Ad description

A paid-for ad on The Economist app and a national press ad for Uber were seen in June 2021:

a. The ad on The Economist app was headed “Your driver is” then listed the following: “Nasir, with a 4.97* rating; 2 minutes away; Feeling good about his access to sickness cover; Driving a silver saloon; Receiving pension contributions to grow his nest egg; Now 1 minute away; Planning a staycation with his holiday pay; Just at the end of the street; Attending free Open University courses; Expecting his first new parent payment next week”.

Large text stated “Only on Uber”. Small text stated “The benefits described here as available Only on Uber are in comparison with other large app based private hire operators in London. Eligibility criteria apply”.

b. The national press ad was identical.

Issue

The ASA received three complaints, one about ad (a) and two about ad (b). All three, who believed companies were legally obliged to provide most of the benefits listed and that they were not unique to Uber, challenged whether the implication that Uber was the leading provider of those benefits in comparison with other London-based cab ride providers was misleading and could be substantiated.

Response

Uber B.V. said they saw Bolt, Ola and FreeNow as the relevant competitors for the purposes of the “Only on Uber” claim. They agreed that pension and holiday pay were required to be provided by law by all operators but said sickness cover, parental payments and access to free Open University course were not legal requirements and were provided voluntarily by Uber. They had undertaken research which had shown them that the other operators did not provide those benefits. They supplied a comparative list of benefits from the conclusions of that research.

Assessment

Upheld

The ASA considered readers would see the list of benefits in conjunction with the text “Only on Uber” and “The benefits described here as available Only on Uber are in comparison with other large app based private hire operators in London” as an objective, comparative claim and conclude that, among large app based private hire operators in London, Uber alone provided those benefits. We considered that, as well as being relevant to drivers, the claim would also be of interest to consumers who wanted to support a business that offered more benefits to its employees than its competitors.

We noted the research Uber had undertaken which suggested that, of the benefits they provided, the ones which were not legal requirements were not provided by the other private hire operators they had compared themselves with. Regardless of that, however, we noted that a minimum hourly rate of pay, holiday pay and pension were legal entitlements which all operators were required to provide. We considered that Uber had not provided substantiation which showed that all the benefits listed were provided by them alone and were not provided by other large private hire operators in London, including the legally-required benefits. We therefore concluded that the ads were misleading.

The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).

Action

The ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Uber BV not to claim or imply that benefits which all operators were required to provide were unique to them.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

3.1     3.7     3.33    


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