LONDON (Reuters) - A radio ad that said EU citizens living in Britain only needed a passport or ID card to apply online for settled status after Brexit was misleading, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled.
A complainant, who understood that in some cases applicants also needed to provide proof of address for the previous five years, had asked the ASA for a ruling.
The Home Office (interior ministry) responded to the complaint by saying the ad was part of a wider campaign to promote awareness of the scheme, and it was not possible to include all aspects of the application process in a short ad.
It said 73% of applicants did not have to submit any documents as evidence of their residence because in most cases evidence of residence was automatically generated using the applicant’s National Insurance number.
The Home Office launched a marketing campaign to encourage EU citizens to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme in March.
The ASA, however, said that while listeners were likely to understand that applicants would need to provide further information in exceptional cases, 27% was a larger proportion than would likely be inferred from the ad.
“The ad must not be broadcast again in the form complained about,” the ASA said in a statement.
“We told the Home Office to ensure they made sufficiently clear that some applicants to the EU Settlement Scheme would need to provide additional documents beyond their passport or ID card.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We completely disagree with ASA’s decision because the campaign was factual and complied with all necessary clearance processes for radio advertising.
“The campaign has had a positive impact and encouraged more than one million successful applications so far.
“The scheme is free, straightforward and EU citizens and their family members have plenty of time to apply. All they need to apply is their passport or ID card and to complete an online form.”
Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Stephen Addison