Business Latest News

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.

medal winner

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.


ADR Ombudsman Business Latest News

ADR – all about it for World Ombudsman Day

Today (14 October 2021) is World Ombudsman Day. The theme for this year is “Exploring Options to Resolve Conflict Together”.

There are many myths around an Ombudsman and other Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes. And it is not just consumers who get confused. This is partly due to the current system of oversight and monitoring.

For the last six years I have been researching and reporting on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). From explaining what it is all about through to investigating and reporting on oversight of approval and monitoring to breaking stories and interviews.

Ombudsmen are ADR providers but with higher standards.

In an exclusive interview with me, the former CEO of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (responsible for approving and monitoring ADR providers), Leon Livermore, said that “There should be one standard across all schemes. This should be open to challenge and be consulted on. It happens to be in this case that the OA’s standards sit higher than the CTSI and so it should be that one which is the starting point.”

But let’s start at the beginning and for World Ombudsman’s Day I’ll bring together my research and work on ADR:

Ombuds Research lists all respected and recognised academic ombudsman related research. It lists works from 2009 – 2018.

Timeline for posts and articles on explanation, research, investigation and news on ADR and Ombudsmen

9 July 2015 The ADR Directive and Ombudsman Omnishambles explanation of the ADR Directive and the delay in implementing it.

07 August 2015 discussing the new ADR directive on You and Yours predicting issues that did indeed arise not least the confusion for consumers.

Ombudsman Omnishambles discussed on You and Yours Radio 4


17 August 2015 Alternative Dispute Resolution: What it all means – explanation of the different areas of ADR.

Report cover CDRL, CTSI, CAA, OA, Dean Dunham,

26 June 2016 Ombudsman Omnishambles: New report exposes serious failings in ombudsman approval and oversight – Since 1 October 2015 a new privatised system of ombudsmen has been available for consumer complaints in areas such as retail and aviation. Consumers expect an ombudsman to be independent, open & transparent and to abide by the rules of its trade body. However the report by Marcus Williamson and myself shows otherwise.

20 October 2016 Ombudsman chaos continues – Even on Conflict Resolution Day – article outlining the lack of public knowledge and understanding of ADR and chaos in the sector as providers are not approved and monitored appropriately.

02 November 2016 Ongoing Ombudsman Omnishambles – failures in ADR – issues and what needs to be done about monitoring and approval of ADR providers.

06 July 2017 The Retail Ombudsman is no more as title is lost – The private company, set up in 2015 to provide dispute resolution for consumers, has lost the right to use the respected title of “Ombudsman”.

01 November 2017 Rail Ombudsman is finally coming down the tracks – consultation closing soon – given little to no media coverage the article outlines the importance of this new ombudsman.

Report cover CDRL, CTSI, CAA, OA, Dean Dunham,

28 February 2018 Government & regulators continue to fail consumers – Article about the follow up report “More Ombudsman Omnishambles – 20 months on“, to OO written by Marcus Williamson and myself report that exposed serious failings in the UK ADR system.


23 April 2018 Landing in court with Ryanair (what you need to know!) – the issues with CAA and ADR and Ryanair and legal action.

05 August 2018 Got the Ryanair blues? This is how to claim compensation – my article for The Financial Times regarding claiming refunds from Ryanair and referring to the Which? article criticising AviationADR.

15 November 2018 Presentation on ADR at the Westminster Business Forum.

How approval bodies are failing to properly approve and monitor Alternative Dispute Resolution -

25 November 2018 5 Ombudsman myths busted – explaining common consumer (and sometimes those who work in the consumer space!) misconceptions.

30 January 2020 Ombudsman systems needs urgent shake-up says APPG – (MSE) funded an APPG Inquiry and the report which builds on much research into the Alternative Dispute Resolution sector. It makes several recommendations previously called for by MSE, Citizens Advice Bureau and consumer campaigners Marcus Williamson of and myself.

31 July 2020 Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) gets new Chairman – criticism of the decision to recruit a Chairman with no experience in customer-facing environments, no experience in the commercial aviation sector and no background in consumer law. This in the middle of a pandemic where consumers are being failed by airlines.

07 October 2020 International Ombuds Day – what does the Ombudsman do? – Explanation of an Ombudsman.

07 October 2020 CAA launches consultation and tells no-one… – I break the story that the CAA launches a consultation and doesn’t tell stakeholders.

22 October 2020 Ryanair tops the CAA refund complaints figures – FOI response shows how poor Ryanair is and how CAA is failing consumers.

16 December 2020 CMA steps in where the CAA fears to tread – describes how the CMA ha stepped in to undertake the CAA’s work.

18 March 2021 Civil Aviation Authority consults on dispute resolution – consultation responses where consumer groups call for a single ombudsman in the sector. Criticism of the CAA and the whole process.

18 June 2021 Leon Livermore former CTSI CEO talks to Helen Dewdney Part 2 – Leon Livermore was the CEO of the CTSI for almost 8 years, until March 2021. The CTSI was heavily criticised in the OO and MOO reports. In this part of the interview we spoke about ADR. He agreed that the Ombudsman Association’s standards were higher than CTSI, that there should be a fit and proper person test and agreed that ADR should be mandatory. See link for more and the Zoom interviews.

30 September 2021 ADR: A Government consultation – which provides ADR related details of the Government’s consumer paper for a consultation ending 1 October 2021 entitled Reforming Competition and Consumer Policy. ADR falls within the section of Consumer Law Enforcement.

30 September 2021 My responses to the Reforming Competition and Consumer Policy Consultation Download.