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Law course provider in hot water over ‘misleading’ ads

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Claimed to be ‘#1 QLTS provider’

A law course provider has itself landed in hot water after making a series of “misleading” claims on its website to attract foreign lawyers to its courses.

QLTS Advantage markets a training course provided by City Law School, University of London, to prepare foreign lawyers to pass the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) to qualify in England and Wales.

It claimed last year on its website to be the “#1 QLTS provider”, “#1 real QLTS training school”, “#1 the only QLTS school with live tuition” and “ranked ‘top ten’ in the UK for graduate employment and operates one of the best law schools in the world”. It also claimed to have the “highest pass rates — ever” and “6000+ happy clients”.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) yesterday upheld a complaint filed by rival training provider QLTS School that the statements made by QLTS Advantage were not substantiated nor verified.

The ASA, in consultation with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, ordered the website owner, 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.

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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 and that there was no US equivalent to which the ASA could refer the complaint.

The ASA acknowledged that QLTS Advantage had made some changes to its advertising after the complaint had been made, but it found that the claim “#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, as they did with the term “real”. In this case “#1” was meant to refer to pass rates compared with those of other training providers. The ASA took it to mean that QLTS Advantage had been objectively ranked as the top provider of QLTS training. It was also unclear what was meant by a “real” law school.

The ASA also found no comparative evidence to show that QLTS Advantage was the “original” or “most experienced” QLTS training provider, as was claimed on its website.

Further, there was no evidence to substantiate the claim that QLTS Advantage was the only provider offering “live” tuition, that City University had been objectively ranked in the top ten in the UK for graduate employment and as having one of the top law schools in the world, or that it had the highest pass rates. On the latter, the ASA said the website did not include information about the pass rates of other QLTS training providers, or the methodology used to determine the overall pass rates cited. QLTS Advantage’s pass rates were based on self-reported data from its own students.

The claim of “6,000+ happy clients” was deemed misleading, given that only around 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 they still provided no evidence to support this.

A spokesperson for QLTS Advantage told this website: “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.”

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