Summary of Council decision:
Four issues were investigated, all of which were upheld.
Three websites and a paid-for Facebook ad for the matched betting service Profit Accumulator:
a. The website www.profitaccumulator.co.uk, seen in July 2017, stated on the home page “The process can be repeated on new offers every day, generating a sustainable income” and on a separate page stated “Get involved. Earn thousands with matched betting guaranteed”.
b. A page on the website www.matchedbettingcentre.com, see in June 2017, included a review for the matched betting company OddsMonkey which reviewed their service and concluded, “In conclusion, our personal view is that we would NOT recommend OddsMonkey … Instead, we highly recommend that you give Profit Accumulator a try instead”.
c. A page on the website www.matchedbettingbasics.com, seen in June 2017, included a review for the matched betting company OddsMonkey which headed the page with the phrase “Is it a scam?” before reviewing the service and comparing the service to Profit Accumulator and concluded “What we say: OddsMonkey certainly has some good features. The software is a particular strength and the lower monthly rating is tempting. However, Profit Accumulator has more sign-up and existing customer offers, a better forum and more video tutorials, so its’ worth a little bit of extra cash per month …” and below that, “Oddsmonkey have some good features, but we feel that they fall short of their competitors. 2/5 stars”.
d. A paid-for ad on Facebook, seen in October 2017, stated, “What would you do with some extra money?” followed by “I paid off my credit card”.
The ASA received three complaints.
1. OddsMonkey, who understood that both www.matchedbettingcentre.com and www.matchedbettingbasics.com were owned by Profit Accumulator and therefore believed that they were not impartial or independent reviews, challenged whether the reviews in ads (b) and (c) were misleading.
2. A member of the public challenged whether the claim “Earn thousands with matched betting guaranteed” in ad (a) was misleading.
3. A member of the public challenged whether the claim “What would you do with some extra money?... I paid off my credit card” in ad (d) was irresponsible because it suggested that gambling could be a solution to financial problems.
4. The ASA challenged whether the claim in ad (a) that “The process can be repeated on new offers every day, generating a sustainable income” was irresponsible because it suggested that gambling could be an alternative to employment or a way to achieve financial security.
1. Profit Accumulator Ltd said that both www.matchedbettercentre.com and www.matchedbettingbasics.com were operated by an affiliate of Profit Accumulator. They stated that they would ask the affiliate to attach an affiliate notice which disclosed the websites’ relationship to Profit Accumulator to the reviews on the website.
2. Profit Accumulator provided a document which they said detailed how a customer had used their service to earn £1,000 over a few weeks. They stated that they had removed references to specific timeframes in which customers could earn that amount of money, but they believed that over an extended period it was inevitable that a customer would make over £1,000 using the system.
3. Profit Accumulator stated that the testimonial was genuine. They further stated that matched betting was not gambling and therefore should not be construed as suggesting that gambling should be a solution to financial concerns. They stated that they had systems that were risk free and individuals could use those systems to make a profit. Therefore, the advertising rules relating to gambling would not apply to their systems. In relation to the claim “What would you do with some extra money?... I paid off my credit card” in ad (d) they stated that by referring to “extra money” it was clear that the ad referred to additional income, not a sole means of financial security. They stated that they had removed the claim.
4. Profit Accumulator reiterated that they did not consider their service to be a gambling service and that therefore the CAP Code rules which covered gambling would not apply to their risk free services. They stated that although Profit Accumulator did provide some systems that were not risk free, they also made clear that their customers should not risk their own funds when participating in them, only their pre-built up matched betting funds earned through the risk-free options.
The CAP Code prohibited marketing communications from falsely claiming or implying that the marketer was acting as a consumer. Because both websites were operated by an affiliate of Profit Accumulator, we considered that they were operating on Profit Accumulator’s behalf and that Profit Accumulator was therefore the marketer. The ASA considered that the reviews on both ads (b) and (c) appeared to have been written by consumers, reviewing competitors of Profit Accumulator. We noted that neither matchedbettingbasics.com nor matchedbettingcentre.com prominently stated that they were operated by an affiliate of Profit Accumulator. However, even if they had stated this, the reviews were created by affiliates of Profit Accumulator and therefore were not genuine testimonials and breached the Code. We therefore concluded that the ads breached the Code.
On this point, ads (b) and (c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 2.3 2.3 Marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer is acting as a consumer or for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession; marketing communications must make clear their commercial intent, if that is not obvious from the context. (Recognition of marketing communications).
We considered consumers would understand the claim “Earn thousands with matched betting guaranteed” to mean that anybody using Profit Accumulator’s system was guaranteed thousands of pounds in earnings. We noted the document they provided did not contain any supporting evidence and we were therefore unable to verify whether it was a genuine reflection of that customer’s experience. Furthermore, we did not consider that a single example was sufficient to substantiate the claim that the thousands that could be won were “guaranteed”. We therefore concluded that the claim in ad (b) was misleading.
On this point, we concluded that ad (a) 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).
3. & 4. Upheld
We understood that matched betting involved betting on all possible outcomes of a bet – for example, betting on a horse both to win and not to win a race – so that no loss was incurred. Where one of those bets was a promotional ‘free bet’ offered by a bookmaker, a profit could be made because the consumer did not have to pay for the stake. We noted that Profit Accumulator believed they were not promoting gambling because of the nature of their service, which was to provide consumers with information on promotional offers, as well as directing them to particular bets and allowing them to figure out how much needed to be wagered.
The Gambling section of the CAP Code applied to marketing communications that featured or promoted gambling. We noted that in using the service, consumers would be required to place a bet and therefore it was intrinsically linked with gambling. We therefore considered that the service promoted gambling, and that the Gambling section of the Code therefore applied to the ad. The Code stated that marketing communications for products covered by the Gambling section of the Code must not suggest that gambling could be a solution to financial concerns, an alternative to employment or a way to achieve financial security.
With regards to the claim in ad (d), “What would you do with some extra money?” followed by “I paid off my credit card.”, we considered that credit card debt constituted a financial concern. We also noted that, to properly use the Profit Accumulator system, customers would have to invest some of their own money initially, which could have been used to pay towards debt. We considered that the use of the claim “I paid off my credit card” encouraged consumers who had debts to use Profit Accumulator’s system as a way of paying those debts, and also directed people who had debts towards gambling websites. We concluded the ads therefore breached the Code.
With regards to the claim in ad (a), “The process can be repeated on new offers every day, generating a sustainable income”, we considered consumers would understand the phrase “sustainable income” to mean that consumers could generate a regular and sustainable sum of money from gambling, and therefore that they may not need to work as much or at all. We considered that impression was reinforced in the context of other claims such as “earn thousands”.
We therefore concluded that the ad promoted a gambling service as an alternative to employment or a way to achieve financial security.
On this point, ads (a) and (d) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 16.1 16.1 Marketing communications for gambling must be socially responsible, with particular regard to the need to protect children, young persons and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited. and 16.3.4 16.3.4 suggest that gambling can be a solution to financial concerns, an alternative to employment or a way to achieve financial security (Gambling).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Profit Accumulator Ltd not to present themselves as a consumer in marketing communications and that all marketing communications must be easily identifiable as such. We also told Profit Accumulator Ltd not to claim that their service could guarantee any level of winnings. Further, we told Profit Accumulator Ltd not to state or imply that their service could assist with financial concerns such as personal debts, that their service could provide a sustainable income or imply that it could act as an alternative to employment or a way to achieve financial security.