Background

Misleading Advertising:  Coys of Kensington breaks the UK advertising rules by claiming on its website and Twitter profile it has been operating since 1919 despite the business history including several liquidations and name changes.

In 2010, the ASA investigated the claims “founded 1919” and “since 1919”.  It considered that potential clients and customers of the company were likely to understand those claims to denote Coys’ long trading history, financial stability and inherited goodwill and expertise.

Because the company’s classic car sales and auction business did not start until the 1940s and 1980s respectively, and because the business history included several name changes and liquidations which had left auction creditors unpaid, the ASA considered that the claims “founded 1919” and “since 1919” were misleading.

The CAP Compliance team contacted Coys of Kensington to seek compliance with the Code and ASA ruling and asked the advertiser to remove the claims “founded 1919” and “since 1919” from its website and Twitter profile.

Because Coys did not respond to our enquiries, and has not amended its website or Twitter profile to comply with the Code and ASA ruling, the CAP Compliance team took the decision on 10 July 2018 to place the company’s details and non-compliance on this section of the ASA website.  These details shall remain in place until such time as Coys of Kensington appropriately amend its website and Twitter profile to ensure compliance with the CAP Code.

Relevant ASA ruling

Coys of Kensington Automobiles Ltd Case number: A10-120374
Manor Court Media: Magazine
237 - 241 Lower Mortlake Road Sector: Motoring
Richmond Agency:
TW9 2LL  
Number of Complaints: 1 Published: 22 September 2010

Ad
a. One ad in Classic & Sportscar magazine, for classic cars, was headed “The Showrooms - Since 1919” and “COYS Founded 1919”.  Text stated “Coys showrooms have been synonymous with fine and elegant motor cars since the company first opened in 1919”.

b. Another ad, in the same magazine, for an auction event, was headed “COYS AUCTION SPRING CLASSICS” and stated “COYS Founded 1919 LONDON”.

Issue
The complainant, who had previously been involved in unsuccessful litigation with the advertiser, and whose firm was acting for clients in ongoing litigation with former directors of the advertiser, challenged whether the statement that the company was founded in 1919 was misleading, because he believed the company, Coys of Kensington Automobiles Limited, was only incorporated in January 2003 and did not begin trading until 2004.

Response
Coys of Kensington Automobiles Ltd provided their response through their solicitors.  They said that the claim was no more than a representation that the business (rather than the company) had been running since 1919.  They referred to a judgment of 1997 in a case brought against Coys for misrepresentation in which the Judge found that a claim “Coys of Kensington: Founded 1919” in an auction catalogue meant no more than that the auctioneer was trading as Coys of Kensington, which had been founded in 1919 and the fact that over the decades companies using the Coys name had been wound up, taken over, absorbed and so on was a pattern not unfamiliar to those concerned with commercial undertakings.  The solicitors added that the fact that the advertiser had only been incorporated in 2003 and had taken over the Coys auctioneering business following an insolvent liquidation leaving debts of £1.7 million was irrelevant.  They said the assets and goodwill had been sold to the current business, and it had continued with virtually the same individuals and premises. 

Assessment
Upheld

The ASA considered that the claims “since 1919” and “founded 1919” were likely to be read as providing reassurance to potential clients and customers that Coys had a long trading history, denoting financial stability and inherited goodwill and expertise.  We noted that material on the advertiser’s website suggested that although a business founded by Wilfred Coy had started in 1919, that was as a petrol distribution centre, and the classic car sales business did not start until the 1940s, and the car auction business did not start until the 1980s.  We also noted that the history of the business included several liquidations and numerous name changes, that the 2003 liquidation had left numerous auction creditors unpaid and had resulted in director disqualification orders being made against two of the directors of the advertiser in respect of a number of directorships.  We also noted that Coys had moved from Kensington to Richmond in 2006.  We concluded that in all the circumstances the claim “COYS Founded 1919” in both ads and the reference to showrooms operating since 1919 in ad a) were unsubstantiated and likely to mislead.

The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 11) clauses 3.1 (Substantiation) and 7.1 (Truthfulness).

Action
The ads must not appear again in their current form.


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