A website for Online Tax Rebates Ltd, www.onlinetaxrebates.co.uk, seen on 17 March 2020, featured text which stated “QUICK ESTIMATE – FIND OUT HOW MUCH YOU COULD GET” above a text box for entering an employer’s name and another for a job title. Further text stated “Click on the button and you can get a quick FREE estimate of your potential tax rebate. You can put in a claim in less than 2 minutes. If you aren’t due a rebate, it won’t cost you anything. You’ve got nothing to lose, get a quick FREE estimate claim now”.
IssueThe complainant, who upon entering their details to obtain an estimate understood that a tax rebate claim was put through on their behalf, for which an administration fee was charged, challenged whether the claims “QUICK ESTIMATE – FIND OUT HOW MUCH YOU COULD GET” and “Click on the button and you can get a quick FREE estimate of your potential tax rebate” misleadingly implied that consumers could obtain an estimate before deciding whether to proceed with a claim.
Online Tax Rebates Ltd said that anyone who entered their details received a free estimate based on past claims in their database for similar jobs. They provided screenshots of the process consumers had to follow in order to obtain a free estimate. They said that once consumers had received their free estimate, they were offered the opportunity to click a button which stated “Complete your claim online in less than 2 minutes”, and if they clicked the button and received a refund they would be charged the relevant fees. However, there was no obligation to proceed after having received the free estimate.
Online Tax Rebates said that in order for the claim to be submitted, consumers had to provide more detailed information and click a box to agree to the terms and conditions. They also had an option to cancel the claim. If they did not cancel they would receive a “claim confirmation email” telling them their claim was complete but they could cancel it within 48 hours. They said that prior to submitting a claim, details of the fees were provided in many places on the website, including directly underneath their free estimate.
The ASA noted the “Claim” button at the top of the page above the text “QUICK ESTIMATE – FIND OUT HOW MUCH YOU COULD GET”. Under the heading that followed ? “Are you entitled to a tax rebate” ? text stated, “Click on the button and you can get a quick FREE estimate of your potential tax rebate”. In that context, we considered that consumers would understand that if they clicked on the “Claim” button, they would be offered the opportunity to obtain a free estimate of how much they would be due back in tax payments if they decided to pursue a claim for a tax rebate.
We understood that once a consumer clicked on the “Claim” button and entered their employment details, they were taken to a page which provided them with two sums of money under the headings “Largest refund received” and “Average refund received”, above which text stated, “Based on a sample of past refunds we have obtained matching the details you have provided”. Beneath those estimates, consumers were offered the opportunity to proceed with a claim by clicking another button which stated, “Complete your claim online in less than 60 seconds”. As such, we understood that consumers were provided with an estimate and did not need to proceed any further with a tax rebate claim if they did not wish to do so. In light of the above, we concluded that the claims “QUICK ESTIMATE – FIND OUT HOW MUCH YOU COULD GET” and “Click on the button and you can get a quick FREE estimate of your potential tax rebate” were not misleading.
We investigated the ad under 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), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.