Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, one of which was Not upheld and the other was Upheld.
plumbers-blackheath.co.uk, a website for plumbing services seen on 4 April 2020. A logo was shown at the top left of the web page with the text “BLACKHEATH PLUMBERS”. The telephone number was displayed at the top right of the page and text below stated “No Call Out Charge”. Halfway down the page displayed the subheading “Plumbers for Blackheath, SE3” with text underneath which stated “Blackheath Plumbers works locally to ensure a level of local expertise and customer attention that cannot be matched by other companies in the area”.
1. The complainant, who understood the advertiser was based in Kent, challenged whether the references to “Blackheath” and “local” were misleading and could be substantiated.
2. The complainant, who was charged a call out fee when using the service, challenged whether the claim “No Call Out Charge” was misleading.
1. Town Force Ltd t/a Blackheath Plumbers confirmed that they were not permanently based in Blackheath but that they employed plumbers and gas engineers located in Blackheath who had extensive knowledge about the local area. Blackheath Plumbers did not consider the text suggested that they were based in Blackheath but that it indicated that they operated in, and focused on, the Blackheath area.
2. Blackheath Plumbers did not provide any information in relation to issue 2.
1. Not upheld
The ASA considered that consumers would be likely to interpret the references to “Blackheath Plumbers” together with the statement “Blackheath Plumbers works locally to ensure a level of local expertise and customer attention that cannot be matched by other companies in the area” to mean that the company had specific local experience in Blackheath. We understood that Blackheath Plumbers did not have a permanent base in the area but rather that the company employed those located in Blackheath.
We also understood from the complainant that the advertiser was based in Kent and we noted that the registered office address at Companies House had previously been listed as Kent but changed to central London in January 2020. Although Blackheath Plumbers did not have a permanent base in Blackheath, we considered that because they used employees with local expertise in that area, the claims were not misleading. Because we understood that Blackheath Plumbers employed plumbers and gas engineers located in the Blackheath area, we considered that the claim had been substantiated and was not misleading.
On that point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 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), but did not find it in breach.
We considered that consumers would interpret the claim “No Call Out Charge” to mean that Blackheath Plumbers did not charge for the time spent travelling to a caller’s home or for the initial diagnosis of a problem. We understood from the complainant that they were charged a call-out charge when the gas engineer visited their property to diagnose the issue. We considered that unless consumers could decline work without incurring a cost, advertisers who made the claim “No Call Out Charge" should not charge for travel time or the initial diagnosis of the problem. Because Blackheath Plumbers had not demonstrated that consumers could decline work without incurring a cost for diagnosing the problem, we concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising).
The advertising must not appear again in its current form. We told Town Force Ltd t/a Blackheath Plumbers not to make claims that stated or implied that they did not charge a call-out fee when it was their policy to do so.