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ASA investigation forces change of wording on awards claim

Awards abound for all sorts of things. You name it, there’s probably an award for it! Frequently these awards are paid for. Many consumers don’t realise that often when they see “Award winning” on a product or a website that businesses have paid to enter and compete. Sometimes businesses even just get an award that no-one else has entered! Both awards suppliers and “winners” could be considered as misleading consumers into believing that their businesses beat other similar products.

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It would appear that awards companies may be misleading businesses too. “Product of the Year” is a huge nationwide awards programme which offers wide media coverage for winners. The winner pays an eye-watering £18,000 to receive their award! Even to be shortlisted or entered into the research programme costs £4,000!

The Awards website claimed that the media coverage for winners was worth “Over £800,000 worth of advertising”. It then listed some examples of media coverage included. I doubted that this was worth anywhere near the £800,000 quoted and so I complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) because I felt that this was a misleading claim.

The awards claimed that the public relations impact is worth in excess of £800,000! They have a partnership with The Sun and say that it’s all “free publicity”.

The ASA in the first instance made Product of the Year aware that a member of the public challenged whether the claim could be substantiated, and reminded them that they must hold sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim. It issued an “Advice Notice” which is where it considers there are potential problems under their advertising rules but not so significant as to warrant a full formal investigation. The ASA evaluates the matter against its Prioritisation Principles to decide what resources it should commit or what activity it should undertake.

The ASA stated that if further evidence could be provided it would investigate further. So I sent the following:

“They have listed 7 publications so that would be at least £117,285.74 for each publication, that would mean a spend of £9,523.80 per month per publication – that seems very highly unlikely!”

I mentioned a tabloid with a 78k rate card for a double page spread and it would be expected that this would be reduced as full amount is rarely paid. (This means that the maximum it would cost a company for a double page spread in a tabloid would be 78k). In addition it would be for the one product, here it would be shared with others and would not be a double page solely for one winner. NetMums and others ONLY do the competition where products are simply listed. E.g. NetMums Product of the Year coverage Listings for adverts like this show less than 3k for these online outlets.

So, the ASA investigated further and Product of the Year agreed to remove the claim. The decision by the ASA was announced as informally resolved today (20 October 2021).

Look out for my investigation into pay to play awards piece coming next week.

If you would like to know about ways to attract consumers and retain loyalty that don’t involve paying for awards please see The Complaining Cow services for businesses.

 

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Holidays and transport Latest News Legal Action Topical

CMA takes court action against rogue holiday traders

Today (18 October 2021) the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has filed proceedings against Truly Holdings (TH). It is “… requesting a court order that outstanding refunds be immediately repaid and that, going forward, customers who are entitled to a refund are repaid within 14 days.”

TH operates Teletext Holidays and sister company Alpharooms.com.

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TH signed an undertaking back in 26 May 2021 to refund package holidays cancelled during the pandemic.

On 16 September 2021 the CMA announced that it was considering taking legal action against TH. The CMA felt that TH had not made enough effort to pay all outstanding refunds to customers which should have been made by the end of August. In addition, any holidays booked and cancelled after their undertaking in May were to be repaid within the legal 14 days’ time frame.

But TH has not satisfied the CMA that they are doing enough. It recognised that although TH had “…paid back a significant number of customers within this 2-week period, too many have been left waiting longer for the refunds due to them.” This is in addition to the CMA finding that TH has also not done enough to repay customers who were still owed refunds before it gave the undertakings.

By September TH had still not paid back £600,000 of the £7.8 million it owed to package holiday customers. TH said this was due to not having current bank account details or that it was unable to refund back to the original payment due to purchases being more than a year old. This was not enough to satisfy the CMA.

The CMA wrote to TH threatening that it would take court action if it did not take “immediate steps to rectify the situation and to ensure that, in the future, customers who are entitled to a refund are repaid in the timeframe specified by law.”

Today the CMA has requested that due to the detriment being placed on customers that the legal action be expedited, but the court will decide the date of the hearing.

Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said:

“Companies must abide by consumer protection law and treat their customers fairly.

After engaging with Teletext Holidays extensively, we are now requesting a court order to make sure that the company immediately pays back the money it still owes to customers and refunds people within 14 days, going forward.

As a result of the CMA’s action to date, Truly Holdings has so far paid over £7 million owed to package holiday customers.”

At least the law is clear in this case unlike the investigation recently into Ryanair and BA only providing vouchers instead of full refunds during the pandemic.

This action by the CMA will hopefully provide consumers with some confidence that they will soon receive the refunds to which they are legally entitled.

Help with issues with holidays and flights

See What to do when your flight is delayed – the full guide gives you details on your rights and details of the cases above.

We need to show companies that they cannot run roughshod over consumers.

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All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights/travel

 

 

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More help, tips, consumer laws and advice on how to complain about loads of sectors in the best-selling book, How to Complain: The Essential Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!