The website www.ukdps.co.uk promoted deed poll services. Text on the home page stated "The UK's main and most trusted issuer of Deed Poll documentation ... If you wish to change your or your child's legal name, you can join the many thousands of people who have used the Deed Poll process over the past 150 years. In fact, during the past ten years, we have changed over 400,000 people's names. As you would expect, we are the UK's main and most trusted issuer of Deed Poll documentation. Don't just take out word for it ... As the main issuer of Deed Poll documentation, our Deed Polls are accepted by all UK government departments, companies and organisations ...".
The complainant, who understood that UK Deed Poll Service Ltd had been incorporated in June 2013, challenged whether the claim "... during the last ten years, we have changed over 400,000 people's names" was misleading and could be substantiated.
UK Deed Poll Service Ltd (UKDPSL) confirmed that the company had been incorporated in July 2013. They explained that UK Deed Poll Service (UKDPS), owned by Multimedia Computing Ltd, had commenced trading in July 2002 and that the trading style UKDPS had been transferred to Deed Poll Services Jersey Ltd in 2011. They explained that in October 2013 UKDPSL acquired the trading style of UK Deed Poll Service (UKDPS) from Deed Poll Services Jersey Ltd, including the goodwill, trading name, domain name, website content and all other intellectual property rights. They also stated that UKDPSL took occupancy of UKDPS's offices and employed all their staff. They said there was no break in trading during the transfers of the business and therefore trading had been continuous since trading commenced in the name UKDPS in July 2002.
UKDPSL also provided letters from their accountant which confirmed that they had acquired the business in 2013 and all staff, business activities and liabilities had been transferred at that time. The accountant's letter also said they had inspected the records of deed polls issued by the business over the last ten years to December 2013, and confirmed that the total number was greater than 400,000. UKDPSL also provided a document which showed that the domain name ukdps.co.uk was registered in February 2002, and a screenshot from the Internet Archive which showed that the site had been active and offering a deed poll service in September 2002, which was the earliest entry available.
The ASA understood that UKDPSL had been incorporated in June 2013, and that in October 2013 they had purchased the business of UKDPS, which had been trading since 2002. We reviewed the evidence supplied, and whilst it confirmed that UKDPS had commenced trading in September 2002 we considered that it was only anecdotal and did not constitute documentary evidence of the trading and legal history of the business. Similarly, we considered that a testimonial from UKDPSL's accountant was not sufficient to confirm that UKDPS had issued in excess of 400,000 deed polls over the last ten years. Therefore, in the absence of evidence to demonstrate that UKDPS had been trading continuously since 2002 and had issued over 400,000 deed polls, we concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was likely to mislead.
The claim breached 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).
The claim must not appear in its current form again. We told UK Deed Poll Service Ltd to ensure they held sufficient evidence to substantiate their claims in future.