A TV ad for Ramsdens, a company which offered currency exchange services, seen on 21 June 2017. The voice-over stated, “At Ramsdens … you can change your pounds into Euros … Ramsdens guarantee to give you a great rate for all your travel money … Online or instore. But always at our hot currency rates …”. The ad featured a moving graphics that showed three £1 piles. The first pile was labelled ‘RAMSDENS’ with text underneath that stated “£1 = €1.147”; the second pile was labelled ‘Post Office’ with text underneath that stated “€1.125”; the third pile was labelled ‘ICE Edinburgh Airport’ with text underneath that stated “€1.020”. Text in smaller font at the bottom of the same screen stated “Comparison: 04/05/17. Rates may vary. See website …”.
The complainant, who saw the adand was informed by their local Ramsden branch that the highest rate they offered was €1.11 to £1, challenged whether the claim that Ramsdens offered an exchange rate of €1.147 to £1 was misleading and could be substantiated.
Ramsdens Financial Ltd stated that the ad related to the Sterling to Euro exchange rates offered in their stores and that exchange rates fluctuated up and down daily, and also within the day. Their intention was to offer the best exchange rate in their localities. and branch managers were tasked with this. They said it was a known fact that exchange rates at airports were not as favourable as those offered on the High Street. They also explained that the exchange rates stated in the ad remained the same throughout the TV ad campaign until 12 July 2017. They believed that the on-screen text “Rates may vary” warned viewers that exchange rates varied, and that the wording was succinct and to the point.
Ramsdens Financial also provided three spreadsheets in support of the ad. The first spreadsheet, which they submitted to Clearcast, showed the exchange rates taken from the Ramsdens branch on Dalry Road in Edinburgh, the Edinburgh Airport branch of currency exchange provider ICE, and the Post Office branch on Dalry Road, covering the period from 1 May to 2 June 2017. The second spreadsheet showed the exchange rates offered by the complainant’s local branch taken at various points during the day from 4 May to 14 July 2017. The third spreadsheet detailed the currency exchange transactions that took place in Ramsdens branches across Scotland on 4 May 2017.
Referring to the substantiation submitted to Clearcast, Ramsdens Financial stated that they provided comparative evidence for the Post Office as requested by Clearcast. They stated that they had not been asked to provide evidence for after the comparison date – 4 May 2017 – but felt confident that their branches across Scotland would be beating the local Post Office branches on a daily basis. They had used the Dalry Road branch in the comparison as it was located relatively close to Edinburgh Airport. During the production of the ad, they had sent information from the Dalkieth branch and Leith branch to their ad agency, but they had included only rates taken from Dalry Road in the substantiation sent to Clearcast. They explained that they could have easily based the comparison on, for example, the Irvine branch and Prestwick Airport, or the Paisley branch and Glasgow Airport. They said that all those comparisons would have shown that their rates were more favourable than airport exchange rates. It was widely acknowledged that high street exchange rates were better than airport exchange rates.
Ramsdens Financial further stated that the third spreadsheet they had provided showed 1,367 transactions that took place in Ramsdens branches across Scotland at an exchange above that advertised on 4 May 2017. They also pointed out that all 43 branches in Scotland, where the ad was broadcast, undertook at least one transaction at an exchange rate greater than that advertised. Because the exchange rates at which their branches transacted across Scotland or matched or beat the advertised rates on 4 May, they disagreed that it was not possible for consumers to obtain the rate advertised on the day quoted at any Ramsdens store.
Clearcast stated that they tried to ensure that the exchange rates that Ramsdens were offering were achievable during the approval process and that the ad was not just stating the highest exchange rate that they had ever offered. Clearcast said the ad in question followed the same format as another ad that they approved last year, and they requested the same substantiation which compared a Ramsdens branch to two competitors identified in the ad. They said the ad was a snapshot of the rates available on that day – 4 May 2017 – of which Ramsden’s rate was £1 to €1.1465 which was presented as €1.147 in the ad. They also said that, based on the evidence that Ramsdens provided, the exchange rate had been £1 to €1.15 two days prior to 4 May 2017, which was higher than that stated in the ad, and four days later, the exchange rate was £1 to €1.156, which they stated was again higher. They found Ramsden’s evidence submitted at the time to be representative of the rates stated in the ad.
Clearcast said there were always fluctuations with exchange rates and therefore by including a qualification in the ad which detailed the date on which the claimed exchange rate was available, viewers would be aware that it was a fixed point in time and could check other rates for reference. They also stated that because the Post Office was a reliable and well-known high street source of foreign currency, they had asked Ramsdens to state in the ad the competing exchange rates on that specific day. They said by stating which competitors had been included in the comparison would give a reliable indicator of the market rate. Clearcast said they tried to allow Ramsdens to show their competitive rates in an easily accessible and understood manner, and did not believe Ramsdens were intentionally misleading viewers.
The ASA considered that viewers were likely to interpret the ad, particularly the scene that featured the three coin piles which represented the comparison in exchange rates offered by Ramsdens, ICE at Edinburgh Airport and the Post Office, to mean that Ramsdens offered more favourable exchange rates than the other two currency exchange providers stated in the ad. We considered that in general, consumers were likely to understand that currency exchange rates were subject to constant fluctuations. However, given the prominence of the visual comparison and that the exchange rates quoted in the ad remained unchanged throughout the TV ad campaign, we considered that viewers were likely to expect that they would be able to obtain the same exchange rate of “£1 = €1.147” as quoted in the ad, or very similar exchange rates, that were also similarly comparatively favourable, whenever the ad appeared. As the ad did not specify whether the comparison was based on exchange rates offered by particular branches of Ramsdens, we also considered that consumers would expect that the exchange rate quoted was representative of the rates offered by all Ramsdens' branches.
We noted Clearcast’s comments in regards to the on-screen qualification which indicated the date on which the comparison was based. We also noted that on-screen qualification stated “Rates may vary”. However, we did not consider that the qualification was sufficiently prominent to counteract the overall impression that the exchange rate, or very similar exchange rates, quoted for Ramsdens in the ad, would be available whenever the ad subsequently appeared and that the rates were representative of those offered by all Ramsdens branches.
We further noted that the spreadsheet provided by Ramsdens, which detailed the currency exchange transactions that took place in all their branches across Scotland on 4 May 2017 (the date on which the comparison in the ad was based) indicated that the lower rate at which Ramsdens transacted was £1 to €1.14650 at the Dalry Road branch. The transactions that were carried out at other branches were above that rate. The spreadsheet, which detailed the exchange rates taken at the complainant’s local branch, indicated that the exchange rate offered by that branch on 4 May 2017 was £1 to €1.14724 (the first of two rates taken on that day); the rate offered on 21 June 2017, the date on which the complainant saw the ad, was £1 to €1.10066; and the rate offered on 12 July 2017, the end date of the TV ad campaign, was £1 to €1.08743 (the first of two rates taken on that day).
We considered that the evidence demonstrated that the exchange rates quoted in the ad were representative of, and lower than the actual exchange rates obtained by customers on 4 May 2017. However, the evidence showed that the exchange rates offered at the complainant’s local branch were much lower than that advertised in the ad on the day they saw the ad. We considered that the evidence provided was insufficient to demonstrate that consumers would be able to obtain the exchange rates, or very similar exchange rates, quoted for Ramsdens in the ad whenever it appeared after 4 May 2017, which we considered consumers were likely to expect from the ad. For those reasons, we considered that the ad was likely to mislead.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is 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), 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. and 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Qualification).
We told Ramsdens to ensure that future ads must not misleadingly imply that the exchange rates quoted for Ramsdens Financial Ltd were available if those rates could not be obtained at the time the ad appeared, and they must hold adequate evidence to substantiate the rates quoted.