The invitation addressed personally to consumers by post invited them to avail of a free health screening and provided the following information:
“Your FREE† screening to help you avoid Stroke
Also; vital organ checks for heart, liver & kidney disease, brain (stroke and vascular dementia) risks and FREE GP Helpline.”
The dagger sign beside the word ‘Free’ was linked to the following information on the second page of the mailing:
Freephone today and help get peace of mind
It’s easy to put things off but you need to call to accept our invitation – call now before the 24 allocated appointments are booked. You will save €171 and get your FREE† test and FREE† access to our GP Helpline when booking your €149 package.
Don’t miss out – Freephone 1800 … now …”
The complainant queried how the screening could be described as ‘Free’ if she had to pay to avail of the offer. She considered the advertising to be misleading.
The advertisers rejected the assertion that their advertising was misleading and made the following points in response to the complaint:
• The headline of the letter employed the dagger † symbol to draw reference to the footnote on side two of the letter where it explained that the tests were free when booking the package of tests
• They believed the font size of the footnote which was 9pt rendered it legible
• They further explained in the final paragraph on side 2 of their mailing that customers could "…save €171 plus get your FREE† test and FREE† access to their GP Helpline when booking your €149 package."
• Again, they said the final paragraph used the dagger symbol to reference the footnote and make it clear to the consumer that the test was free when booking the package.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted the prominence of the reference to “Your FREE screening” and considered that while an asterisk was included, the qualification to the offer of a free service was not significantly prominent and was therefore in breach of Section 3.25 of the Code.
The advertisement must not run in its current form again.