HomeServe guilty of scare tactics

HomeServe, the insurance and maintenance company which recently suspended all marketing amid claims of misselling, has been found guilty of using scare tactics in a mailing campaign to promote its services.
The personalised direct mailing, for water supply maintenance cover, was headed “Information about your water supply responsibilities at (the recipient’s address). Text in the main body of the mailing stated that “water supply pipe emergencies may be complicated and expensive to fix, as the job may require some digging to locate the pipe. Finding someone reliable to do this in (recipient’s post code) area may be difficult”.
The mailing continued to provide information about the cover being offered. Prominent text in a box on the bottom of the first page of the mailing stated “call Homeserve free and reply by…”
But Age Concern objected to the Advertising Standards Authority that the ad used scare tactics to encourage people to take out the Water Supply Pipe Cover. It claimed it could cause elderly and vulnerable recipients distress by implying that it was their responsibility to take action by taking out the policy, when it was not.
In response, HomeServe maintained that the mailing accurately stated the responsibilities of the homeowner and the potential costs that one might incur in different circumstances.
However, the ASA considered that the overall impression provided by the mailing was that the individual recipient had a responsibility to act, when in fact it was the responsibility of the local water authority and banned the mailing.

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