Mark Leech and ConVerse proved to be frauds
Spyhole Press Ltd t/a ConVerse
175 Hill Lane
Number of complaints: 1
Date: 29 April 2009
Media: Press general
A front-page flash on ConVerse - a newspaper distributed to prisons - stated "THE HIGHEST CIRCULATION NATIONAL NEWSPAPER FOR PRISONERS."
A reader challenged whether the claim "THE HIGHEST CIRCULATION NATIONAL NEWSPAPER FOR PRISONERS" was misleading and could be substantiated.
The CAP Code: 3.1;7.1;18.1;18.3
ConVerse said the "highest circulation" claim was based on the number of copies delivered to prisons. ConVerse said the Oxford English Dictionary defined "circulation" as "the number of copies of each issue of a newspaper, magazine, etc. distributed." They said they believed their "highest circulation" claim was therefore likely to be understood as referring to the number of copies distributed only. They supplied figures, which they described as circulation figures, published respectively in ConVerse and their competitor publication. They believed the figures showed that, over the preceding 15 months, ConVerse had circulated 52,000 copies more than the competitor publication. They said that amounted to an average of 3,500 more copies per month, which they believed justified the "highest circulation" claim. They said that, in addition to England and Wales, their competitor's publication was also circulated to prisons in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and so their competitor's circulation figures for England and Wales were in fact smaller than their total circulation figure. ConVerse said they conducted surveys with prisons every six months to check that the newspaper was being received and distributed satisfactorily and whether too many or too few were being delivered. They said that, for a prison population of 83,000 prisoners in England and Wales spread across 139 prisons, their latest monthly figures (dated February 2009) were that they had printed 48,000.
They said the "national" part of their claim referred to England and Wales. They said the Probation Service referred to itself as the National Probation Service and its remit covered England and Wales but not Scotland or Northern Ireland.
The ASA considered it was reasonable for ConVerse to use the term "national" within England and Wales to refer to distribution within England and Wales. We noted that the figures ConVerse had supplied and described as circulation figures would have been described as distribution figures if they had been subject to normal Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) criteria. We noted that the print invoices ConVerse had supplied showed their print run figures exceeded the distribution figures that the competitor publication claimed for itself. We noted the dictionary definition of "circulation" which ConVerse had supplied, together with the exceptional circumstances of a free newspaper that was distributed to prisons only. We nevertheless considered readers, and in particular advertising buyers who were potential advertisers with ConVerse, would be familiar with ABC's use of the terms "distribution" and "circulation" and that they were therefore likely to understand ConVerse's "highest circulation" claim to mean that they had the highest sales figures. We considered that, because ConVerse had not shown that they had the highest sales figures of any national newspaper distributed to prisons, the claim was likely to mislead. We told ConVerse to remove the claim and, in future, to avoid using the word "circulation" to describe the number of copies of ConVerse distributed.
The ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 18.1 and 18.3 (Comparisons).
The ad must not appear again in its current form.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)
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