A website for Alt.com, an introduction agency, seen on 3 November 2017, featured a page which promoted the different membership features available. Text on the page under the subheading “PREMIMUM MEMBERSHIP BENEFITS” stated “View and contact members”.
The complainant, who understood that Alt.com did not allow a standard member who had been sent a message from a gold or silver member to read that message unless they paid to upgrade their account so they were also a gold or silver member, challenged whether the claim “view and contact members” was misleading and could be substantiated.
Ventor Enterprise Ltd t/a Alt.com did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by Alt.com’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, and ruled that they had breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
We noted that among the listed membership features in the ad, text stated “view and contact members”. We considered consumers would interpret that claim to mean that as a gold or silver member, they could contact different members on the website without restriction. We understood from the complainant that as a standard member, they were unable to send or receive messages from gold or silver members without paying extra to upgrade their membership. Because we had not seen evidence to demonstrate that there were no communication restrictions imposed on gold or silver members, we concluded that the claim was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (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 ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Alt.com to make clear if any restrictions applied to the membership features. We referred the matter to CAP’s Compliance team.