ASA Ltd t/a (5 July 2017) – ASA decision on “No.1 claims”

Published on 25 September 2017, a comparison site, ran a campaign comprising of five adverts in total, all which stated that it was “No.1 for car savings”.

The complaint, a competitor, challenged whether the five adverts could be substantiated and were therefore misleading, as each advert gave the impression that consumers could save more money at than its competitors.

The response stated that it had undertaken a market review and compared the number and type of car-related services available through them and the next three largest UK price comparison sites. The sites were then ranked by the total number of opportunities to save on car related products and argued that it offered savings on 23 of those products.

In order to mitigate any risk, said that it had taken care to explain the comparison was not based on price, the adverts themselves did not claim that it offered greater savings on individual products and the claim did not indicate that consumers would take up all of the opportunities to save.  In addition, added that all the adverts carried a qualification to explain that being “No.1” was based on the opportunities to save on car-related products.  Furthermore, had involved Clearcast to ensure the basis of its claim was clear.

Clearcast asserted that due to the fact that had provided substantiation and had included a qualifying statement on the adverts, could carry a No.1 claim.  Furthermore, had given assurances to Clearcast that it would monitor the market and make regular changes to the adverts as appropriate.

The decision

The ASA upheld the complaint. 

The ASA considered that the claim “No.1 for car savings” would generally be understood by consumers to mean that if they purchased car-related products through, then they were likely to save more money compared to buying via competitor sites.  This is because consumers use comparison sites to find the best value deal on what product or service they are interested in buying.

The format of each advert was different and the reason to uphold varied depending on the format. In summary, the ASA made the following findings for each advert:

  • the paid-for search result on Google gave the overall impression that saved consumers more on their car insurance compared to their competitors. There was no qualification that “No.1 for car savings” related to the number of car products on which compared prices

  • the email repeated the “No.1 for car savings” three times at the top of the email as well in the body of the text.  It was only further down that the advert said “No one offers drivers more opportunities to save on their car” with a hyperlink to a page that told drivers about opportunities to save.  The ASA said that the “No.1 for car savings” claim was not explicitly linked to the number of products on which compared prices

  • the TV advert featuring James Corden was acknowledged to contain a qualification in small text about the opportunities to save on car-related products; however, the voice over and prominent on-screen text stated “No.1 for Car Savings” and that “Drivers Win”.  The advert did not highlight that was “No.1 for Car Savings” because it compared more products than its competitors. To underscore this point, was presented with market research asking participants to assess the “No.1 for car savings” claims (including the on-screen text with the qualification about opportunities to save on car related products). Less than 5% of participants considered the claim fitted the definition which had provided

  • regarding the website, the ASA acknowledged that an attempt had been  made to explain the qualification of the claim under the title “how we fare against other price comparison sites”  and  “when it comes to car savings, is the place to come to…no one offers drivers more opportunities to save than us!” However, the page did not explicitly state that the “opportunities to save” meant that they compared more products than competitors

  • the newspaper advert was acknowledged to include the qualifying sentences “no one offers drivers more ways to save on their car” and “No.1 for car savings – based on opportunities to save on car-related products”, but the ASA found that the position of the qualifying sentences, both on the page and in the wraparound, diminished the likelihood of it impacting significantly on consumers' overall impression of the advert.

The ASA ruled that the adverts could not appear in their current form and not to repeat the claims unless they could be substantiated.

Why is it important?

The adverts ran contrary to a key principle of the ASA that marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. They must not mislead by hiding or omitting material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.  The ASA not only considered that the qualifier “no one offers drivers more opportunities to save on their car” was ambiguous but that, in the absence of any reference to the comparison with's three largest competitors in the majority of the adverts, consumers would interpret a “No.1” claim to be a comparison with the entire market.

Furthermore, the decision received publicity from the press and online community which a brand like might not have welcomed, given its focus on championing the consumer and helping them find the best possible deal to save on their car.

Any practical tips?

This decision underscores the need for the consumer to be able to make an informed choice when they are choosing goods or services.  Therefore, when undertaking an ad campaign in any format, advertisers should be careful to ensure that (a) they understand how consumers will likely interpret the claim being made (b) the substantiation matches the claims and, if necessary (c) the claims are clearly and properly qualified to ensure transparency and non-ambiguity.

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