Home Office radio ad on EU settlement scheme ‘misleading’ says ASA

The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint made against a radio advert for applicants to the government’s EU settlement scheme.

The advert on 13 April 2019 stated: “If you’re an EU citizen living in the UK, you will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. The scheme is fully open and you have plenty of time to apply. It is free, and all you need is your passport or ID card and to complete an online form. 

“Support is available if you have any questions. To find out more and to apply, visit gov.uk/eusettlementscheme. Irish citizens or those with valid indefinite leave don’t need to apply.”

But the ASA revealed this morning that a complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading, as they understood that in some cases applicants also needed to provide proof of address covering the previous five years.

In its response, the Home Office said that at no point was any applicant to the EU settlement scheme asked to provide proof of address as part of the application process, adding the radio ad was part of a wider campaign promoting awareness of the scheme and how to apply.

However, in its ruling the ASA said while they understood that the ad referred to the minimum documents that were required to complete the initial application form, it considered listeners would infer this to refer to the documents they would need to complete the entire process of applying for EU settled status.

The ASA added: “Listeners would likely understand that an official application process of this nature would always require some applicants to provide further information in exceptional cases. However, we understood that in 27% of decided adult cases, applicants had been asked to provide documents as evidence of residence. Furthermore, some applicants were also asked for other documents, such as evidence of a family relationship. 

“While we acknowledged that applicants were not required specifically to submit ‘proof of address’ (as referenced by the complainant), some were required to submit further documents beyond those stated in the ad. 

“We considered that the actual proportion who were asked to submit further documents was likely to go beyond what the audience was likely to understand from the claim. In that context, we considered that the ad did not make sufficiently clear that, in some cases, applicants would need to supply documents beyond their passport or ID card.”

Consequently, the ASA ruled the advert was misleading and must not be broadcast again in the form complained about. The ASA also told the Home Office to ensure it made it sufficiently clear that some applicants to the EU Settlement Scheme would need to provide additional documents beyond their passport or ID card.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We completely disagree with ASA’s decision. The campaign was factual and complied with all necessary clearance processes for radio advertising.

“The campaign has had a positive impact and encouraged more than one million successful applications so far.

“The scheme is free, straightforward, and EU citizens and their family members have plenty of time to apply. All they need to apply is their passport or ID card and to complete an online form.”

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