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William Hill rapped by ASA for misleading adverting

12th December 2012 9:49 am GMT

The UK Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint against UK bookmaker William Hill for three adverts which were found to be misleading for making claims about the odds available during various sporting events.

Two ads on sports.williamhill.com and a TV ad made claims about the odds available during various sporting events.

One web ad stated: “BEST PRICES ON THE BEST HORSES BET NOW” and “ROYAL ASCOT SATURDAY 23RD JUNE 2012.” Another web ad stated: “EURO 2012 BEST PRICES ON THE BEST TEAMS.”

The TV ad, which focused specifically on text betting, stated: “Best Odds Guaranteed on all UK & Irish Horse racing.”

One complainant challenged whether the two online ads were misleading and could be substantiated because he believed that better prices were available from other bookmakers.

A viewer also challenged whether the claim ‘Best Odds Guaranteed on all UK & Irish Horse racing’ in the TV ad was misleading for the same reason.

In its defence, William Hill said information that explained the basis of the ‘Best Prices on the Best Horses’ claim was included on the main betting page, within the horse racing category on the sports page and in various other places throughout the site.

The company was unable to provide the terms or key information relating to “Best Prices on the Best Teams”, but stated that that information would have been presented in a similar way to the previous claim and that there would certainly have been clarity provided on the website.

William Hill said information regarding ‘Best Odds Guaranteed’ was contained on their website and provided a screen shot taken from the site. The company believed that the claim had been used for some time in the industry and that the phrase ‘terms apply’ was an accepted form of wording to direct viewers to further information about offers.

William Hill said that the company was aware that some consumers believed that the claim was a comparison with its competitors but felt it had taken steps to ensure that clarity was provided by making the basis of the claim clear and readily accessible on the website. The company did not believe it should be held responsible if consumers did not read and understand the information provided.

In its assessment on the first claim ‘BEST PRICES ON THE BEST HORSES BET NOW’, the ASA said that no qualifying text was included to explain the basis of the claim and therefore considered that consumers would understand it to mean that William Hill offered prices on horses running at Royal Ascot on Saturday 23 June 2012 that would not be bettered by their competitors.

“We understood that the claim was intended to refer to William Hill's commitment to provide the best prices (leading or matching the leading prices), on those horses that typically finished in the top three, during the Ascot race meeting,” said the ASA. “However, we had not seen comparative information regarding the prices offered by William Hill and their competitors for any horses at that meeting.”

The ASA therefore concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was likely to mislead, thereby breaching CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.38 (Comparisons).

Similarly, the ASA also upheld the complaint against the second claim ‘BEST PRICES ON THE BEST TEAMS’ for the same reasons.

Finally, the ASA acknowledged that ‘Best Odds Guaranteed’ was a commonly used industry term and considered that it was in effect a guarantee, in this case from William Hill, that customers would receive whichever was better; the price when they placed their bet or the Starting Price.

“However, we noted that the ad appeared on terrestrial television channels and we considered that most viewers of those channels would not be familiar with ‘Best Odds Guaranteed’,” said the ASA. “We considered that those without knowledge of the industry would interpret the claim to mean that the odds available from William Hill would not be bettered by other bookmakers.”

The ASA noted that the ad provided numbers to which viewers could send text messages to begin betting, and considered that they could not therefore have been expected to have read the information about ‘Best Odds Guaranteed’ on the website, particularly as the ad did not direct them to the website.

“Furthermore, we considered that the offer when fully explained would contradict rather than clarify their understanding of the claim,” continued the ASA. “Because the intended meaning of the claim was unlikely to be understood by most viewers, we concluded that it was likely to mislead.”

On that point, the ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation) and 3.38 (Comparisons).

The ASA has told William Hill that the ads must not appear or be broadcast again in their current form, and to ensure that future ads did not imply that their odds could not be bettered by other bookmakers, if that was not the case.

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