The Advertising Standards Agency has upheld a complaint against the Home Office in relation to its marketing of the (somewhat controversial) EU Settlement Scheme.
The EU Settlement Scheme has been introduced by the Government for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens (and family members) to apply to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. There have been recent concerns over the scheme as approximately 2 million EU citizens living in the UK have not yet registered.
The advert, which was aired on the radio on 13 April 2019, stated: “all you need to apply is your passport or ID card and to complete an online form”. A member of the public complained to the ASA on the basis that in some cases applicants were required to provide additional documentation not mentioned in the advert.
The ASA noted that it would be clear to listeners that in "exceptional cases" some applicants would be required to produce further documentation, but that as 27% of decided adult cases had been asked to provide further evidence of residency, this went beyond the exceptional cases.
The Home Office argued that it was not possible to include all aspects of the process in the short advert, but that it believed that it accurately described the "key elements" (i.e. that a passport/ID card was required and the applicant would need to fill out an online form). The Home Office further argued that listeners were directed to the website which enabled prospective applicants to get more information.
The ASA ruled that the potential requirement to provide further documentation was not sufficiently clear in the advert itself. It therefore ruled that the advert was misleading (in breach of BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2) and so must not be broadcast again in its current form.
The ruling is a useful reminder for all advertisers contemplating adverts that require consumer participation (i.e. the completion of an application form) that they must include enough information so that consumers are sufficiently clear about what is required of them. It will not be sufficient to simply link to a website. The ads themselves must have a sufficient level of information so that consumers are clear about their obligations.
Co-authored by Rachel Bowley