NAD Determined ACT’s Website Content On COVID-19 Test Center Cancellations is Accurate but Recommends Some Modifications to Advertising
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New York, NY – March 11, 2021 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that ACT, Inc.’s website makes clear the material limitations on ACT college entrance standardized testing regarding the likelihood of cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic and provides truthful and accurate information to test takers about cancelled and rescheduled tests. However, NAD recommended that ACT modify its advertising to disclose information clearly and conspicuously about test center availability and its process for reconfirming availability based on the status of the pandemic.
The claims at issue, which appeared on ACT’s website and in social media and internet advertising, were challenged as part of NAD’s routine monitoring program.
As a result of the pandemic, many test centers were closed and unable to administer ACT tests. Despite ACT’s efforts to add new test dates in the fall of 2020, including non-Saturday dates to accommodate as many students as possible, many tests were cancelled, and it was not easy for test takers to get accurate information on test center closures from ACT. In some instances, test takers complained that they did not know about the closures until they arrived at the test sites. Further, ACT’s Facebook page revealed numerous frustrated parents who noted that centers that were listed as available for registration were closed.
NAD initially addressed whether the challenged communications on ACT’s website and Facebook pages were “advertising,” as defined in NAD/NARB Procedures. NAD determined that they were advertising, because the website and Facebook page promote the value of ACT’s services (which induces students to register for the test) and describe ACT’s efforts to add test sites and locations despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Having determined its retained jurisdiction to review the claims, NAD then assessed the measures ACT took to communicate cancellations, rescheduling policies, and test center availability to make sure that test takers were getting truthful and non-misleading information.
At the start of the NAD challenge, the website advertising provided test dates and stated “occasionally, a test center must cancel a test administration due to bad weather or other unforeseen circumstances. When this occurs, the test will be rescheduled for a future date.”
During the inquiry, ACT modified this statement to make clearer the potential for test center cancellations particularly due to COVID-19. ACT also revised its registration page to make clear, at the point of purchase, the likelihood of test cancellations due to COVID-19. ACT further provided additional instructions to test takers as to how they would be notified about cancellations or test rescheduling and steps they should take in a newly implemented pop-up notification to its home page. ACT’s cancellations and rescheduling webpage was also modified during NAD’s inquiry. NAD determined that no additional modifications were needed to the registration page or to the test cancellation and rescheduled website.
NAD noted that although ACT had increased its efforts to determine test center closures and inform test takers, it did not reconfirm whether all listed centers were able to administer the test due to the pandemic. NAD noted that test takers may still be able to register for test centers that have not reconfirmed availability to test. Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify its advertising to avoid conveying a misleading message about the availability of test centers, for example, clearly and conspicuously disclosing information about test center availability and its process for reconfirming availability.
In its advertiser statement, ACT, Inc. stated that it “agrees to comply with NAD’s recommendations.” The advertiser further stated that we are “aligned in ensuring ACT customers have the most relevant, clear and accurate information to successfully navigate their journey to college and career.”
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About the National Advertising Division: The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs provides independent self-regulation and dispute resolution services, guiding the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for advertising truth and accuracy, delivering meaningful protection to consumers and leveling the playing field for business.
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