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Plain English Campaign Ltd removes false guarantee claims

[7 Mar 2014] The company that sells the Crystal Mark logo to businesses and government bodies has removed claims from its website that the logo is a ‘guarantee’ of clarity, after receiving a warning letter from the UK’s advertising regulator.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) stepped in to ask Plain English Campaign Ltd (PEC) – one of the loudest businesses in the plain-language field – to justify its claims that the Crystal Mark was a guarantee that a document was clear or in plain English.

PEC chose to withdraw the statements rather than give evidence for them, which could have prompted an investigation by the watchdog. PEC's claims have been on display for more than seven years but the ASA has only recently acquired powers to bring company websites within its ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’ rules.

PEC’s exaggerated claims for the Crystal Mark scheme included the following: 

  • ‘Our Crystal Mark is now firmly established as a guarantee that a document is written in plain English.’ Yet PEC's website did not state who had ‘firmly established’ this or how it had been measured. 
  • ‘Nearly 1500 organisations know that only our Crystal Mark will be accepted by the public as a guarantee of a document’s clarity.’  Yet PEC did not name any of the 1,500 bodies or say how these bodies had shown that they ‘knew’ this to be a fact. Neither did PEC say how ‘the public’ had shown that they accepted ‘only our Crystal Mark’ as ‘a guarantee of a document’s clarity’. 
  • ‘The Crystal Mark has become widely recognised as a guarantee that a document has been written and designed as clearly as possible.’  Again, PEC cited no evidence for the guarantee or the ‘wide recognition’ it claimed. [cont]

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