IFESA (The Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association) said today (Monday, 19 th Dec.) that a decision by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) that it has no jurisdiction to rule on an IFESA complaint regarding a broadcast advertisement for the Eircode system is concerning and should be clarified by the ASAI.

The advertising watchdog has said it does not have the power to ban Government-produced ads promoting the benefits of Eircode despite finding that the broadcasts were misleading.

The ASAI has informed IFESA that it now regards the Eircode advertisement as a ‘Public Notice' and as such it falls outside the remit of the ASAI code.

IFESA had lodged a complaint with ASAI that the Eircode advertisement was  not an honest and truthful advertisement was very misleading and was in fact a dangerous statement to make.

IFESA National Chairman, Ros MacCobb said : ‘IFESA was concerned  when this  advert was broadcast  that the advertisers intention had been to heighten the fears of the public that by NOT knowing your Eircode prefix it would mean a slower response from the emergency services. This advertisement put in the public domain a fear that was unfounded and we believed the use of the emergency services as an example in an advertisement was playing on a fear of the public that when they are most in need of emergency help that the use of Eircode prefix will result in a quicker response. It was IFESA position that no substantiating data exists to back Eircode's claim.'

Mr MacCobb said that in a letter in November the ASAI had clearly indicated that it regarded the Eircode ad as a marketing communication and said that its executive was recommending that the IFESA complaint should be upheld on a number of grounds. These included. :

•  4.1 A marketing communication should not mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise. 

•  4.4 Advertisers should not exploit the credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of consumers. 

•  4.9 A marketing communication should not contain claims – whether direct or indirect, expressed or implied – which a consumer would be likely to regard as being objectively true unless the objective truth of the claims can be substantiated. 

•  4.10 Before offering a marketing communication for publication, advertisers should satisfy themselves that they will be able to provide documentary evidence to substantiate all claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective. Relevant evidence should be sent without delay if requested by the ASAI and should be adequate to support both detailed claims and the overall impression created by the marketing communication. 

‘However, IFESA was subsequently informed that in reviewing the matter the ASAI Complaints Committee deemed the Eircode advertisement to be a ‘Public Notice' and as such it is outside of the remit of the ASAI code of practice.'

‘The initial ASAI findings on the IFESA complaint make very serious criticisms of this Eircode advertising campaign and in particular the accuracy of the claims made by the advert. IFESA fails to understand how a promotional advertisement for Eircode, which has a considerable commercial element to it, can be deemed to be a ‘Public Notice' and believe the ASAI decision should be reviewed.'

‘The ASAI Executive clearly believed that this advertisement made unsubstantiated claims for the Eircode system yet these claims cannot be challenged under the ASAI code . We believe Eircode and the Department of Communications have serious questions to answer regarding the broadcast of this advertisement, particularly when it was being presented as a public awareness and information campaign'.

Mr MacCobb said IFESA, and other emergency personnel unions have raised a number of concerns regarding the cost, accuracy and effectiveness of Eircode from the point of the emergency services. 

‘We believe these issues with the system have not been fully resolved. The Eircode TV advertisement implied that all emergency services are using Eircode to mobiles resources to an emergency incident and that by using it is quicker for them to respond. This is not the case.'

Media Contact: Derek Cunningham 0862430535

Note for Editors :

The Irish Fire Services Association (IFSA) original complaint to ASAI

IFESA considered that the advertisers were playing on people's fears at the time of an emergency by bringing the emergency services into the equation, when in actual fact the premise behind the advertising was to encourage people to use their Eircode. The IFSA said that in the case of an emergency the “Blue Light” services – An Garda Síochána, fire and Irish Coast Guard could be contacted by dialling 112 or 999; these were generally referred to as the Emergency Services. They said it had to be pointed out that Dublin Fire Brigade responded to just under 50% of all 999/112 Emergency calls.

They said, however, that of the statutory emergency services mentioned only the HSE National Ambulance Service could currently use the Eircode Prefix in the mobilisation of resources to a medical emergency and then only when this emergency had occurred at a property. All other emergency services were not currently compatible with the use of the Eircode system.

The IFSA also said that The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) who were obliged by law to monitor the quality of the Emergency Call Answering Services, when providing information on how to use the services correctly, made no reference to the use of Eircode when dialling such services. Likewise they said the HSE website under the National Ambulance Service section, the only statutory agency to use the Eircode prefix, made no reference to having to provide an Eircode when requesting such services.