The watchdog has ruled that a TV advert that boasted customers were “claiming tens of thousands of pounds” back for mis-sold mortgages was misleading.
The advert by Mortgage.Claims aired in December 2018 and January 2019 showed a couple discussing making a mortgage claim.
The woman said: “Guess what I’ve found out? We could be due tens of thousands of pounds.”
Woman: “The people at Mortgage.Claims have worked it all out. They find the mistakes, work out if we’ve been overcharged or mis-sold.”
Man: “I bet you only get a few hundred quid.”
Woman: “Actually, they’ve assessed over 20,000 mortgages and people are claiming tens of thousands of pounds.”
Three complainants including a mortgage broker challenged Mortgage.Claims, a trading name of ME Legal and Financial, to substantiate these claims.
The Advertising Standards Authority reviewed the evidence and found that Mortgage.Claims had been acting as an introducer to a law firm which had assessed 20,000 cases, however only nine had resulted in payouts of more than £20,000.
The watchdog found that the phrase “they’ve assessed over 20,000 mortgages and people are claiming tens of thousands of pounds” was likely to mislead viewers by mentioning the relevant numbers in direct succession.
The ASA says: “In light of that juxtaposition, we considered consumers would understand that a significant number of the 20,000 mortgage claims with which Mortgage.Claims had been involved had resulted in payment awards of over £20,000.”
The complainants also challenged whether the advert was misleading because it did not state customers’ claims would be handled by a law firm not mentioned in the advert, however the ASA did not uphold this part of their argument.
The ASA ruled the advert must not be broadcast again in its current form and told the firm that any future promotions must not “exaggerate the number of claimants who had received payment awards of over £20,000 after making a claim”.
ME Group chief executive Rob Cooper says: “Naturally we are disappointed with the ASA’s decision to partially uphold the complaint, as we had taken comprehensive steps before running the campaign to ensure our content was accurate and correct.
“At ME Group we take our compliance responsibilities extremely seriously and have made significant investment in our governance arrangements.”
He says that ME Group removed the ad as soon as the ASA notified the company that there had been a complaint and it is currently modifying the content in line with the ASA’s advice and is “happy to put that right”.
Cooper says the ASA’s ruling “acknowledged the important role we play to help consumers make a successful claim and our experience of assessing a very high number of mortgage cases and determining the likelihood of success”.
He adds: “The ASA’s key point was to contextualise the number of customers who had successfully settled claims, as opposed to having their claim assessed.
“However, we think it’s important to recognise that of the cases we have assessed as being entitled to compensation, almost all are still in the dispute resolution process.
“These cases are, therefore, in their early stages, which explains why we have assessed far more cases than have concluded.”