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04/03/2020

‘Anti Corona Virus’ face mask ads banned by ASA

Subject: Selling and marketing/Advertising Standards Codes

Source: Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)

In February 2020, Easy Shopping 4 Home Ltd offered for sale on www.amazon.co.uk“Coronavirus Anti Corona Virus Vented Face Mask 3M Disposable Respirator, FFP3, Valve, 8835 (1)”.

Another advertisement seen via the Taboola network and on www.thescottishsun.co.uk in February 2020 referred to an image of a woman wearing a face mask covering her nose and mouth with text stating ‘New Nano Tech Face Mask is Selling Out Fast in United Kingdom” and ‘OXYBREATH PRO’ linked to a landing page. The link led to a page on www.breakthroughtrend.com which resembled a news article and stated ‘This New Nano Tech Face Mask is Selling Out Fast in United Kingdom = Southwark”. Further text stated “Why United Kingdom = Southwark Residents are in a Mad Rush to Get this Face Mask … The World Health Organization has recently declared the China coronavirus a global health emergency….. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to get a high quality facemask that can protect you from: viruses, bacteria [sic], and other air pollutants.’

               

The ASA on its own initiative challenged whether the advertisements were misleading, irresponsible and scaremongering. Neither advertiser responded to the ASA's enquiries.

The ASA considered consumers would understand the reference to “coronavirus” in the context of a listing for face masks to mean that the products could help protect them from being infected by the coronavirus. It noted that Public Health England did not recommend the use of face masks as a means of protection from coronavirus and that there was very little evidence of widespread benefit from their use outside of clinical settings, and that prolonged use of masks was likely to reduce compliance with good universal hygiene such as frequent hand washing and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth. The ASA considered that the reference to “coronavirus” in the listing was likely to exploit people’s fears regarding the coronavirus outbreak.

The ASA ruled that the advertisements were misleading, irresponsible and likely to cause fear without justifiable reason, and breached the CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  1.3 (Social responsibility), 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 4.2 (Harm & offence).

Another ruling relates to a Facebook page and the website for CustomWritings.com, an essay writing service, seen on 22 September 2019. The Facebook page showed a photograph of a young woman above the text "No time to complete the essay? Order a custom paper now and submit it on time!". A complainant challenged whether the ads were misleading because he believed the advertising implied that students could submit an essay they had bought as their own,

In their response, Freelance Ltd t/a CustomWritings.com cited the Terms of Use section of their website which stated under ‘Plagiarism’ that: ‘We reserve the right to cancel any agreement, contract or arrangement with any person who condones or attempts to pass any Products as their original work’ and ‘You may not put Your name on any Product. All Products and/or any other written materials delivered by us to You are for research and/or reference purposes only. We do not condone, encourage, or knowingly take part in plagiarism or any other acts of academic fraud or dishonesty. We strongly adhere to and abide by all copyright laws and will not knowingly allow any Client to commit plagiarism or violate copyright laws’.

The ASA considered the text suggested that students who were unable to submit an essay of their own on time could order one to be written by One Freelance which they could submit in their own name within the deadline and without risk of repercussions. The ASA found that the disclaimer text was small and faint in comparison with the wording elsewhere, the pages were long and detailed and readers were therefore unlikely to see it. Even if they had read it, the ASA considered the disclaimers were insufficient to counteract the impression readers would receive from the rest of the website. The ASA concluded that the advertisements and breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and  3.3 (Misleading advertising).

 

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