed “BARBERING COURSES” listed the following: “6 DAY FAST TRACK BARBERING COURSE - DIPLOMA, 4-WEEK-BARBERING-LEVEL-2-DIPLOMA, 1-DAYBARBERING-REFRESHER-COURSE,1-DAY-HOT-TOWEL-SHAVING-CERTIFICATE-OFEXCELLENCE”. The “CONTACT US” heading in the menu displayed a Google Maps window and a general location in Stockport with a phone number underneath.
1. The complainant, who did not believe the company had won any awards, challenged whether the claim “award winning” was misleading and could be substantiated.
2. They also challenged whether the course listings misleadingly implied that certificates were awarded after completion of the courses, because in their experience that was not the case.
3. They further challenged that the website did not include a geographical address for the company.
1. Masters Barbering of Excellence t/a Masters Barbering said they were willing to make some amendments to their website, as the “award winning” banner was created by a designer and not by them.
2. Masters Barbering said that they offered private diploma certificates and that there was no awarding body, as this was not a legal requirement. They declined to provide a list of past students. They said that they did provide certificates, even if there may be a delay in a student receiving them.
3. Masters Barbering also said that they provided training in different locations by self-employed barbering tutors and therefore the location of the training differed. They were willing to add a contact address to their website.
The ASA considered that consumers would interpret the claim “award winning fast track courses” to mean that Masters Barbering had won an award for their training courses, for example, in competition with similar services offering training, under set rules and criteria, and given by an independent organisation. Because we had not seen any evidence that Masters Barbering had won such an award, we concluded the claim "award winning" was misleading.
On that point 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) and 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).
We noted the references on the website to “diplomas” and “certificates of excellence”, which we considered consumers would understand to mean that a student would be presented with a document to establish that they had successfully completed the course. We noted that Masters Barbering said that they had issued certificates to their students, even if this had at times been delayed. However, because we had not seen any evidence of the students who had taken those courses, the dates the courses were completed, or the type of certificate awarded, we considered the course listings misleadingly implied that a certificate would be awarded after the course was completed when that was not the case.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 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).
We noted that Masters Barbering had not provided a geographical address on their website even though the price for each of their courses was shown on the web pages. We considered that to be an omission of material information and a breach of the Code.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. and 3.4.2 3.4.2 the identity (for example, a trading name) and geographical address of the marketer and any other trader on whose behalf the marketer is acting (Misleading advertising).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Masters Barbering to ensure that their future advertising did not state that they had won awards when they had not, that they did not imply they awarded certificates for their courses if they did not and to include a geographical address on their website.