Websites for UK Deed Poll Service, which offered a deed poll service, seen on 16 August 2019:
a. A website, deedpoll.org.uk, was headed “Information and advice about how to officially change your legal name by Deed Poll”. Text on the home page stated “Welcome If you wish to change your or your child's legal name, you can join the hundreds of thousands of people who have used the Deed Poll process over the past 150 years … As you would expect, we are the UK's main and most trusted issuer of Deed Poll documentation having issued over 600,000 Deed Polls over the past 15 years. As the UK's main issuer of Deed Poll documentation, our Deed Polls are guaranteed to be accepted by all UK government departments, companies and organisations enabling you to get all your official documents and records changed to your new name including your passport, driving licence, bank and building society accounts, credit cards, medical, tax and National Insurance records etc.*”
b. A website, ukdps.co.uk, contained the same text.
IssueDeed Poll Office challenged whether the claims “Information and advice about how to officially change your legal name by Deed Poll”; “the UK’s main and most trusted issuer of Deed Poll documentation”; and “As the UK’s main issuer of Deed Poll documentation, our Deed Polls are guaranteed to be accepted by government departments” misleadingly implied UK Deed Poll Service were recognised as the official organisation for services relating to deed polls.
ResponseUK Deed Poll Service Ltd t/a UKDPS, stated that they believed the claim “information and advice about how to officially change your legal name by Deed Poll” to be true. UKDPS asserted that they provided comprehensive information and the advice they provided clearly demonstrated to potential customers that their service would officially change their legal name. In relation to the claim that UKDPS were “the UK’s main and most trusted issuer of Deed Poll documentation”, they stated that they had issued deed polls for 18 years and did not consider that any of their competitors had come close to the longevity and number of deed polls issued. UKDPS added that wording on the home page stated that they were not affiliated to the government. They added that if a client experienced a problem with using the deed poll as evidence, they were able to get this accepted by explaining who they were. They stated that this was why they were able to guarantee the service provided and have never had to give a refund under that guarantee. UKDPS said they had issued over 250,000 deed poll documents and had never had a complaint or feedback from clients saying they thought they provided a government service.
AssessmentUpheld The ASA understood that the UKDPS assisted consumers in creating a deed poll but that it was not an official government channel for that service. We understood that UKDPS charged a fee for providing a “Deed Poll Pack” which contained a personalised deed poll document, instructions how to execute correctly and a list of record holders to notify with an example cover letter. We understood that consumers could create a deed poll themselves and there is no official or approved body for issuing deed polls. We acknowledged that the statement, “the government’s Ministry of Justice, to whom we are not affiliated” was present on ukdeedpollservice.org only. However, we considered that the statement was not prominent and was likely to be overlooked by consumers. We also considered that, in the absence of information to indicate otherwise, consumers were likely to infer that a website which used the claims “how to officially change your name”, “the UK’s main and most trusted issuer” and “are guaranteed to be accepted by all UK government departments, companies and organisations” to mean that it was a government endorsed service. We considered that whilst the company name ‘UK Deed Poll Service’ did not, in and of itself, suggest that it was a government service, the overall impression of the ad was likely to lead consumers to understand that the ad was for an official service approved by the government. We also considered that many consumers would not be aware that unenrolled deed polls could be made for free by following the official government guidance at www.gov.uk. It was therefore important, to avoid misleading consumers by omitting material information, that the UKDPS website made clear that they charged a premium for their commercial support service, and that consumers could create their own unenrolled deed poll themselves. Because the overall impression of the website implied that it was an approved official channel for ‘issuing’ deed polls and did not make it clear to consumers that they could create an unenrolled deed poll themselves, we concluded that the ads were misleading. The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. and 3.3 3.3 For advertisements that quote prices for an advertised product or service, material information [for the purposes of rule 3.2] includes: (Misleading advertising) and 3.50 3.50 Advertisements must make clear each significant limitation to an advertised guarantee (of the type that has implications for a consumer's rights). Broadcasters must be satisfied that the advertiser will supply the full terms of the guarantee before the consumer is committed to taking it up.
(Endorsements and testimonials).
The website must not appear again in its current form. We told UK Deed Poll Service Ltd t/a UKDPS to ensure they did not present their service and the deed poll process in a way which was likely to mislead consumers into thinking it was the official service. It should contain sufficient additional information to allow consumers to understand the non-official nature of the service on offer and the additional cost of using that service compared to the advice on the government website directly.