Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A leaflet, for a club night, was attached to a car windscreen and was in a clear plastic pouch that featured a text box, which stated "DOCUMENTS ENCLOSED" in black on a red background. The ad inside was yellow with a yellow and black border. Text on the front stated "PARKING NOTICE ENCLOSED WARNING IT IS AN OFFENCE FOR ANY PERSON OTHER THAN THE DRIVER TO REMOVE THIS NOTICE". Further text inside and on the back of the ad referred to the details of the club night.
The complainant challenged whether the ad:
1. was misleading, because she believed it had the appearance of an official document, and was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication; and
2. was likely to cause fear or distress without justifiable reason.
Suncity UK did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA was concerned by Suncity UK's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 1.7 Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code. (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
We considered the inner and back pages of the ad made clear it was a marketing communication. However, its initial appearance, including the plastic pouch with which it was attached to the complainant's car, the colour scheme and border, and the text "DOCUMENTS ENCLOSED" and "PARKING NOTICE ENCLOSED WARNING IT IS AN OFFENCE FOR ANY PERSON OTHER THAN THE DRIVER TO REMOVE THIS NOTICE", strongly resembled that of a parking fine notification. We considered the ad did not make immediately clear it was a marketing communication and was therefore likely to mislead consumers into believing it was an official penalty notice. We also considered the ad's initial appearance as a parking ticket, in particular, but not only, the text "PARKING NOTICE ENCLOSED WARNING IT IS AN OFFENCE FOR ANY PERSON OTHER THAN THE DRIVER TO REMOVE THIS NOTICE", was likely to cause recipients distress without justifiable reason. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 2.1 2.1 Marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such. (Recognition of marketing communications), 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 4.2 4.2 Marketing communications must not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason; if it can be justified, the fear or distress should not be excessive. Marketers must not use a shocking claim or image merely to attract attention. (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Suncity UK to ensure their future advertising was obviously identifiable as such and that it was not likely to cause fear or distress without justifiable reason. We referred the matter to CAP's Compliance team.