Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A website for Wandsworth Plumbers, www.wandsworthplumbers.com, seen 13 April 2019, stated “NO CALL-OUT CHARGE” at the top of the home page. Under the heading “Plumbers for Wandsworth, Southfields, Earlsfield, SW18” text stated “Trust all of your plumbing, heating and drainage needs to the local professionals at Wandsworth Plumbers”.
1. The complainant, who was charged a call out fee when using the service, challenged whether the claim “NO CALL-OUT CHARGE” was misleading.
2. The complainant, who understood the advertiser was based in East London, also challenged whether references to “Wandsworth” and “local” were misleading and could be substantiated.
Property Improvement & Maintenance Services Ltd t/a Wandsworth Plumbers did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by Wandsworth Plumbers’ lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
The ASA considered consumers would interpret the claim “NO CALL-OUT CHARGE” to mean that Wandsworth Plumbers did not charge for the time spent traveling to a customer’s home or for the initial diagnosis of a problem. We understood from the complainant that they were charged a £142 call-out fee when a plumber came to work on their property. We considered that, unless consumers could decline work without incurring a cost, advertisers who made the claim "NO CALL-OUT CHARGE" should not generally charge for traveling time or for an initial diagnosis. Because Wandsworth Plumbers had not demonstrated that consumers could decline work without incurring a cost for diagnosing the problem, we understood it was their policy to charge a call-out fee. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading and breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 (Misleading advertising).
The ASA considered consumers would interpret references to “Wandsworth Plumbers” alongside the claim “Trust all of your plumbing, heating and drainage needs to the local professionals at Wandsworth Plumbers” as an indication that the company had a permanent base in Wandsworth. We had not seen evidence that Wandsworth Plumbers was a company with a permanent base in Wandsworth. We therefore considered the ad was misleading and breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
The advertising must not appear again in its current form. We told Property Improvement & Maintenance Services Ltd t/a Wandsworth Plumbers not to make claims that stated or implied that they did not charge a call-out fee when it was their policy to do so. We also told them not to make claims that stated or implied a permanent trading address from which they operated unless they held evidence to substantiate those claims. We referred the matter to the CAP Compliance team.