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ASA Adjudication on Beef Registrations

Beef Registrations

Watling Farmhouse
Watling Street
Burbage
Hinckley
Leicestershire
LE10 3AR

Date:

7 March 2012

Media:

Internet (e-tailing)

Sector:

Business

Number of complaints:

1

Complaint Ref:

A11-174154

Background

Ad

A website that advertised personalised vehicle number plates, visited on various dates in September and October 2011, stated "PRIVATE NUMBER PLATES FROM BEEF REGISTRATIONS". Under the heading "Browse Plates" was text that read "There are 12545 number plates in our inventory" followed by a long list of number plates which were either shown at a specific price or marked as "Call us" or "sold".

Issue

One reader challenged whether the list of number plates misleadingly implied that:

1. all of the plates marked as "Call us" could be obtained from the advertisers; and

2. all of the plates marked as "Sold" had been obtained from the advertisers.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

1. Beef Registrations explained that the number plates they displayed on their website were divided into a number of different categories, the first of which was plates that they had bought from the DVLA and that formed a part of their own inventory. They stated that all dealers were sent a list of plates that would be available at the next DVLA auction and they explained that they listed those numbers on their website alongside the message "call us". They explained that they would take instructions from people who could not attend the auctions in person and that they would bid directly on their behalf for the plates they wished to buy. They said that around 200-300 plates tended to remain unsold following an auction and that details of those plates would remain on their website because they could still be bought from the DVLA after the auction closed. They stated that some of the plates on their website were owned by private individuals who instructed them to sell them for a commission and that they also displayed plates owned by other dealers with whom they had an agreement. They stated that they removed plates that had been sold after an auction finished and that they tried to keep the website as up-to-date as possible, but that they dealt with lots of plates and mistakes could therefore happen.

They provided evidence of the basis on which some of a sample of plates that appeared on their website on 17 October 2011 were offered for sale. They explained that several of the sample plates had been available via a dealer that had ceased trading shortly after we had requested the evidence, and that all information regarding those plates had been deleted. They also stated that one of the sample plates was not available but had only appeared on the website as a result of human error when inputting it.

2. Beef Registrations said they did not believe it was misleading to list a plate as "sold", even if it was not sold by them, because people would simply understand this to mean that the plate was unavailable.

Assessment

1. Upheld

The ASA noted that, in addition to plates that they owned, Beef Registrations also offered plates available at upcoming DVLA auctions, unsold plates from previous DVLA auctions, plates that private individuals asked them to advertise on their behalf and plates that other dealers owned and agreed to be shown. We understood it was common practice for dealers to list plates available at upcoming DVLA auctions and we considered that it was not misleading to continue to advertise unsold plates which could be obtained from the DVLA, although we understood that those unsold plates were only available for around four days following an auction. We understood that it was similarly common for dealers to share their inventories with one another, and we noted that all but two of the sample plates we identified were said to be offered on that basis. We received evidence that Beef Registrations had obtained consent to market two other dealer's stock. We also received evidence that showed that they owned one of the sample plates.

We noted that one of the sample plates had been input incorrectly onto the website and we understood that human error could occur when handling large amounts of data. However, we had not received information about the plates offered via the dealer that had recently ceased trading. Although we understood that information relating to those plates had been deleted from their system at some point, we considered that this information should have been available when it was first requested. Because we had not seen evidence that showed that all of the sample plates were available and could be supplied, we concluded that the website was likely to mislead consumers about the availability of some of the advertised plates.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).

2. Upheld

We considered that, although consumers would understand that "sold" plates were unavailable, they would infer that those plates had been sold by Beef Registrations. Because we considered that this could lead consumers to believe that they had conducted more business than was the case, we concluded the implied claim that the "sold" plates had been obtained from them had not been substantiated and was misleading.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Beef Registrations to retain documentary evidence that showed the plates they advertised were available in future and to ensure that plates which were no longer available were not marked as "sold" unless they had been obtained from them.

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