An unsolicited direct mailing was headed "VANQUIS BANK". The envelope included a sticker that stated "SPEEDSURE PRIORITY MAIL ... DELIVERY INFORMATION ... No sig req".
The complainant challenged whether the mailing was misleading because it was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.
Vanquis Bank Ltd (Vanquis Bank) said the mailing was clearly a marketing communication because the envelope front displayed the bank's logo as well as the logos of VISA, TNT and Royal Mail. They said this was further reinforced by the inclusion of their return address on the reverse of the envelope. Vanquis Bank said the presence of their name on the exterior of the envelope did not imply they had an existing relationship with the recipient, rather it identified them as the sender. Furthermore, they said they did not mail solicitations to existing cardholders, therefore it would be clear it was a marketing communication.
Vanquis Bank said the Speedsure sticker made no claim to be a piece of mail sent as a recorded delivery. They said because there was a limited period to respond to the mailing they felt that some implication of urgency was appropriate and justified.
They said it was custom and practice in the UK that credit card bills and statements did not include the sender's branding on an envelope as that could lead to identity theft if the contents were intercepted, which was contrary to the Data Protection Act 1998.
Vanquis Bank said the contents of the mailing described the nature of the offer and therefore they believed it would not mislead consumers. They said the contents of the mailing included a Visa card application form, a pre-contract credit information sheet, a copy of a consumer credit agreement, a flyer that set out the cost of borrowing and a reply envelope.
The ASA noted that the mailing included the personal name and address of the complainant and that the envelope was printed with various logos including that of Vanquis Bank, which we considered gave the impression of a financial mailing. We noted that the return address was printed on the reverse of the mailing. However, we did not consider that that gave the impression that it was a marketing communication.
We acknowledged Vanquis Bank's assertion that it was UK practice that credit card bills and statements did not include branding to reduce the likelihood of identity theft. We considered that consumers were unlikely to be aware of that practice and that the presence of their branding did not indicate that it was a marketing communication.
We considered the Speedsure priority mail sticker implied the mailing contained urgent information, and together with logos of financial bodies could cause concern to some consumers. We considered that those features, taken together, were likely to mislead by exaggerating the importance of the mailing and the information enclosed.
Because the mailing was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication, we concluded it was misleading and breached the Code.
The mailing breached CAP Code rules 2.1 2.1 Marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such. (Recognition of marketing communications) and 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising).
The mailing must not appear again in its current form. We told Vanquis Bank to ensure their mailings were obviously identifiable as marketing communications in future.