Home / Blog / We’ve complained to the ASA about recent government advertising.

We’ve complained to the ASA about recent government advertising.

Alex Tait

Misleading political ads that aren’t deemed electoral are in the scope of the ASA. So we’ve decided to complain about this one.

The fact we can highlights the gaping hole in regulation for electoral ads which you can’t complain to anyone about! You can read it below. We’ll keep you posted as to the outcome of our complaint.

The advertising (we assume that tweets are in remit for HM Treasury just as they are for commercial advertisers) is misleading by omission (CAP Code 3.3). As background, there were a number of similar versions of this advertising intended to convey a message from HM Treasury regarding recently announced cuts. These inter alia took the form that can be seen in the attached (below) and e.g. expressed as ‘£4,500 in new tax and energy savings.’ There are three issues with this advertising that we bring to your attention:

1) The overall impression of this advertising, i.e. what the average consumer (not too conversant with the ins and outs of taxes and allowances) will likely take out from the advertising, is that they will save £4,500 from their tax and energy costs.  These are, apparently, ‘new tax and energy savings’, which would reasonably be interpreted as savings that one might make from current commitments. If the advertising intends to explain recently announced savings from increased energy costs, it doesn’t do so. There are no qualifications, no links to further information. We suggest this is misleading by omission.

2) Not all of the announced provisions have been through parliament; at the time of writing there has already been a U-turn on one element of the tax cuts (the 45p higher rate) and if previous form is anything to go by, there could be others. Again, no qualifications, no explanations.

3) The large part of the savings (£2,500) relate to a relatively small group of people, i.e a ‘typical’ family moving into ‘a semi-detached property.’ The average price of a semi-detached property in the UK in 2021 was £277,459 (UK House price index), indicating that many such properties would be above the qualifying threshold. Additionally, in the first six months of this year, just some 172,510 people moved house (Halifax research) and in 2022, there were some 400k first-time buyers. Reasonable estimates might suggest that the group identified as benefiting from the £2,500 stamp duty adjustment (yet to be approved as far as we are aware) might be some 200k people, yet the tweet (headline) implies much wider application. 

Reform Political Advertising is largely concerned with the regulation (or lack of it) of electoral advertising, which you will be aware is not in remit. We assume that the advertising identified here will be in remit, per various precedents of review of government departments’ advertising. It seems clear that this advertising is not an objective announcement by the Treasury of approved policies, but an attempt to set out a governmental case and a highly misleading one at that.

We need your help to continue our campaign to prevent lies in electoral advertising. Please read how you can support our campaign here. We are making significant progress.

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