ASA Adjudication on Belron UK Ltd
Belron UK Ltd t/a
1 Priory Business Park
20 June 2012
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated all of which were Not upheld.
A radio ad, for Autoglass, stated "My last customer with Autoglass planned a week by the seaside with his family. He'd been ignoring a chip on his windscreen ... but when he turned on the air con in his car, 'crack', the chip split right in front of them ... He wasn't too happy especially when I explained that every chip will eventually crack and if he'd called us when he first saw it, we could have repaired it instead."
1. Twelve listeners challenged whether the claim "every chip will eventually crack" was misleading and could be substantiated.
2. Three listeners challenged whether the claim "when he turned on the air con in his car, 'crack', the chip split right in front of them" misleadingly implied that a car's air conditioning could crack existing windscreen chips.
3. Seven of the listeners challenged whether the ad was scaremongering in order to sell the service by claiming that all chips would crack.
1. Autoglass said they had a Research and Innovation department that specialised in understanding the science of glass and glass damage, as well as a number of innovations which assisted in the repair and replacement of glass. They supplied the ASA with a report prepared by their in-house scientists summarising the work they had undertaken and also referred to independent studies and research carried out by other institutions, as well as other studies they hadcommissioned to show how much weaker glass becomes once it had chip damage.
Autoglass explained that over the past decade vehicle glass had become thinner, which meant that any damage to the glass had also altered and was now usually a star break made up of thousands of microcracks emanating from the centre point and invisible to the naked eye. They said, once the microcracks were created they were 'living damage' and factors such as heat, cold, movement of the vehicle and moisture would work on the chip causing it to grow. They said that growth occurred at different speeds over different periods, molecule by molecule, but the combination of the various factors determined whether the rate of growth was visible to the naked eye. Autoglass said once the factors combined to exceed the instant failure rate of the glass, the growth would become visible as an instantly formed long crack, either instantaneously due to sudden shock, or over time as a result of accumulated stresses of temperature, humidity and road driving conditions. They said the research showed that damaged glass was much weaker than undamaged glass in that it had reduced instant failure strength of up to 70%. They believed that a damaged windscreen was less able to stand up to the stresses and strains of driving and of climatic changes. They said a similar effect to metal fatigue could be found in glass and repeated small stresses, each one less than would cause an instant failure of the glass, caused the bond between two glass molecules to fail, which in turn put more stress on the next molecule bond resulting in the chip growing and eventually cracking.
Autoglass said they regularly surveyed their customers and the results showed that of those customers who identified the origin of their cracked windscreen to be a chip, the vast majority who noticed the time it took for the chip to crack reported that it happened within weeks to six months. Autoglass said they were unable to predict when a chip would crack, because every chip, windscreen, road, driver and set of climatic conditions was different. Nonetheless they believed that, as demonstrated by the research, it was not a question of if a chip would crack but when, which was why they stated that every chip would "eventually" crack.
Autoglass believed that, because every chip grew inexorably or instantly and that at a certain point the stress in the vehicle glass focused into a point by the chip would exceed its instant failure resulting in a crack, the claim was not misleading.
2. Autoglass said the research studies they provided to the ASA supported the claim that air conditioning contributed to the creation of visible cracks in windscreen glass from windscreen chips. They believed that the reports demonstrated the effect of air conditioning created temperature gradients in the windscreen glass that contributed to the instant failure stress point being exceeded resulting in the instant formation of a crack.
3. Autoglass said the intention of the ad was to make motorists aware that a repair to a windscreen chip would save them time and money rather than waiting until the chip cracked and was also an excellent way to promote vehicle and driving safety. They said they raised awareness of how chips could turn into cracks, although they acknowledged that not every chip was repairable. They said their advertising message was to bring to the attention of motorists that air conditioning could accelerate the process of chips becoming cracks.
Autoglass said their customer survey showed that many of the respondents were unaware that a chip on their windscreen had cracked, which could have been repaired and might have avoided the windscreen being replaced. They believed the ad was educating consumers about their windscreens rather than scaremongering, as the likelihood of windscreen damage arising from an unrepaired chip and requiring a high insurance excess to be paid was a real one for many motorists.
The Radio Advertising Clearance Centre (RACC) endorsed Autoglass's response and said their consultant had been provided with the in-house report, the independent studies and research, and the studies commissioned by Autoglass also provided to the ASA and concluded the claims were substantiated.
1. Not upheld
The ASA noted the independent, historical and internal research provided by Autoglass and the report by the RACC consultant.
We understood from the research that damaged glass was much weaker than undamaged glass and a damaged windscreen was less able to stand up to the stresses and strains of driving and of climatic changes. We acknowledged that there were many factors that influenced the progress of a chip turning in to a crack, such as driving style, mileage, temperature, road and weather conditions, and that it was not possible to predict when a chip would crack. Nonetheless, although we understood that it could take years for a chip to develop into a crack, we noted from the Autoglass customer survey statistics that, where customers had noticed a chip, the growth into a crack was usually within weeks or months. We noted the ad stated that "every chip will eventually crack" and considered that that claim made clear that, although it was not possible to predict a time scale, in the end a chip would crack.
We considered that the research and customer survey had shown that a chip would in all likelihood develop into a crack and therefore concluded that the claim "every chip will eventually crack" had been substantiated.
On this point, we investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 (Substantiation) but did not find it in breach.
2. Not upheld
We noted the research had shown that sudden changes in temperature might affect a windscreen causing a chip to form into a crack. We considered that it was clear from the ad that it was describing a possible scenario rather than claiming that switching on a car's air conditioning would always result in a chip cracking. Because the research had shown that it was possible for the air conditioning to affect a chip on a windscreen and the ad did not claim that that would happen on all occasions, we concluded that the claim was unlikely to mislead listeners.
On this point, we investigated the ad under BCAP Code rule 3.1 (Misleading advertising) but did not find it in breach.
3. Not upheld
We noted the intention of the ad was to make listeners aware that early repair was likely to save them time and money and considered that, given the substantiation had shown that a chip would in all likelihood develop into a crack and could do so within a relatively short space of time, the ad had not unjustifiably played on listeners fears. We therefore concluded that the ad did not breach the Code.
On this point, we investigated the ad under BCAP Code rule 4.10 (Harm and offence) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.