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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

QAA complaint on ‘misleading’ essay mill upheld by ASA

Date 21/03/2018

The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint about UKEssays lodged by QAA.

On its website, UKEssays claims to provide a 'guaranteed grade, every time', and says its work is 'loved by customers and the global press'. It features quotes on its services from media including the BBC, Telegraph, Guardian, Sunday Times and Daily Mail.

As part of our campaign against contract cheating, we challenged UKEssays' claims on two grounds:

  • the web advertising is misleading because it does not make sufficiently clear the risks associated with submitting purchased essays
  • references to press coverage misleadingly imply that UKEssays has received positive coverage or endorsement from those press outlets.

ASA has upheld both challenges. In its ruling, it says the website gives 'an overall impression that consumers would be able to submit the purchased essays as their own, particularly because of the anti-plagiarism and grade guarantees. ​

'The language and tone of the [media] quotations are positive in nature. However, we do not consider that the way in which the quotes were presented are reflective of the tone of the articles and features from which they had been taken.'​

QAA's director of academic standards Ian Kimber says: 'Essay mills mislead students and put their academic and professional careers at risk. ​

'This landmark ruling by ASA is the first successful challenge to their claims of legitimacy, exposing their cynical use of anti-plagiarism disclaimers and exploitative media referencing.​

'We will continue to campaign for academic integrity, supporting both students and higher education providers in identifying and tackling cheating and other abuses. This case helps to spread the message that cheating, in any form, is unacceptable.'​

ASA has ruled that UKEssays' claims must not appear in their current form again. The company must stop implying that students can submit purchased essays, ordered to meet a specific grade, without risks. ​

ASA has also advised the firm to ensure its advertising does not misleadingly present quotations from the press and other published sources in a manner not reflective of the tone and content of those sources.​​​​