Search engine ad for IQ test banned over hidden cost

Out-Law News | 03 Jun 2009 | 5:20 pm | 1 min. read

An advert that appeared in search engine results to promote an IQ test has been banned by the UK's advertising watchdog for failing to disclose in the text of the ad that participants would be charged to receive their results.

The advert, for website GetIQ.co.uk, was headlined "Check new IQ game". Text below stated: "Test your intelligence!  Get certificate now".

One person complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the ad misleadingly implied the results would be immediately available. Having answered the site's 40 questions, though, she was informed that results would be provided via two text messages, for which she would be charged £4 each.

GetIQ.co.uk, a trading name of Liechtenstein company Creafire AG, said the ad had appeared since October 2008, during which time over 48,000 users in the UK had taken the IQ test. Over 4,000 had opted to receive their results. The company said that it had received very few complaints about the test and pointed out that the ASA had received only one. 

The company acknowledged that consumers might take the test without being aware that there was a charge. But they could also opt to close the website because there was a clear distinction between taking the test and obtaining the results, which was "clearly intended as a separate service," it told the ASA.

The ad was designed to promote the test and not the result, it said; it was therefore not necessary to include information about the cost involved in obtaining the result because that information was provided on a billing page after completion of the test.

The ASA rejected that defence and upheld the complaint.

"We considered … that consumers who took an advertised IQ test would reasonably expect that they could obtain the results at the end of it and would not consider obtaining those results to be a separate service," said the ASA.

"We also noted that the ad stated 'Get certificate now', which we considered would be interpreted as a reference to obtaining the results of the IQ test," it said. "We noted that consumers could not find out how to obtain the certificate without sending two text messages, at a cost of £4 each, but the ad did not include that information."

"We acknowledged that the ad did not directly state that the service was free but considered that it implied that the test results were immediately available at no cost when that was not the case," it said. "We concluded that the ad was misleading."

GetIQ.co.uk was told that the ad must not appear again in its current form. The company was told to include details of the price of the service in future ads.