The ruling comes in the same month Amazon US was forced to remove product listings for t-shirts on the site created by US clothing firm Solid Gold Bomb, which brandished the slogans “Keep Calm and Rape a Lot” and “Keep Calm and Hit Her”, following customer complaints.
The Christmas card on the UK site was created by a company called Smellyourmum.com and included text stating “You’re a c**t. Sorry, I meant to say ‘Merry Christmas’”. This listing, which featured an image of the card with the offensive word in full and text with it masked by an asterisk, prompted a complaint challenging whether the listing was “inappropriate and offensive”.
In response, Amazon said it was “inappropriate” for the ASA to investigate the display of a product for sale, especially if that investigation targeted one retailer amongst many selling the same product online. The retailer also queried whether it was within the ASA’s remit to prevent the display of product titles and images which were “not otherwise prohibited by applicable decency laws”.
Furthermore, Amazon asserted it was confident the display of the product image was compliant with the CAP code and was not “offensive”, “aggressive” or “lewd” in its message – noting Code rule 4.1 states marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching the rule.
The Advertising Standards Authority confirmed the product listing was an advertisement, which falls within the remit of the CAP Code and was appropriate to investigate. It acknowledged the product was available to purchase on other sites online but because it had received a complaint specific to Smellyourmum.com and Amazon it needed to investigate in that context.
The regulator acknowledged the card did not target a particular group and was more likely to be viewed by adults rather than children.
Nonetheless, it ruled the word “c**t” was so likely to offend it should not be used at all in marketing communications and was likely to cause “serious or widespread offence”.