Who: Solitair Ltd (“Solitair“) and the Advertising Standards Authority (the “ASA“)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 27 May 2015
Law stated as at: 1 July 2015
Solitair, a travel company for singles, described itself as the “first choice for single travellers” on a flyer and brochure advertising its services. The ASA received two complaints that this misled the consumer to understand that it was the most popular travel agent for single travellers and had the highest sales in comparison to other singles travel companies, when in fact, Solitair had no basis for such a claim.
Solitair used the phrase “first choice for single travellers” as a registered trademark for its brand, and argued this was made clear in its marketing communications. Solitair’s brochure contained a disclaimer in the small print on the back stating that “first choice for single travellers” is used for “trademark purposes”. Further, Solitair pointed out that its terms and conditions contained the qualification that the “Solitair trademark does not imply to any sales or revenue”.
Implied comparison – misleading?
The ASA decided that the use of the trademark, even with the clarification on the back of the brochure and in Solitair’s terms and conditions, misled consumers. The phrase appeared to refer to the advertiser’s turnover, implying that Solitair had higher sales than its competitors, and this was likely to impact a consumer’s transaction decision. Therefore, the fact that the phrase did not refer to Solitair’s revenue or popularity, was material information that should have been presented in a more prominent manner on both advertising communications. The lack of such prominent clarification meant the advertiser was in breach of the advertising code.
Why this matters:
The ASA concluded that in future, Solitair should ensure that the trademark is accompanied by sufficiently clear and prominent information explaining that its use in ads does not imply higher turnover or more sales than other single traveller holiday companies.
This is the second time Solitair’s use of its trademark has fallen foul of the CAP Code and ruled to be misleading by the ASA. In July 2014, the ASA ruled that Solitair should include a prominently displayed disclaimer that the phrase “first choice for single travellers” was not a comparative claim implying they had a higher turnover and more unit sales from single travellers than its competitors.
The disclaimer included in Solitair’s brochure and in their terms and conditions this time round was clearly not regarded as sufficiently prominent. Solitair and other advertisers using phrases that could be seen as implying comparisons with competitors either need to be able to substantiate such claims or make it explicitly clear in their marketing communications that the phrase should not to be understood as a comparison. Further, such clarification must be presented so that it is noticeable, and not tucked away in terms and conditions or small print.