The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld complaints against two online ads from cashback earnings service TopCashback, concluding that they were ‘misleading’.

The first ad, seen on 2 March 2018, featured a voice-over which stated: ‘I’m here to remind you to visit TopCashback, to get cashback on top of your online shop’ and ‘To top it off, it’s free’. The second, seen on 23 March 2018, repeated the claim ‘To top it off, it’s free’.

The British affiliate was challenged by two complainants, who noted that, upon signing up to the service, users were automatically registered with a ‘Plus Membership’ for which a fee applied.

TopCashback stated that these terms were clearly laid out to members on the homepage of its website and that it was equally clear that there was an opportunity for members to downgrade to a free ‘Classic Account’. The firm stated that it would change the wording of the ad from ‘To top it off, it’s free’ to ‘To top it off, it’s easy’.

However, the ASA upheld the complaints, concluding: “The ASA welcomed TopCashback Ltd’s willingness to change the wording of the ad. We considered that the statement ‘To top it off, it’s free’ would be interpreted by consumers as meaning that they were able to sign up to the service without any associated charge.

“Whilst we understood that there was an option which allowed members to downgrade the account to a Classic Account and that there was no charge associated with that account type, that was not the default account given upon sign up. Because upon signing up consumers were enrolled onto an account that included a £5 charge, we concluded that it was misleading to describe the service as free.”

TopCashback was told to ensure that its future advertising does not state or imply that the service was free if consumers were enrolled onto accounts that had associated charges.