Two paid-for TikTok posts by TMS Legal, a legal firm specialising in financial claims, were seen on 27 April 2023:
(a) The first post showed a cheque for £3,543. The cheque contained the text “For and on behalf of Merton Europe Limited”. A narrator stated, “Did you buy your car on finance through the lender Moneybarn before the year 2019? … So I just got £3,543 cheque … If you are like me and struggled to make your car payments to Moneybarn, you may have been mis-sold the loan and you are eligible for a refund … Just click the link below and start your claim.” Below the video was the logo for TMS legal and the name “TMS Legal”.
(b) The second post featured a video of a man who said, “Did you have your credit limit increased by Vanquis?” The video then showed a cheque for £4,121. The cheque contained the text “For and on behalf of Merton Europe Limited”. The man stated, “So I got this £4,121 cheque … If you are like me and Vanquis raised your credit limit and you struggled to make monthly payments, you may have been mis-sold and are eligible for a refund … Just click the link below to start your claim.” Below the video was the same logo and name for TMS legal that was in ad (a).
Vanquis Banking Group PLC challenged whether the ads were misleading, because they implied the testimonials featured were from genuine Moneybarn No.1 Ltd and Vanquis Bank Ltd customers.
TMS Legal Ltd said the ads did not contain genuine customer testimonials and the people in the videos were actors. They told us that their marketing agency, without TMS Legal’s knowledge, prepared the ads in an attempt to provide representative testimonials and average compensation sums that their customers received.
However, due to an internal oversight, the ads were published in error. They explained that it was not a systemic issue, and acknowledged that the ads could be deemed misleading without qualification to explain that the individuals were actors rather than customers providing genuine testimonials. They stated that their internal systems had now been strengthened, to avoid the same thing happening again.
They told us that both ads had already been proactively removed on 21 and 22 June 2023.
The CAP Code stated that marketers must hold documentary evidence that a testimonial or endorsement used in a marketing communication is genuine, unless it is obviously fictitious. Further to that claims that are likely to be interpreted as factual and appear in a testimonial must not mislead or be likely to mislead the consumer.
The individuals in ads (a) and (b) stated, in a casual, conversational manner, that they had received a cheque as compensation from the companies cited. We considered that consumers would understand from the ads that the individuals were genuine customers and that the person in ad (a) was paid a cheque for £3,543 by Moneybarn No 1 Ltd, and the person in ad (b) was paid a cheque of £4,121 by Vanquis Bank Ltd.
We had not seen evidence to show that the sums represented in the cheques were average compensation sums paid to TMS Legal.
However, because the ads gave the overall impression that the testimonials were genuine and the individuals in the ads had been paid the amounts advertised when that was not the case, we concluded that they were misleading.
The ads breached CAP Code 3.1 (Misleading Advertising), 3.45, 3.47 (Endorsements and Testimonials), and 3.7 (Substantiation).
The ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We told TMS Legal Ltd to ensure that their future ads did not imply testimonials were genuine if that was not the case.