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Advertiser: Ancestry Ireland Unlimited Company
Medium: Direct Marketing
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10
The email stated:
“Uncover your backstory. Publican, Labourer, Jeweller, Soldier?
Discover where your family used to live and work, starting with our UK census collection.
Search a wealth of trade-specific records. Did someone in your family call ‘last orders’? Find out in our Licensed Victuallers records. Maybe one of your relatives traded silks and spices through the East India Company? Was there was a soldier in the family? Explore our Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records. SEARCH NOW”
The complainant said that they received an email from Ancestry UK stating that if your ancestry were from a certain occupation, you could search their records, including those of the Royal Hospital Chelsea for soldiers.
The complainant said that to access the Chelsea records, a separate subscription (at a further charge) to a sister website, Fold 3, was required. This was not mentioned in the email.
The advertiser confirmed that the email was sent to their customers who had consented to receiving marketing material. They said the particular set of records that the complainant complained about, namely Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records, could be searched on the Ancestry website. They said a customer would be able to view a selected amount of information on the Ancestry website in the form of an ‘index’. They said that as their email indicated that one could ‘search’ these records, they did not feel that the advertisement itself was misleading.
They said they appreciated that it might have been confusing for customers, as to click on the actual image and ‘view’ the actual image, one would require an ‘All Access’ or a Fold3 membership.
They said they would ensure that this clarification was made clear in any future advertisements and that this advertisement in question would not appear in its current form again.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
The Committee noted that while customers could view a selected amount of information on the Ancestry website in the form of an ‘index’, a separate subscription was required to view the records. While the Committee considered that an offer to search records would provide consumers with information on the records that were held, it did not mean that consumers would be able to view the individual records. However, the claim in relation to the Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records was to ‘explore’ the records, without qualification. They considered that the use of the word ‘explore’ in the advertising had the potential to mislead consumers as it may lead them to believe that the facility being provided would allow them to both search and explore records, that is, view the individual records. As this was not the case and as the advertising had not made it clear that a separate subscription was required to view the records, the Committee considered that the advertisement was in breach of Code sections 4.1 and 4.4.
No further action required as the advertisement will not appear in its current format again.