A Facebook post and a website for Help2Buy Windows seen on 17 March 2018:
a. The Facebook post, dated 19 February, stated, “Help2buy Windows has launched a new window & door grant scheme, qualifying homeowners can now have new windows and doors installed completely free of charge. If you meet the criteria for a free double glazing grant we will first arrange for a survey to be carried out to confirm the criteria for free windows has been met and that the property is suitable for new windows and doors… you will be added to the list for installs and installed as soon as the money comes available for your window grant. Every survey arranged by Help2Buy windows adds to the pot of money available for window and door grants… Unfortunately, the help2buy fund is not an endless pot of money, as the scheme grows we will attempt to bring in outside funding from other avenues but for the mean time Help2Buy Scheme will fund 100% of the installations carried out by our installation partners”. The post included a link with the caption “Grant Checker” which took users to a landing page on the Help2Buy Windows website.
b. The landing page on the website, www.help2buyscheme.co.uk, stated “Simply Complete The Form To Check For Grants, Funding And Incentives Available”. The form below included fields relating to consumers’ property and its occupants, their employment status, annual household income and personal contact details. Below that, text stated “Once we find the best option to suit you we pass you across to the relevant company to carry out a survey to ascertain your properties suitability for new windows and doors. Help2Buy Scheme have assembled a selection of different funding options to help UK homeowners gain access to the very best window and door Grants, Funding & Incentives”. The web page listed three available options. First, “Free Windows & Doors Help2Buy Window Grant Scheme”, which stated “Qualifying homeowners can have new windows & doors installed with absolutely no cost”. Second, “Window & Door Funding”, and the third option was “Best 4 Less Guaranteed”. Text at the bottom of each page on the website stated “*The Window Help 2 Buy Scheme Is In No Way Affiliated With The UK Government Privacy-Policy”.
The complainant challenged whether the ads misleadingly implied that Help2Buy Windows offered schemes which provided funding or discounts to help people to purchase windows, when such funding did not exist.
Help2Buy Windows said the scheme was in its infancy and the grant pot currently sat in a Watts Marketing Ltd account, and they provided a spreadsheet showing 13 weekly payments into the grant and the total sum. They said they had registered Help2Buy Windows as a limited company on 20 June 2018.
Help2Buy Windows also said they were presently carrying out an installation for a low income family, and they had evidence of installations that had been provided free of charge under the grant scheme. They provided a testimonial from a person who had received a free of charge window installation, and a signed Contract Agreement dated April 2018, which stated that Help2Buy Windows were supplying and installing windows throughout that individual’s property, on the basis that they were a single parent with an income below £10,000 and providing for a disabled child. They said they had also installed windows free of charge under the grant scheme for three other people, and had a list of 39 clients waiting for free instalments.
Help2Buy Windows said they aimed to protect consumers and help people in need, and the grant scheme itself was being funded entirely by them. They were currently looking for additional funding from other organisations so they could provide more free of charge grants.
The ASA considered that consumers would be likely to understand the claims on the website landing page relating to grant awarding schemes and funding, including “Grants, Funding And Incentives Available”, “Easy Funding Checker” and “Help2Buy Window Grant Scheme (Qualifying Criteria Apply)” in ad (b), to refer to established grants and funding schemes provided by the government or other similar bodies. The website name, Help2Buy Windows, closely resembled the name of existing government Help to Buy schemes. We considered that in that context consumers would be likely to expect that completing the grant checker form on the website would enable the advertiser to check if they were eligible for such schemes. Although the website included text at the bottom of each page stating that the Help2Buy scheme was not affiliated with the UK government, we considered that that statement did not change the overall impression of the website and also it was not sufficiently prominent.
We had not seen the full details and terms of the advertised schemes, such as the qualifying criteria, the products available for free of charge installation, the levels of funding available or the third-party installation partners referenced in the ads. Help2Buy Windows had provided a contract agreement relating to the free of charge installation of windows for one individual, however, it did not make reference to a specific grant or funding scheme. We were also concerned we had not seen sufficient evidence demonstrating that members of the public had received grants or funding through the advertised schemes on the Help2Buy Windows website, as they were likely to be understood by consumers, or the number of grants that had been previously awarded. We therefore considered we had not been provided with adequate substantiation demonstrating that the advertised funding and grant schemes were genuinely available.
We understood that Watts Marketing Ltd was a leads-generating company specialising in home improvement leads, and therefore the primary purpose of the grant checker form on the website was to gain consumer’s personal information and contact details and disseminate those to other organisations. Although the website and the Facebook post made some references to disseminating consumer’s information to third parties, we considered in that context that the ads were ambiguous and did not make sufficiently clear the commercial intent or purpose of the advertiser’s trade in generating leads.
In the absence of substantiation, we concluded that the ads misleadingly implied that grants and funding were available, and that Help2Buy Windows had not made clear their commercial intent for obtaining consumer’s personal details via the grant checker form.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer is acting as a consumer or for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession; marketing communications must make clear their commercial intent, if that is not obvious from the context.
(Recognition of marketing communications),
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 ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Watts Marketing Ltd that they must not misleadingly imply grants and funding were available if that was not the case, and marketing communications must not falsely claim Help2Buy Windows were acting for purposes outside its trade and make their commercial intent clear, particularly in regard to obtaining information from consumers.