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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Advertising watchdog bans 'misleading' landlord insurance ad

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a radio advertisement for Direct Line Landlord Insurance because it has been judged to be misleading.

The advertisement features two characters discussing Direct Line’s insurance service. 

The first character stated, "You own this place?" The second responded, "Yes, and you are?" The first said, "Winston Wolf. Direct Line. So you're a landlord? A property magnate? A wise guy?" 

To which the second said, "I wouldn't go that far, it's just my wife's old flat." 

Winston Wolf then queried, "But you have Direct Line Landlord Insurance, right? After all, they'll pay to repair or replace your broken boiler as standard." 

The voice-over then stated, "Boiler cover as standard ... Boiler cover with buildings cover..."

The ASA received a complaint about this from an individual claiming that the majority of landlords who owned flats would not in fact qualify for boiler cover under Direct Line’s regulations because buildings insurance was usually arranged by the freeholder or managing agent, and not the landlord. 

UK Insurance Ltd, trading as Direct Line, said the definition of a landlord was an owner of land, buildings or dwellings. On that basis, under the terms of Direct Line’s landlord product, all landlords would be entitled to purchase buildings insurance and benefit from the boiler cover within the product. 

It said the complainant's concern appeared to lie in the distinction between leaseholder and freeholder. Direct Line said t was legally possible for a leaseholder to have buildings insurance but the firm did not use any of that terminology as a customer might be confused. 

Direct Line stated that its standard Landlord Insurance product consisted of both buildings cover and contents cover. Any landlord wishing to buy their product was able to choose whether to opt out of either the buildings element or the contents element as well being able to add optional extras such as employers’ liability, to meet individual requirements. 

The ASA understood that Direct Line insurance customers could opt out of buildings or contents cover depending on their personal circumstances, and that the free boiler cover was only available to those customers who purchased buildings cover. 

The ASA also understood that flat owners could be leaseholders or freeholders, and noted that over half of Direct Line’s customers, who had taken out buildings cover with them, were flat owners. 

It considered that the conversation between “Winston Wolf” and the man established that the man owned the flat and that he was eligible for Direct Line insurance. Therefore, the ad regulator considered that the offer, in and of itself, was legitimate as a number of flat owners would require buildings cover and would be eligible for free boiler cover.

The ASA noted that when “Winston Wolf” mentioned Direct Line Landlord Insurance, he stated “… they’ll pay to repair or replace your broken boiler as standard”, and that the voice-over opened with the claim “Boiler cover as standard”. 

The ASA considered listeners would understand from those claims that boiler cover was included with Direct Line Landlord cover generally, and would not be aware of any exclusions. The ad watchdog considered that that impression was contradicted by the voice-over towards the end of the ad, which stated, “Boiler cover with buildings cover”. 

It considered that the fact the boiler cover was only included for those purchasing buildings cover was significant information that could determine whether a listener decided to enquire further about the product, or applied for cover. Therefore, because the ASS considered that the ad did not make sufficiently clear that boiler cover was only included with buildings cover, it concluded that it was misleading, breaching BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising) and 3.10 (Qualification).

Direct Line was told that the ad must not be broadcast again in its current form.

The full ruling is here.

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