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ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10
Advertising for EBS in various media referred to the fact that:
“EBS have being bringing mortgages home since 1935, that’s what makes them the ‘Mortgage Masters”.
The complainant considered that the advertising had the potential to mislead consumers. He said that on 1st July 2011, EBS Building Society ceased to exist. After being granted a banking licence, and demutualising, they became EBS Limited, a subsidiary of AIB. On 12 Sept 2016, EBS Limited re-registered as a designated activity company (d.a.c.) as required under the Companies Act 2014. The registered name of the legal entity then became EBS d.a.c.
The complainant considered that because of all the changes that had taken place in relation to the company name, the claim that “EBS have been bringing mortgages home since 1935 and that’s what makes EBS the mortgage masters” was misleading. He said that in his opinion the current owners should have indicated in their advertising that they had been in business since 2016.
The complainant reiterated that the current legal entity offering the product / service had only been in existence for 2 years and not since 1935 as indicated in their advertising and therefore the advertising was misleading.
The advertisers in providing substantiation for their use of the term “Mortgage Masters” referred to excerpts from “EBS LIMITED (formerly EBS Building Society) DIRECTORS’ REPORT AND ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENTS for the year ended 31 December 2011”. They said these documents had referred to the fact that all of EBS Building Society’s property and rights were legally transferred to EBS Limited in 2011 – this included intellectual property rights, and therefore, EBS Limited’s right to continue to refer to its ‘since 1935’ heritage.
The advertisers said that it was not true to say that EBS, in discharging statutory obligations under Irish Company law to change its designation to d.a.c. in 2016, lost the rights to its intellectual property or to refer to its heritage. They also pointed out that from a consumer’s perspective, there was no material impact resulting from either of these transitions. Customers were still being served by the same EBS staff, in the same EBS premises after the transitions.
In conclusion, the advertisers said that EBS continued to operate as a separate legal entity from AIB with a separate distribution network which maintained its own suite of mortgage products.
Complaint Not Upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted that the company name and legal status had changed since 2011, but that the company had inherited the goodwill attached to the company and its intellectual property. The Committee considered that the company were entitled to reference their inherited goodwill in their marketing communications. They noted that while the current company was indeed part of the AIB Group, their business practices remained separate and that the EBS continued to maintain its own suite of mortgage products distinct from that of the AIB Group.
The Committee concluded that the advertising was unlikely to materially mislead consumers and did not uphold the complaint.
No further action was required in this case.