Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
Vehicles that have been part of a fleet previously or previously available to hire are sometimes sold to the public. In line with rule 3.3, ads must not mislead consumers by omitting material information, so marketers of ex-fleet vehicles should carefully consider what information about a vehicle’s history should be included in an ad.
Information about the previous use of an ex-business use vehicle is likely to be considered material information and as such, should be included in an ad, as to omit this may lead the consumer to be misled.
- Do you know how the vehicle was formerly used?
- What counts as ‘former use’?
- Is this clearly stated in your ad?
If advertising a vehicle for sale, it is useful to know the ownership history before publishing a marketing communication. In the event of an ASA Investigation, the marketer would need to provide documentary evidence to prove claims that are made.
When the ASA investigated an ad for two cars, posted online by a registered dealer, the ad was considered misleading because it did not state they were ex-fleet vehicles (Glyn Hopkin Ltd and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK Ltd 25 Oct 2017). Although the advertiser stated that this information had not been provided to them, as the vehicles had been bought directly from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK Ltd (FCA), the ASA considered that Glyn Hopkin was jointly responsible for the content of the ad, and so for ensuring that it didn’t breach the CAP Code.
When assessing ads by independent dealers, the ASA’s approach is likely to vary on a case-by-case basis, depending on how reasonable it would be to expect that the dealership could, or should, have obtained information about a vehicle’s former use. However, since this is likely to be considered material information, advertisers should obtain this whenever possible.
There are various aspects of a vehicle’s former use that ASA is likely to consider material information. Where ex-fleet vehicles have been leased to companies for business purposes, such as car rentals, taxicabs or company cars, and may have been driven by multiple users, they might have been subjected to more ‘wear and tear’ than privately owned vehicles. As such, this information is likely to affect a consumer’s decision to purchase the vehicle and should be included in an ad.
In the ruling against Glyn Hopkin (Glyn Hopkin Ltd and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK Ltd 25 Oct 2017), the ASA considered it material information that those vehicles that had been leased for business purposes, which could include individual or personal use. Even if vehicles have not been part of a fleet or leased to a large number of users, advertisers should state whether the vehicles’ former use was for business purposes.
If you are aware that a vehicle has been used for business purposes, this is likely to be material information that would influence a consumer’s decision to purchase it, so the ad should include a clear statement that this is the case. Under Section 3 of the Code, this information should be presented clearly and should not contradict the impression given to consumers by the rest of the copy.
Furthermore, if you know that the vehicle has been driven by multiple users, then that too is likely to be material information that needs to be provided to the consumer in the ad.