A paid-for Facebook post from ThePowerMBA, an online course provider, seen on 24 February 2021, included the caption “The most up-to-date, complete and practical business program […] You WON’T learn from teachers, but from the best in the world in every field 360° business program with 250+ classes and real cases You only need 15 min. a day and £750 (payable in installments) […] NOT another online course! Hundreds of local communities organizing all kinds of events every week: seminars, afterworks, [sic] workshops…ENROLL NOW!”. An image showed three men wearing tops with ThePowerMBA logo on them. Text on the image stated “NOW IN THE UK. The £750 alternative MBA for experienced professionals who want to become disruptors”.
The complainant challenged whether the claim “MBA” misleadingly implied that the course was accredited or equivalent to a university Master’s degree.
ThePowerMBA Inc said that none of the educational programs they offered were accredited by any educational institution or government agency.
They said the purpose of ThePowerMBA was to offer an alternative to a Master of Business Administration (MBA) qualification. ThePowerMBA offered an online business administration program that focused on practical and real-life solutions. The ad highlighted the differences between their course and a typical MBA. ThePowerMBA felt that the use of the word ‘master’, so long as it was not in relation to a university or an official Master’s degree, would not lead to any misunderstandings for consumers.
ThePowerMBA said that the FAQs and terms and conditions sections of their website, which the Facebook ad linked to, stated that they did not offer an official accreditation. Additionally, prior to the start of any program customers received information which made clear that it was a non-accredited program.
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand that the term ‘MBA’ was the acronym used for a Master of Business Administration. In the context of an ad for a “business program”, we considered they would understand from the name “ThePowerMBA” that the advertised course was a Masters-level degree in business administration, awarded by an accredited university.
We acknowledged that the ad highlighted aspects of the program that might be understood as differing from a traditional MBA program, such as not learning from “teachers”, the required time commitment and the total cost. However we considered that because the program was named “ThePowerMBA” and was described as an “alternative MBA”, consumers would understand that the advertiser offered an accredited MBA degree, albeit one which differed to traditional MBA programs.
While we understood that the advertiser’s website provided more detail about the program, we considered that the ad implied that it was an accredited MBA degree, and that consumers who clicked through from the ad to find out more about the program would be doing so on that understanding.
We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to mislead consumers.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told ThePowerMBA Inc to ensure that their ads did not imply that they offered an accredited MBA degree qualification.