Global runs a music singles chart titled “The Official Big Top 40” on the website www.bigtop40.com. The OCC complained the claim was misleading on the basis that Global was not the “official chart provider”, and challenged whether it could be substantiated. Global responded that it is “the UK’s biggest chart show by consumption” (and had been for many for years), and “could thus legitimately claim to be the most authoritative chart“.
Global contended that no music chart took its status from, or was “authorised, endorsed or approved by the UK government, the Crown or under statute” and, accordingly, there was “no ‘official’ source of pop music charts“. Moreover, it argued that the word “official” had “no single fixed or universal meaning and was always context for the meaning it conveyed” and further that “it was open to any entity to use [the term ‘official’] to vouch for the authenticity and status of its products and services“. It asserted “that no consumers had complained to the ASA that their use of “official was misleading“.
The ASA considered that a “substantial proportion of the average consumer class” which was “reasonably well informed, reasonably observant and circumspect” was “likely to understand that the ‘The Official Big Top 40′” was the only official chart, being endorsed by a body representing the majority of the music industry”. It referenced the fact that the OCC was jointly owned by two trade bodies (the British Phonographic Industry and the Entertainment Retailers Association), and had used the term “official” since 1969. While Global’s ad did not identify a third-party body, the ASA found that its use of “The Official” was likely to denote such endorsement, and this “had not been substantiated [by Global]”. As such, it concluded that the claim “The Official Big Top 40 was misleading (or was likely to mislead consumers)“, and was in breach of rules 3.1, and 3.50 of the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
The ASA ruled that “the ad must not appear again in its current form“, Global must not mislead by suggesting “their music chart was the official chart“, and must not otherwise use the term ‘official’ in a claim without explaining what they meant. Global has since amended its website to refer to “The UK’s biggest chart show” and “Official Big Top 40 from Global“.
Why this matters:
The ASA’s ruling shows that businesses should be wary of using the word ‘official’ in a claim, so that the average consumer is likely to understand the claim as being endorsed by a third-party body. Businesses should ensure that such claims are substantiated so that consumers are not misled. Additionally, this ruling serves as a reminder that competitors of businesses, not just consumers, may complain to the ASA.