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Astroforce Ltd t/a Maria Duval
Unit 2
Langsmead
Brindley Heath
Surrey
RH7 6JT


Media: Direct mail
Sector: Direct marketing lists
Complaint from: Tyne and Wear
Complaint: Sunderland Trading Standards department objected to a mailing sent to an 86-year-old woman. The mailing was headed “Maria Duval. A clairvoyant and spirit medium …”. It stated “After reading your file … the chance to resolve all your-present problems and difficulties … I’m going to … send you your: “SECRET INSTRUCTIONS” … By carefully following my “Secret Instructions”, XXXX, [recipient’s first name] just look what could soon be coming your way … MONEY! … LOVE! … find your dream partner or win back … a long-lost love … LUCK! … a brand new higher paid job … an unexpected promotion …”. The last page of the mailing comprised an order form headed “PRIORITY HELP VOUCHER”. The complainants objected that the mailing implied that:
1. the “Secret Instructions” booklet would be sent free of charge, whereas it cost £16.45;
2. the advertiser had carried out a study on the recipient; and
3. a purchaser who followed the advice in the booklet could positively influence her life, love and finances.
(Ed 9: 3.1 , 6.1 , 7.1 , 16.1 )
Adjudication:
1. Complaint upheld
The advertisers said they had not claimed the “Secret Instructions” were free; they offered a free gift of a “Luck Reserve Booster”. They believed that to offer a free gift as an incentive to buy a product was a convention understood by the public but offered to distinguish in future between the charged-for “Secret Instructions” booklet and the free “Luck Reserve Booster”. The Authority considered that claims such as “…I [have] decided to send you this Free Study and to offer you, again FREE OF CHARGE THE OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME …” misleadingly implied that the ‘Secret Instructions’ would be free of charge. It noted the letter did not state the cost of the booklet and the order form did not state the offer of the free item relied on the purchase of the booklet. The Authority recommended the advertisers to change the claim that referred to a free study and make clear the conditions in both the letter and the order form if they intended to use the mailing again.
2. Complaint upheld
The advertisers asserted that the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Copy Advice team cleared the mailing; CAP had no record of that. The advertisers said the mailing house had used the term “your file” by mistake; the mailing should have read “your star sign”. They claimed they sent the mailing only to clients who had already given their name, address, date and place of birth and they had done an astrological study for recipients; they did not show that the “Secret Instructions” were personalised. The Authority noted the advertisers had not shown that the product was unique to the recipient. It considered that the phrase “your file” suggested that the advertisers had more detailed information about recipients than they had shown they possessed. The Authority concluded that the phrase was misleading but that references to “your star sign” could be acceptable if the advertisers could show the mailing was sent only to those whose date of birth they knew. It asked the advertisers to ensure the right mailing was sent out in future.
3. Complaint upheld
The advertisers claimed the rituals in the book seemed to give confidence to readers and explained that much of the book was common-sense advice on facing life’s problems. They said they offered a full refund if the reader was disappointed for any reason. The Authority considered that to imply readers would be more fulfilled, both emotionally and financially, by topping up their ‘luck reserves’ and following the advice in the booklet was unacceptable. It noted the booklet included formulae for prosperity, instructions for winning games of chance and secret instructions for love. The Authority asked the advertisers to consult the CAP Copy Advice team before re-distributing the mailing.

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