IVA firm fails to gag watchdog over TV ads

Debt Free Direct’s att-empts to delay the Advertising Standards Authority’s publication of complaints about its TV advertising have bombed.

Earlier this year, Mortgage Strategy revealed that the ASA had received a complaint from at least one member of the public about claims made in DFD’s advertising campaign.

DFD had itself complained about a number of rival individual voluntary arrangement providers’ adverts, but consistently refuted allegations made against its own.

However, the ASA upheld the complaints with a view to publishing an adjudication detailing them. DFD’s request that the ASA delay the publication pending a review was refused by the ASA’s director-general, Christopher Graham.

The IVA provider went to the High Court with an application for a judicial review to stop the ASA upholding the claims, but after an initial hearing, the court ruled that the complaints should stand.

The judge ruled that there was no reason to prevent the publication of the ASA’s adjudication, which was in the public interest. He also said DFD was guilty of serious non-disclosure of key correspondence when it sought the original injunction.

Graham says: “In recent months, we have investigated six complaints by DFD about its competitors’ adverts, yet it sought to stifle publication of a ruling against its own campaign.

“Transparency is key to our effectiveness as a regulator and this judgement serves as a warning to others who try and prevent the publication of our rulings.”

A spokesman for DFD says: “We have always stood for the ethical delivery of debt advice and solutions. During the course of our talks with the ASA, and on the basis that we wish to focus on a constructive agenda, we ag-reed to change our advert to accommodate its wishes.

“Given this, we are disappointed the ASA felt it necessary to proceed to formal adjudication.”