A legal training website has been ordered to stop making unsubstantiated claims about its pass rate, national standing and student satisfaction.
The website www.qltsadvantage.com, a training course provided by City Law School, University of London, made various boasts last year about being ‘#1 QLTS provider’, having the ‘highest pass rates – ever’ and of helping ‘6,000+ happy clients’.
Following a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority that such statements were misleading, the watchdog ordered the website owner, New York-based Solaw International Ltd, not to repeat such claims in the same format again. The company must ensure it has adequate evidence to support any future claims, including comparisons with identifiable competitors, in marketing materials, and that these comparisons are verifiable.
The course trains foreign entrants to pass the qualified lawyers transfer scheme – a requirement for them to practice in England and Wales.
QLTS Advantage had sought to argue that because the company was based in the US, the ASA had no jurisdiction over the matter. This was rejected on the basis that some consumers were physically in the UK when they purchased the training course.
Although some changes had been made to QLTS Advantage advertising since the complaint was made, the ASA said the claim of ‘#1 QLTS provider’ still appeared without further information to explain the basis for the claim.
The company said it used #1 to mean different things throughout the site, and in this case it was meant to refer to pass rates compared with those of other training providers. The ASA took it to mean, in absence of any quantification, that QLTS Advantage was objectively ranked as the top training provider.
The advertising watchdog also found no comparative evidence to show that QLTS Advantage was the ‘original’ or ‘most experienced’ provider, as was claimed on its website. There was also no evidence to back the claim that QLTS Advantage was the only provider offering live tuition.
Boasts about the ‘highest pass rates’ featured no information about the pass rates of other training providers, or the methodology used to determine the overall pass rates cited. In addition, QLTS Advantage’s pass rates were based on self-reported data from its own students.
Finally, the claim of 6,000+ happy clients was deemed unsubstantiated and misleading, given only 2,000 students had completed the QLTS assessments since their inception in 2011. QLTS Advantage had modified the claim to ‘we’ve trained thousands of happy clients’, but there was still no evidence provided to show that was the case.
In a statement, QLTS Advantage said: 'Prior to this ruling, we worked with the ASA to try to resolve the matter informally, including agreeing to make a number of changes to our website (the statements on which were made in good faith).
'While it is disappointing in these circumstances that the ASA has elected to proceed to a final ruling, we do take on board the lessons learned and will be taking steps to ensure similar issues do not arise in future.'