A website for Serenity Addiction Centres, www.rehabclinic.org.uk, seen in September 2022.
Underneath the webpage title “Cornwall Drug & Alcohol Rehab Clinics”, text stated, “At Serenity, we help people from all walks of life beat drug addiction. Everyone should have access to the highest quality drug rehabilitation, which is why we offer a variety of rehab programmes with flexible payment plans […] We are experts in addiction medicine, with proven treatments backed by world-class physicians and clinical psychologists. Rehab in Cornwall is available no matter your situation. Call us on [telephone number] for a free drug assessment and a chat about how we can help you. You can also find clinics closest to you in Cornwall on our locations page”.
Underneath the heading “Why Serenity for drug rehab Cornwall”, further text stated, “We make entering rehab a smooth, frictionless process with unbiased advice, no judgement and a professional outlook on all cases. We operate several world-class Cornwall drug rehab centres […] By choosing Serenity for drug rehab, you get access to: World-class drug rehab in Cornwall, Medically-assisted detoxification, Inpatient and outpatient programmes, Therapy and support, Family support, Immediate and rapid intervention, Transport to and from the clinic, 12 months aftercare, Flexible payments […] We have an excellent track record, helping hundreds of people get clean and change their lives every year. We have fantastic facilities and an incredible team who work tirelessly to help patients. You are in safe hands with us”.
Further text described the facilities available at the Cornwall rehab centres, cost of attending a clinic and the available treatment and therapies.
At the bottom of the page, text stated, “Call us […] to chat with an addiction expert. We offer unbiased advice and free addiction assessments”. Further text stated, “We have rehab clinic locations throughout Cornwall including in Truro” and listed several addresses for Serenity Addiction Centres.
IssueThe complainant, a representative of one of the clinics listed in the ad, challenged whether the ad falsely implied that the marketer was acting for purposes outside its business.
Serenity Rehabilitation Ltd t/a Serenity Addiction Centres explained that they referred patients to the most appropriate centre for their needs. They said that they relied on their in-house clinician to make referrals and that he had had 27 years of experience in the field of addiction and was an independent nurse prescriber.
They explained that their website had not been updated recently, but after receiving notification of the complaint, they had made significant changes. They stated that there had been a miscommunication internally and, as a result, they had accidently added the details of a clinic that was not part of the Serenity Rehabilitation referral scheme.
The ASA noted that the ad contained numerous references to “we” in relation to the listed rehabilitation centres and their facilities; for example, “we offer a variety of rehab programmes”, “we operate several world-class Cornwall drug rehab centres”, “we are experts in addiction medicine” and “we have fantastic facilities”. We considered that, along with the name of the website which directly referenced addiction centres, this created the impression that they both owned and managed the listed clinics. That impression was furthered by a number of clinics being labelled as “Serenity Addiction Centres” within the ad. Moreover, we considered that the text “by choosing Serenity for drug rehab, you get access to: world-class drug rehab in Cornwall, medically-assisted detoxification […]”, implied that Serenity Addiction Centres were directly responsible for the duties and services carried out by the rehabilitation centres. We also considered that consumers would understand from the claims that Serenity Addiction Centres offered “unbiased advice”, “free addiction assessments”, a “free drug assessment” and the opportunity to talk with an “addiction expert” and that they offered free impartial advice with no commercial incentive.
We understood that Serenity Addiction Centres did not own or manage any of the clinics listed on their website. Instead, they acted as a referral centre, whereby they received commission from partner clinics for the placement of individuals in those clinics. We also considered that, because they received a commission for placements in those specific clinics, that Serenity Addiction Centres had a commercial incentive to place individuals in certain clinics. Therefore, we considered that they did not offer impartial unbiased advice about addiction or rehabilitation.
Because the ad did not make clear that they were principally a referral company that received commission for placing and facilitating an individual’s stay in a partner rehabilitation facility, and instead suggested that they owned and managed a number of addiction clinics, as well as offering unbiased advice to those seeking help with addiction, we concluded that Serenity Rehabilitation misleadingly implied that they were acting for purposes outside their business and breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) 2.3 (Recognition of Marketing Communications), 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading Advertising).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Serenity Rehabilitation Ltd t/a Serenity Addiction Centres to ensure that they did not falsely imply they were acting for purposes outside their business. We also told them to make clear that they were a referral company and not to imply that they owned clinics if they did not.