ASA bans British Insurance direct mailer

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a direct mailing promotion from income protection specialists British Insurance, for being misleading.

The mailing said: "Thank you for your recent online application for insurance, which was incomplete and therefore cannot be accepted. If you would like to re-apply, please go to where you will find full details ... ". The ad went on to promote British Insurances protection insurance.

A complainant challenged whether the direct mailing was likely to mislead, because it was not clear it was a marketing communication and she had believed it was related to an application for insurance she had recently made whereas that was not the case.

British Insurance said the mailing had been sent as the direct result of an incomplete application, submitted via its website. The direct mailing was sent out when customers entered their name and address online, even if they did not provide any other information.

British Insurance believed the direct mail was not misleading because it was not a marketing communication but correspondence with an existing customer.

The ASA noted British Insurance's argument that the direct mailing was intended as private correspondence with a customer with whom they had an existing relationship. It said: "We noted British Insurance had sent evidence, which they believed showed that the complainant had submitted some of her details to the British Insurance website. However, the complainant had not completed an application and said she had never knowingly contacted British Insurance. The recent application for insurance she had made was not for payment protection insurance but for car insurance with a different company. Regardless of whether the evidence sent by British Insurance was genuine or not, we considered that if a consumer had entered a name and address on a website but had not completed or submitted the application, they had not become a customer.

"Because we had not seen evidence that the mailing was sent to a customer with whom British Insurance had an existing relationship, or who had made a purchase from them, we considered it was a marketing communication. We also considered that the direct mailing, in particular the text "Thank you for your recent online application for insurance", was likely to mislead, because it was not clear that it was a marketing communication and because it could also imply that any insurance application made by the recipient might not have gone through. We conclude that the direct mailing was misleading."

The ASA ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form. It told British Insurance to ensure that marketing communications were designed and presented in such a way that it was clear that they were marketing communications.


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