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Pensions company wins appeal over misleading advert

The Advertising Standards Authority has quashed a complaint which alleged pensions and technology company Smart Pension mislead consumers with its advertising material.

The ASA initially ruled in favour of a complainant last October, finding Smart Pension’s language “threatening” but announced it had reversed the decision today.

The complaint concerns a letter sent to new firms by Smart Pension advertising its auto enrolment compliance services.

The letter then encouraged businesses to “get compliant in minutes,” and that, using Smart Pension, “it takes just minutes to set up for free”.

The advertising had been prepared following a previous ruling against Smart Pension’s advertising.

The complainant against Smart Pension challenged whether the ad misleadingly suggested it was official communication on auto enrolment, whether it was likely to cause distress through use of threatening language, whether it was clearly identifiable as marketing material.

The ASA says the letter was posted to new firms in envelopes featuring two lines of text. One stated: “www.autoenrolment.co.uk – new rules apply to all UK employers” with the other line reading: “New regulation – marketing communication from Smart Pension.”

The advertising standards watchdog says both lines of text on the envelope held equal prominence and that it was therefore identifiable as marketing.

The letter was distributed close to the deadline for auto enrolment, encouraging the use of Smart Pension to ensure compliance by enrolling staff in a pension scheme.

It also included examples of sanctions imposed on firms for missing the deadline.

The ASA says: “We consider businesses were unlikely to be mislead about the nature of the ad and consider that businesses that has already enrolled their staff into a pensions scheme were unlikely to be caused distress by the references to the sanctions of failing to enrol staff.”

Distress was “not unjustified” for firms who received the letter but had yet to enrol staff in pension schemes, the ASA added.

It was concluded the letter in its whole was not misleading.

The ASA says: “Including the content of the letter and the envelope, we considered that the letter was identifiable a marketing communication and that, although it did mention regulatory matters, it would not be understood by the average consumer to be an official communication.

“We therefore concluded that, on those points, the ad was not misleading.”

JP Morgan invested an undisclosed sum in Smart Pension this week while Legal and General Investment Management also holds a minority stake.

The ASA says the Legal and General logo was also used on the envelopes containing the auto enrolment letters.

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