Age UK complaints about 'denigratory' adverts upheld

Advertising Standards Authority says adverts for walk-in baths on trading company's website cast doubt on the charity's integrity and must be taken down

Advertising Standards Authority
Advertising Standards Authority

The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld complaints made by Age UK about advertisements from a trading company that the charity said were "misleading and denigratory".

Age UK works with the manufacturing company Handicare to provide products such as walk-in baths and stairlifts, with a proportion of the profits going to Age UK.

The charity made nine complaints about adverts in the national press and text on the website of The Walk in Bath Trading Company that said the company’s walk-in baths were half the price of Age UK’s.

The company’s website featured a letter from one its clients, Mrs Simmonds. The letter was critical of another walk-in bath company and was placed below a box containing text that referred to Age UK.

Text above the letter on the website questioned whether Mrs Simmonds’ complaint about the bath would get very far given the merger of Help the Aged and Age Concern, which formed Age UK.

Age UK complained that the adverts were "misleading and denigratory to them".

Wibtrac said in its response that it frequently received enquiries from people who had also been in touch with Age UK.

The ASA upheld all of Age UK’s complaints and ruled that the adverts had breached various advertising codes and should not appear again in their current form.

It said the adverts discredited Age UK and its customer services by suggesting that it would not address complaints made by people who were customers of Age Concern and Help the Aged before they merged to become Age UK.

The ASA said that where the website referred to "companies that give the impression they are a charity", and made negative comments about such organisations, people were likely to understand that these claims referred to Age UK. This was because of the specific mentions of Age UK elsewhere on the site.

It ruled that the adverts "cast doubt on the integrity of Age UK and their trading practices, as well as their charitable status".

Mike Jenkins, managing director of Wibtrac, told Third Sector the company did not agree with the ASA’s decision to uphold all of the complaints, but it had changed the adverts.

"I felt we were a small company that was being bulldozed by a bigger organisation," he said.

Helena Brett, head of trading at AgeUK, said it was pleased with the ASA’s decision.

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