ASA Adjudication on Systek Marketing Group
Systek Marketing Group t/a
90 Long Acre
11 July 2012
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all were Upheld.
A website, www.prospectemail.net, seen in February 2012, offered marketing databases for sale. One web page was headlined "Horseracing Opportunity Seekers - Email addresses". The web page included a description of the product that stated "This opt-in e-mail list contains the names of people who are keen to pursue an opportunity to make money through betting on horses. These are enthusiasts with, usually, an in-depth understanding of form and the financial rewards that can be reaped from exploiting this knowledge. The list is suitable for those companies or individuals offering suitable horse racing opportunities".
The text continued with a note regarding the accuracy of the database, "All email addresses were verified within the last 3 months; individuals no longer looking for horseracing opportunities are automatically removed from the e-mail database".
The home page included text setting out the company's refund policy which stated "We want you to be happy with your list, and use it to obtain outstanding results; if you are dissatisfied, for whatever reason, we won't quibble and refund the purchase price in full. This policy applies to this offer and all other lists on our site, and is in place to guarantee complete peace of mind".
A complainant who purchased the list challenged whether:
1. the claim "This opt-in e-mail list contains the names of people who are keen to pursue an opportunity to make money through betting on horses. These are enthusiasts with, usually, an in-depth understanding of form and the financial rewards that can be reaped from exploiting this knowledge. The list is suitable for those companies or individuals offering suitable horse racing opportunities" was misleading as he believed some of the individuals whose details were on the list did not have an interest in horse racing;
2. the claim "All email addresses were verified within the last 3 months; individuals no longer looking for horseracing opportunities are automatically removed from the e-mail database" could be substantiated as he said a portion of the e-mail addresses were returned as undeliverable and therefore were inaccurate; and
3. the refund guarantee was misleading as he has not received a refund.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1 & 2. Systek Marketing Group (Systek) supplied their horseracing opportunity database which consisted of over 12,000 e-mail addresses. The advertiser then asked the ASA to check the accuracy of the list. In order to notify those on the database, Systek said that they had e-mailed the addresses on the database informing them to expect an e-mail from the ASA. The e-mail also asked recipients to respond if they were not a Horseracing Opportunity Seeker. Systek also told the ASA that they had e-mailed the Horseracing Opportunity Seekers database with a success rate of 99.4% due to the receipt of 77 'Mailer Daemon' or 'undeliverable messages'. The advertiser also stated that e-mail addresses only stayed on the list if they pro-actively confirmed they were horseracing opportunity seekers.
3. Systek asserted that the complainant had received a refund and supplied transaction details which they said confirmed this. The transaction appeared to predate the complaint to the ASA.
1 & 2. Upheld
The ASA noted that Systek held a database of over 12,000 e-mail addresses, and pointed out that it was the responsibility of the marketer to hold evidence to support the claims made in their advertising before they were published. We noted the complainant claimed that 28% of a sample of 175 e-mail addresses were returned as undelivered.
We selected a number of entries on the database to verify whether the e-mail addresses were active and belonged to horseracing enthusiasts. Although one recipient confirmed that they were a horseracing enthusiast, the majority of the replies received were returned as 'error', 'email address not found', 'recipient's mailbox is full', or in several cases we were contacted directly either by phone or e-mail by individuals who said they were not a horseracing enthusiast. Other recipients told the ASA that they had either not given permission to be listed on a database or that their e-mail address was an old one. These anomalies counted for approximately 25% of the total sample tested; we did not receive a response from the remainder of the sample.
Because of the high number of inaccurate e-mail addresses within the sample tested, we concluded that the claims made were likely to mislead consumers regarding the accuracy of the database.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
We acknowledged that the advertiser had supplied a document which appeared to support their claim that the complainant had received a refund. However, we noted civil action had been taken against the advertiser which found in favour of the complainant. We also noted that the advertiser claimed on their website that "if more than 0.5% of the emails you purchase are returned to you as 'undeliverable', we will refund the purchase price in full". On another page of their website they also claimed "if you are dissatisfied, for whatever reason, we won't quibble and refund the purchase price in full."
Because the complainant had been unable to obtain a refund directly from the advertiser, and the advertiser had submitted no other evidence to support their claim in relation to other customers who had requested and received a refund, the ASA concluded that the claim was likely to mislead.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.55 (Guarantees and After-sales Service).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We reminded Systek that the Code required marketers to deal fairly with consumers.