01 August 1997

DIRECT LINE, the phone-based insurance giant, was granted a High Court injunction preventing the Advertising Standards Authority from publishing its August monthly report - the first time it has failed to appear, although several advertisers have issued unsuccessful legal challenges in the past. Neither side will comment on the nature of the injunction or the complaint that triggered it. It is known, however, that a recent campaign - the ‘Direct Line Challenge' - attracted a number of objections both from members of the public and financial services rivals. 4,500 copies of the report were pulped and a new expurgated version published the following week.

Following the injunction, the ASA's revised report finds the litigious direct insurance giant above reproach. This has incensed rivals including the Nationwide Building Society, which retaliated by releasing details of an independent survey showing that one in three people had been misled by Direct Line's contentious ad which compared the merits of its Instant Access account with Nationwide's CashBuilder. Fumed Nationwide: 'It [the ASA's revised ruling] shows a weakness in the system that allows Direct Line to publish advertising that our survey clearly demonstrates misleads people.' The battle continues with Nationwide lodging a second complaint with the ASA about another Direct Line press ad, as well as a protest to the Independent Television Commission concerning DL's TV commercials which employ similar comparative tactics.