A paid-for Facebook post for British Railway Modelling magazine, seen on 8 November 2019, stated “£60 Goody Bag, ticket to Warley + 5 issues of BRM – all for just £5! Click here to claim this ridiculous offer”. Text on the image stated “FREE ENTRY PLUS FREE GOODY BAG & FREE ENTRY INTO OUR PRIZE DRAW 5 ISSUES FOR £5!”. An icon in the corner of the image included the text “WARLEY MODEL RAILWAY CLUB WARLEY NATIONAL MODEL RAILWAY EXHIBITION NEC BIRMINGHAM”.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading, because it didn’t make clear that readers would be tied into a yearly subscription to the magazine.
Warners Group Publications plc t/a British Railway Modelling Magazine said that the landing page that the ad linked to clearly stated that the offer moved to a quarterly direct debit of £12.49 after the first five issues. They provided a copy of the landing page and said that it was clear that it related to a subscription offer for the magazine; they highlighted that it mentioned the word “subscribe/subscription” on the page a number of times. The landing page stated that consumers would pay £5 for the first five issues and would receive a £60 goody bag and a ticket to the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition. It also stated that after the first five issues, the payment changed to a £12.49 quarterly direct debit. They said that customers were able to cancel the subscription by calling their subscription team.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications or other material referring to promotions must communicate all applicable significant conditions or information where the omission of such conditions or information was likely to mislead. Significant conditions or information may, depending on the circumstances, which included significant conditions and costs, and other major factors reasonably likely to influence consumers' decision or understanding about the promotion.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand from the ad, that for £5 they would receive a goody bag worth £60, a ticket to the Warley exhibition and five issues of British Railway Modelling magazine. We understood that in order to claim the promotional items, consumers would have to sign up to a subscription for the magazine through a quarterly direct debit of £12.49, for a minimum term of one year. When consumers clicked through from the ad, a web page displayed information about the subscription charge. The minimum subscription term was included in the general terms and conditions which were displayed on a separate page. Nevertheless, this information was not included in the ad itself. We considered that the information about the subscription term and charge was material information that was likely to influence a consumer’s decision about the promotion and needed to be made sufficiently clear in the ad. We therefore concluded that the omission of the subscription cost and the minimum term from the ad was misleading and breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Promoters must conduct their promotions equitably, promptly and efficiently and be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants and potential participants. Promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment.
All marketing communications or other material referring to promotions must communicate all applicable significant conditions or information where the omission of such conditions or information is likely to mislead. Significant conditions or information may, depending on the circumstances, include:
How to participate
How to participate, including significant conditions and costs, and other major factors reasonably likely to influence consumers' decision or understanding about the promotion (Significant conditions for promotions).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Warners Group Publications plc t/a British Railway Modelling Magazine to ensure that their ads included all significant conditions for their promotions, for example all costs and the subscription terms involved when taking up a promotion.