The Home Office has slated an Advertising Standards Authority ruling which has outlawed a radio that claimed that all EU citizens would need to do to apply to stay in the UK after Brexit was “your passport or ID card and to complete an online form”.
The ban was sparked by a single complaint over the ad, devised by FCB Inferno. The complainant understood that in some cases applicants also needed to provide proof of address covering the previous five years, and challenged whether the ad was misleading.
In response to the ASA inquiry, the Home Office insisted the ad was part of a wider campaign promoting awareness of the EU Settlement Scheme.
It believed the ads accurately described the key elements of the application process in which a passport/ID card was required, and completion of an online form, which included capture of basic details, evidence of residence in the UK and a criminal record declaration.
The Home Office told the watchdog it was not possible to include all aspects of the application process in a short ad, and listeners were directed to the scheme’s website where there was more detailed information. The dedicated website page had seen more than 5 million page views, the Home Office claimed.
In its ruling, the ASA ruled that the proportion of people asked to submit further documents was higher than what the audience was likely to believe from listening to the ad.
It 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.”
It concluded: “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.”
The ASA rejected the government’s defence and ruled the ad must not be broadcast again in the same format. It also told the Home Office that, in future, ads must make clear that applicants may need to provide additional documents.
Responding to the ruling, the Home Office told the BBC: “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.”
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