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‘Misleading’ GWR advert banned for implying company is publicly owned

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned Great Western Railway (GWR) from running an advert which they ruled misleadingly implies that the company is publicly owned.

Four people complained about the poster, which was on display outside London Paddington from August to November 2015 and said: “The railway belongs to the region it serves: the return of Great Western Railway.”

Great Western said that the poster was intended to promote their rebranding from First Great Western and that GWR benefits the UK locally and nationally, including contributing to a fund for the local council and community groups.

In the ruling, the ASA said: “We considered that the use of the world “belongs” was likely to be understood to imply public, as opposed to private, ownership.”

They said that the advert breached rule 3.1 of the Committee of Advertising Practice code, which bans misleading advertising.

Dan Gregory, director of blog Common Capital and advisor to campaign group We Own it, was one of the complainants. He said: “Many of us feel very strongly that the railways should be in public hands. Some of us have been proposing not for profit or cooperative models.

“The fact that a private franchise is trying to score points by pretending to be something it isn’t shows the urgent need for us to take seriously these models of common ownership.”

We Own It are also campaigning against Network Rail proposals to sell off 18 major stations.

A GWR spokesman said: “We are disappointed by the ASA’s decision. This campaign was designed to highlight the significant social and economic benefits the railway and our train services bring to the region we serve.

“It was never our intention to suggest GWR is a publicly owned company, instead we are proud of the work we do as a private company to benefit the region, and we are sorry if this wasn’t clear.”

However, the ASA did not uphold another complaint that an advert on GWR’s website on October 2015 misleadingly implied that the company was founded by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

(Image c. ASA/PA)


Manchester Mike   01/04/2016 at 18:20

Great that the ASA slams down the GWR's misleading adverts.

Andrew Gwilt   02/04/2016 at 02:54

That GWR advert didnt offended me but GWR had no choice but to get rid of the advert as it was banned.

David   02/04/2016 at 12:18

Andrew, of course it didn't offended you, the world does not revolve around you.

Andrew Gwilt   13/04/2016 at 09:52

Well you offend me sometimes on what you say about that gets me mad. But I take that as a cheeky compliment.

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