The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has ruled in a case involving an aggrieved customer of Guardian Recovery Limited, (GRL) a debt collection agency. Two elements to GRL’s advertising proved problematic: firstly, a fax received stating the existence of “110% money back guarantee”, and secondly, the claim on the Services tab of the GRL’s website which stated that “the services of our legal team can be utilised without incurring the often unnecessary expense of a separate firm of solicitors or a barrister.“
In both instances, ASA found the unqualified advertisements likely to mislead consumers. The 110% money back guarantee did direct consumers to the website for more information, which confirmed that GRL guaranteed to contact the debtor a minimum of 75 times over 128 days and applied only to ‘good debt’, i.e. debt that was not subject to dispute resolution or mediation between debtor and creditors. ASA found that these conditions, amongst others, were likely to affect a potential client’s decision to pursue outstanding debt using GRL. Additionally, “full legal support services” was included in fees, but GRL clarified that from time-to-time, after reviewing a potential legal claim it may recommend clients seek independent legal advice. ASA found that the statement implied that GRL’s legal team, and therefore the legal services included in the charge, were able to perform all services which might be offered by a firm of solicitors or a barrister, and the fact that this might not always be the case had not been made sufficiently clear.
ASA informed GRL that the fax and web page must not appear again in their current form. GRL were told to ensure the limits of any money back guarantee were made clear and to make clear that there may be circumstances in which external legal representation might be needed.