A TV ad for Santander's All in One credit card, seen on 1 November 2016, showed customers in a shop choosing a computer game; a group of friends watching a TV programme; a man at home scrolling through holiday photos on a tablet; a couple discussing their finances and their young daughter playing a drum kit. The voice-over stated, "With the new Santander All in One credit card you get cashback on all your purchases ... there's no fee when spending abroad ... and 0% on balance transfers for 40 months ... get a little bit more out of life with the new Santander All in One credit card. Buy online or in branch today. Simple. Simple, personal, fair. It's what a bank should be." On-screen text stated "0.5% cashback. Retailer and ATM fees may apply abroad. 1% Balance Transfer fee. Representative Example 0% p.a. on purchases for 6 months then 15.9% p.a. (variable). Equivalent to 21.7% APR representative (variable) based on £1200 credit limit. Monthly fee £3".
A viewer challenged whether the ad breached the Code because the representative APR (Annual Percentage Rate) was not given adequate prominence as required.
Santander UK plc said their understanding of the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) Consumer Credit Sourcebook (CONC) was that the ad needed to include a representative example (RE) of credit because it contained an indication of a rate of interest and an amount relating to the cost of credit. Their understanding was that the representative annual percentage rate (RAPR) should not be given greater prominence than any other element of the RE, and that the RE itself should have no less prominence than the incentive for taking out credit, or any other information relating to the cost of credit.
Santander believed the RE was clearly identified in the ad as such; was clear and legible; and was on the screen from the start of the ad which gave viewers adequate time to read it. They did not believe there was anything in the ad, which included the visual footage of customers and people in other situations, which increased the prominence of the incentive for taking out credit or other information relating to the cost of credit. They believed the information about the key features and benefits of the card (i.e. cashback on all purchases; no fees applied when spending abroad; and 0% on balance transfers for 40 months) was likely to be understood simply as product information rather than comparisons with other products.
Santander said they had used bold text to state the key elements of the RE and RAPR. Together with the size of the font and the length of time for which it was on the screen, they believed that made the RE and RAPR equally prominent as the incentives which were stated in the voice-over. They said that, in consumer testing they had carried out in the past, respondents said they would read text if they were interested in the product being advertised; that the longer the words were on the screen and the larger they were, the more likely they would notice them; that numbers were more likely to be noticed than words; and that short points were more noticeable than long. They also believed it was important to take into account how compelling, fast-moving or colourful the visual footage was. Santander said they had borne those points in mind in this ad and believed it would not be in line with CONC to make the RAPR any more prominent.
Clearcast said that, having sought confirmation from Santander's compliance team that the ad complied with CONC, they believed that because the three APR figures were appropriately highlighted in a bolder font than the text either side of it, the text was legible; was on-screen for sufficient time; and that the incentives to take out credit were no more prominent than the rate of interest.
The ASA noted that CONC rule 3.5.7 (1) stated that an ad must include a RAPR if it included, amongst other elements, an incentive to apply for credit or a favourable comparison relating to the credit.
We considered that, in the context of an ad that invited consumers to apply for a credit card, cashback on all purchases and no fee when spending abroad were likely to be seen as incentives to apply for credit, and also as favourable comparisons with other credit providers who might not offer those features. We noted that the ad featured three interest rates (0%, 15.9% and the RAPR). Consequently, requirements to include a RAPR as well as a RE were triggered.
We noted that CONC rules 3.5.7 (2) in relation to the RAPR and 3.5.5 (d) in relation to the RE stated that the RAPR and the RE must be given no less prominence than the information which triggered their inclusion. In the ad, the RAPR and the RE were presented in on-screen text which included other information and was present along the bottom of the screen for half of the ad's duration. We considered the size of the text and the time for which it was on-screen was sufficient for it to be clear to viewers and we noted the reasons Santander had given for believing the ad was compliant.
However, we noted that the ad included visual footage that showed customers making purchases in a shop, scrolling through holiday photographs and having discussions about their finances. The ad also invited consumers to apply for a credit card that included cashback on purchases, no fee when spending abroad and 0% on balance transfers for 40 months among its features. In the context of this ad, we considered the visual footage emphasised, and therefore added prominence to, the features being stated in the voice-over. In that context, we considered the information communicated to viewers in on-screen text was likely to be seen as less prominent than information communicated verbally, with or without additional visual emphasis and that, in this case, the use of on-screen text to present the RAPR and RE was unlikely to meet CONC's requirements that it be given no less prominence than the information which triggered their inclusion. For that reason, we concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached BCAP Code rule 14.11 14.11 The advertising of unsecured consumer credit or hire services by consumer credit businesses or consumer hire businesses and / or credit brokering businesses or related credit services, such as debt counselling or debt adjusting is acceptable only if the advertiser complies with the financial promotions requirements imposed by FSMA and the FCA's rules set out in Chapter 3 of CONC.. The requirements for financial promotions set out in Chapter 3 of CONC do not apply: (a) where the credit is available only to a company or other body corporate (such as a limited liability partnership); (b) where a financial promotion is solely promoting credit agreements or consumer hire agreements or P2P lending agreements for the purposes of a customer's business; (c) to a financial promotion to the extent that it relates to qualifying credit or (d) it falls within the definition of an excluded communication as set out in the FCA's handbook. If the applicability or interpretation of these rules or provisions is in doubt, advertisers may contact the FCA. The FCA does not check financial promotions for compliance with the CONC rules before they are published. Such advertisements that involve distance marketing must also comply with the Financial Services (Distance Marketing) Regulations 2004 (as amended). Other distance-marketing financial advertisements are covered by the FCA Handbook. (Lending and credit).
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told Santander UK plc to ensure its advertising complied with the requirements of CONC.