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News & views

Plain English Campaign Ltd removes false guarantee claims

The public and many businesses have difficulty distinguishing between real and illusory expertise in the readability field. PEC’s misleading guarantee claims may have helped persuade many firms and government bodies – especially cash-strapped local councils – to spend tens of thousands of pounds on PEC’s services. One county council, Herefordshire, echoed PEC's phrasing on its website (3 Sept 2007):

‘The authority has announced that its site earned the Plain English Campaign’s coveted Crystal Mark. It means people are guaranteed crystal clear information when they log on to the authority’s website...’. 

PEC says the Crystal Mark has appeared on more than 20,000 documents. The company's Tony Maher insisted that PEC had not been forced to remove its false claims:

‘The ASA has not ordered us to do anything. We chose to remove the word “guarantee” from our website to avoid unnecessary controversy.’

Martin Cutts of Plain Language Commission said:

‘These empty guarantees have long been an important part of PEC’s trading practices. PEC has had seven years to remove the guarantee claims since we first raised the issue. PEC must have known it could not provide sufficient evidence for them but steadfastly kept publishing them. PEC has indeed removed the guarantee claims now “to avoid unnecessary controversy”. But this is mainly because the ASA could have required PEC to take them down, with all the attendant bad publicity. The ASA has brought to an end a deeply shameful episode. It would be good to see an apology on PEC's website as well as a substantial contribution to charity that would represent the benefits PEC may have gained from its misleading claims.’

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