A YouTube campaign designed to get consumers to make a claim for holiday sickness by using a spoof news report to reveal there had been a “staggering” 351,000 deaths from foodborne illness, has been battered by the ad watchdog.
The video by Claims Legal, trading as Holidaysicknessclaims.co.uk, quoted World Health Organisation figures that showed out of the total number of deaths from foodborne illness, 52,000 people had died from contact with salmonella bacteria. The “report” outlined symptoms for viewers.
It urged anyone with sickness after a package holiday to contact Claims Legal, not just to claim compensation but also to be “formally recorded for the purpose of statistical analysis”. The company said European regulations now offered greater protection for holidaymakers, and that the burden of proof “lies ultimately with the tour operator”.
However, the campaign did not go down too well at ABTA, which complained to the Advertising Standards Authority that the video quoted global fatality figures which were unrelated to holiday sickness.
It challenged whether the video misleadingly suggested consumers contact the company other than to make a claim, and it questioned whether the burden of proof assertion could ultimately be substantiated.
In response, Claims Legal said it had received no complaints about any of its advertising but agreed the possibility the message “might on some occasions have been misconstrued”. The clip has already been removed from its YouTube account and will not be repeated.
It insisted that WHO was a credible source and the video made the point that foodborne illness was a serious issue. It denied any consumer would be misled by appeals for data and pointed to recent court wins for claimants in which the defendants could not prove they had not caused illness.
The ASA said in these cases it was established that claimants must prove contamination to secure damages and the burden of proof assertion could not be substantiated. There was no justification to encourage consumers to contact the company simply for some form of official statistical analysis, and the use of WHO figures was misleading as they were not specific to holiday sickness.
The ASA added: “We told Claims Legal to ensure they held adequate evidence to substantiate objective claims in future. We told them not to mislead about: the number of deaths related to holiday sickness; their role in the analysis of statistics in relation to holiday sickness; and about the level of protection afforded to consumers and the likelihood of their claim succeeding.”
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