The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned two misleading TikTok posts by a law firm for not making clear that the people featured were not genuine clients.
Dorset firm TMS Legal, which specialises in financial claims, said the two paid-for posts were released by mistake.
The first post showed a cheque for £3,543, with a narrator saying: “Did you buy your car on finance through the lender Moneybarn before the year 2019? So I just got £3,543 cheque. If you are like me and struggled to make your car payments to Moneybarn, you may have been mis-sold the loan and you are eligible for a refund.”
The second post featured a video of a man who said: “Did you have your credit limit increased by Vanquis?”
The video then showed a cheque for £4,121 and the man continued: “So I got this £4,121 cheque. If you are like me and Vanquis raised your credit limit and you struggled to make monthly payments, you may have been mis-sold and are eligible for a refund.”
Vanquis Banking Group complained to the ASA that the adverts were misleading, because they implied the testimonials featured were from genuine customers.
In response, TMS Legal admitted that they were not and the people in the videos were actors. It said both adverts were proactively removed in June.
The firm explained that its marketing agency, without TMS’s knowledge, prepared the adverts in an attempt to provide representative testimonials and average compensation sums that their customers received. But, due to an “internal oversight”, they were published in error.
“[TMS] explained that it was not a systemic issue, and acknowledged that the ads could be deemed misleading without qualification to explain that the individuals were actors rather than customers providing genuine testimonials.
“They stated that their internal systems had now been strengthened, to avoid the same thing happening again.”
The complaint was upheld – the Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing requires marketers to have documentary evidence that a testimonial or endorsement used in a marketing communication is genuine, unless it is obviously fictitious.
Further, claims that are likely to be interpreted as factual and appear in a testimonial must not mislead or be likely to mislead the consumer.
The ASA said “consumers would understand from the ads that the individuals were genuine customers”.
It went on: “We had not seen evidence to show that the sums represented in the cheques were average compensation sums paid to TMS Legal. However, because the ads gave the overall impression that the testimonials were genuine and the individuals in the ads had been paid the amounts advertised when that was not the case, we concluded that they were misleading.”
The ASA ordered that the adverts must not appear again in the form complained of. “We told TMS Legal Ltd to ensure that their future ads did not imply testimonials were genuine if that was not the case.”