Car mag rebuked for 'perversion' email

The ASA has upheld complaints over a joke email sent by MaxPower that threatened recipients with prosecution for sending 'immoral' emails

British car magazine MaxPower has received an official warning from the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for sending out a Big Brother promotional email that accused recipients of breaching the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

The email was headlined "RIPA. Legal document. Please read. Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. Offence no 323 -- Internet perversion." The body text contained a parody of the controversial RIPA, which regulates the monitoring of electronic communications such as email messages. The email then linked to a promotional advertisement for a MaxPower car show.

Distressed recipients objected to the official look of the email, and claimed that it caused an undue amount of fear and stress. The email accused the recipient of using their Internet connection to "access material of a violent, sexually explicit or immoral nature on 42 separate occasions." Recipients were threatened with the prospect of criminal prosecution, and informed that "if you wish to appeal these charges, application must be made to the RIPA office within seven days."

The ASA published its decision to uphold the complaint on Wednesday. Emap, the publishers behind MaxPower, has apologised for any harm caused by the email. The email was sent to 50,000 registered users of the MaxPower Web site, who had submitted their personal details to Maxpower.co.uk in return for access to products and services.

According to the statement issued by ASA, "[Emap] believed that its target audience of 18 to 25-year-old men was familiar with the brand values associated with MaxPower and thought those who received the email would have realised that it was a practical joke."

The advertiser claims that they have only received seven complaints from its users, but has admitted that it may have misjudged the sensitivity of some of its readers. It has sent a letter of apology to the affected recipients, and has removed their personal details from the mailing list. The ASA has "welcomed" Emap's assurance that it will exercise more caution in future email marketing campaigns.

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