RBS 'last bank in town' adverts were 'misleading'

The Nat West branch in Farsley which has closed down
Image caption Viewers from Farsley in West Yorkshire, where the last branch had closed down, complained to the watchdog

The advertising watchdog has upheld complaints against The Royal Bank of Scotland for making "misleading" promises to be the "last bank in town".

RBS, which is 83% owned by the taxpayer, made the claims in two TV commercials.

Viewers from Farsley in West Yorkshire said the last bank in their area, the RBS-owned NatWest, was closed.

After a second RBS advert, viewers in the Highlands said their bank premises had been replaced by a mobile bank.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) was contacted after receiving a number of complaints about the adverts which were screened in June. They have now been banned.

'Last bank'

The first showed staff outside a branch on a deserted coastal road and claimed that NatWest would "continue to provide banking services wherever we're the last bank in town".

However viewers from Farsley in West Yorkshire, where a branch had closed despite being the last in the area, complained to the watchdog.

The second commercial, for RBS, featured different characters and settings with a similar script.

The ASA later established that RBS had also pulled out of premises it used in Bettyhill, Sutherland, replacing them with a stop on its mobile bank route.

A spokesman for the ASA said of the first advert: "Because (the advertisement) stated that NatWest would continue to provide banking services if it was the last in town and because we understood that there was a town in which they had not done so, we concluded that the claim was misleading."

It came to a similar conclusion in relation to the second claim.

"We considered that the claim, and especially the setting and the reference to the "last bank" in the ad, would be interpreted by viewers as a claim that RBS would not close a branch in circumstances when it was the last bank in town," the spokesman said.

"Because we considered that the ad implied that they would retain bricks-and-mortar branches when, in Bettyhill, they had not done so, we concluded that claim, as it featured in (the advert) was misleading."

'Two desks'

An RBS spokesman said the bank disagreed with the watchdog's decision.

In a response to the ASA, RBS defended the closure of the Farsley premises and insisted it had never promised to keep all branches open.

And it claimed to have improved services in Bettyhill, where it replaced "two desks in a community centre" with the mobile bank.

"While we disagree with the ASA's decision, we welcome their offer to work more closely with them in future," a spokesman said.

RBS, which is being propped up with billions of pounds of public money, has repeatedly come under the spotlight since its collapse in 2008.

The latest incident follows a torrid few weeks for the bank in which boss Stephen Hester was forced to give up a £963,000 share bonus amid huge political pressure and his predecessor, Fred Goodwin, was stripped of his knighthood for his role in leading the bank to the brink of collapse.

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