Watchdog bans ‘misleading’ Oxbridge Essays advertisement

Regulator rules against firm over implication students could submit essays as own and claims about writers’ university backgrounds

January 9, 2019
Man with a pearl earring

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an advertisement for the essay website Oxbridge Essays because it “misleadingly” implied that students could “submit purchased essays as their own without repercussions” and that most of its essay writers were former students or lecturers at the universities of Oxford or Cambridge.

The ASA ruling, published on 9 January, upholds complaints about the two issues. It is the second time that the UK’s advertising regulator has ruled against Oxbridge Essays, which has the company name of the Oxbridge Research Group.

The firm’s website included claims, seen in July 2018, that “with Oxbridge Essays, it has never been easier to get the grades you’ve always wanted…First class? 2:1? No problem. We work with over 1,900 of the UK’s best academics to make sure you get the grade you want.”

The website also said: “The vast majority of our writers have studied or taught at the UK’s two best universities, Oxford and Cambridge.”

The ASA says that it “considered the overall impression of the home page was that consumers would be able to submit the purchased essays as their own, particularly because of the claims ‘100 per cent guaranteed plagiarism-free’, ‘we make sure you get the grade you want’”.

Pages on the website included “the option for consumers to select the academic level they needed the work to be, for example undergraduate, the number of words, and the grade ranging from a 2:2 to an upper first. The options were accompanied by a ‘calculate price and order’ button,” the ASA adds.

While sections of the website explained that essays provided were model essays that could help students with their own original work, this information “was not sufficiently prominent to counteract the overall misleading impression it gave that consumers would be able to submit purchased essays as their own without repercussions and the risk of plagiarism”, the ASA says.

On the second complaint, the agency says that it “understood from Oxbridge Essays that 71 per cent of their writers…had either studied or taught at Oxford or Cambridge and that as part of the recruitment process, the writers were required to provide copies of their degree certificates”.

But the ASA continues: “We considered that was not sufficient to meet consumers’ expectation, based on the advertising claim, that almost all writers had a degree from, or had taught at, one of those universities, and that it was more likely than not that an essay would be written by a writer from one of those universities. We therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.”

The owners of the Oxbridge Research Group are James, Philip and Stratos Malamatinas, according to Companies House filings.

In response, Oxbridge Essays said that it was “constantly working on how we can improve our marketing messages to best reflect the product” and had “made changes on our website to reflect some of the ASA’s findings”. However, the company said that it did disagree with some of the ruling and had submitted an appeal.

“We do not condone academic cheating of any kind and our website makes it very clear how to use our service correctly,” the statement added.

In 2013, the ASA banned a previous Oxbridge Essays ad for “misleadingly implying that customers were guaranteed grades”.

Meanwhile, last year, the agency upheld two complaints about UK Essays lodged by the Quality Assurance Agency, after the firm claimed to provide a “guaranteed grade, every time”.

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Another such bunch is called Gradeasy - came in to work one day to find the campus plastered with their flyers, spent ages ripping them down & got site staff on the lookout for any more. Their claim was "The support you need to graduate" - more like a quick route to being sent down in disgrace!

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