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Company named in fraud trial had been flagged by advertising authorities

Editorial Staff

In the trials (there were two) of Peter Hall, et al, for fraud, a company, TAD Services Limited was named.

There's a interesting back-story - and Google makes a guest appearance as a company that was paid to participate in the scam.

On 16 July 2014 the UK's Advertising Standards Authority, the regulator for UK advertising, published its adjudiction of a complaint relating to TAD Services Limited.

According to the ASA, the complaint was as follows:

"A Google sponsored search result, promoting www.driver-theory-test.co.uk, stated "£31 Official Theory Test - Gov UK Includes Free Retests - www.driver-theory-test.co.uk/G... - Book Your Official Theory Test - Car Theory Test - Motor Cycle Theory test - Large Goods Theory Test" Two complainants challenged whether the use of "Gov UK" was misleading, because it suggested that the advertiser was affiliated with the UK Government or the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). TAD Services trading as driver-theory-test.co.uk said that the ad had been removed and that they no longer placed Google sponsored ads."

The ASA said that the complaint was upheld and that "The ASA noted that the ad included two references to "Gov UK", one of which appeared at the end of the stated URL. We noted that the actual site URL was www.driver-theory-test.co.uk and did not include the suffix "Gov.UK" or "Gov-UK". We understood that usually the use of "Gov.UK" in a URL designated that the website was an official UK government site. Therefore, although we acknowledged that the URL stated "Gov-UK" as opposed to "Gov.uk", we considered that most consumers viewing the ad would believe that the site was provided by a government department, as opposed to a private, commercial company, and could proceed to click on the link and book their test, believing they were booking it via the DVSA. Because that was not the case, we concluded that the use of "Gov UK" within the sponsored search result, and particularly the use of "Gov-UK" in the stated URL, were misleading."

The ASA ordered "The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules on Misleading advertising, Substantiation and Imitation and denigration." In effect, there was something akin to passing off. The ad must not appear again in its current form. We welcomed the fact the ad had been withdrawn, but told driver-theory-test.co.uk not to use "Gov UK" in their ads in future, because it implied an affiliation to the government or DVSA.

But it was already too late. In June 2014, UK Trading Standards officers had arrested several people on suspicion of fraud (see White Collar Crime Case Studies. And things were only going to get worse.

In September 2014, the ASA had another, bigger, matter to deal with.

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