Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both were Upheld.
Claims on the website www.abclists.net, a database company, included "Named 'Best List Company' 2012 … We are the list guys … At ABCLists we provide superb lists, get our customers to use them, and watch them turn their campaigns into sales. Then they come back to us for more … in fact, our customers like us so much that we were recently voted the top list company in a survey amongst the top 1,250 buyers of lists and data. We have the largest number of lists available for the UK, Europe and the US … Please note that there are NO email lists/bulk marketing products available for sale on this site … 10 years of providing marketing & mailing lists of unrivalled quality … Refund policy We want you to be happy with your list, and use it to obtain outstanding results; if you are dissatisfied, for whatever reason, we won't quibble and refund the purchase price in full. This policy applies to this offer and all other lists on our site, and is in place to guarantee complete peace of mind".
Claims related to the list of "Top 2,000 UK Companies - by energy spend" included "The organisations on this list spend more on energy (gas and electricity consumption) than any other in the UK, and a meticulous effort has gone into researching who these organisations are, and who is in overall charge of the energy spend. The list will prove responsive, first and foremost, to those firms whose products and/or services appeal to those organisations with a large energy budget. Data is 100% postcoded; telephone numbers and email addresses are available for all records … All data was collected by means of a questionnaire and all contact names were verified by telephone. Accuracy All names were contacted within the last 3 months. Data structure The following fields are supplied, as standard, for each record: Named executive with overall responsibility for the energy budget, company name, full company address including PAF verified postcodes, (telephone number), (email address), salutation".
The complainant, who had purchased a database that categorised companies by energy spend, challenged whether:
1. the ad was misleading, because the list did not include accurate or up-to-date contact details; and
2. the refund policy was genuine, because they had requested a refund but had not received it.
ABCLists did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA was concerned by ABCLists' 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.
In the absence of evidence to support the claims about the quality and accuracy of the database products, which the complainant had found did not include accurate or up-to-date contact details, and of evidence to demonstrate that the refund policy was genuine, we concluded that the claims had not been substantiated. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are 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), 3.55 3.55 Marketers must promptly refund consumers who make valid claims under an advertised money-back guarantee. (Guarantees and after-sales service) and 9.5.2 and 9.5.4 (Distance selling).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told ABCLists to ensure they were in a position to substantiate their objective claims in future. We referred the matter to CAP's Compliance team.