Background

Summary of Council decision:

Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.

Ad description

A website and a TV ad for Carwow, a car purchasing platform:

a. The website, www.carwow.co.uk, seen on 28 June 2018, featured a listing for a Ford Mondeo with a recommended retail price (RRP) of £24,195.

b. The TV ad, seen on 12 September 2018, featured the claim "buyers save an average £3,600". Text on the bottom right-hand side of the screen read “Savings against RRP”.

Issue

The ASA received two complaints:

1. One complainant, who understood that Ford’s website listed the same car with an RRP of £23,590, challenged whether the RRP claim in ad (a) was misleading.

2. Another complainant challenged whether the claim "buyers save an average £3,600" in ad (b) was misleading and could be substantiated.

Response

Carwow Ltd said the RRPs on their website were provided by a third party called CAP HPI. CAP HPI gathered data from vehicle manufacturers, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), and other sources and sold it. They provided a spreadsheet that showed a number of prices relating to the Ford Mondeo in ad (a) and a number of prices related to some of the vehicles used to calculate the average in ad (b). They explained they had received a complaint about an RRP for a Ford vehicle shown on their website that had been taken from a 7 May 2018 price list. Following that they had received confirmation from Ford that the RRP shown on Ford's website was an outdated RRP for an older model of the vehicle and that the RRP on the May 2018 price list was for the newer model. They said the RRPs on their website were updated automatically as the price lists held by CAP HPI updated. The discrepancy had arisen because Ford displayed the older model, but provided CAP HPI with the RRP for the newer model. They also provided a link to a web page showing how the average saving quoted in ad (b) was calculated. This page featured text that read “Savings are always shown against the Manufacturer’s [RRP] for the model”.

Clearcast said that Carwow provided them with spreadsheet data to substantiate the “save an average [of] £3,600” claim that had appeared in ad (b). One spreadsheet showed that over the four quarters of 2017 and the first two quarters of 2018, the average amount that consumers saved by using Carwow was just under £4,000 across 64,927 sales through their website.

Assessment

1. Upheld

The ASA considered that consumers would understand the RRP claim to represent the price at which the vehicle was generally sold. As such, we expected to see evidence to demonstrate that the RRP did not differ significantly from the price at which it was generally sold across the market by other retailers.

We noted that the RRP was provided and updated by a third party, based on the price as stated on the manufacturer’s website. We acknowledged that the RRP was stated in error because an old RRP had appeared on the manufacturer’s site. However, we did not consider that the price on the manufacturer’s website would necessarily represent the price at which the vehicle was generally sold across the market.

Because we had not seen sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the RRP did not differ significantly from the price at which it was generally sold, we therefore concluded that the claimed RRP in ad (a) was misleading.

On that point, ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.  (Misleading advertising),  3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.  (Substantiation) and  3.40 3.40 Price comparisons must not mislead by falsely claiming a price advantage. Comparisons with recommended retail prices (RRPs) are likely to mislead if the RRP differs significantly from the price at which the product or service is generally sold.  (Price comparisons).

2. Upheld

We noted that in ad (b), £3,600 was described as being an “average” saving. We considered that viewers would understand this to be an average saving against the RRP. As with point 1, we considered viewers would interpret the RRP as the price at which the vehicles were generally sold across the market.

We acknowledged that the information provided to Clearcast showed that the savings made by consumers against manufacturers’ RRPs were above the average used in the ad. However, we had not seen any evidence to show that the RRPs used in calculating the average represented anything other than the manufacturers’ selling prices for the vehicles concerned. Indeed, Carwow’s explanation regarding how the average was calculated stated, “Savings are always shown against the Manufacturer’s [RRP] for the model”. Because we had not seen sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the RRPs did not differ significantly from the price at which the vehicles were generally sold, we therefore concluded that the average saving of £3,600 quoted in ad (b) had not been substantiated and was misleading.

On that point, ad (b) breached BCAP Code rules  3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.  (Misleading advertising),  3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.  (Substantiation), and  3.40 3.40 Price comparisons must not mislead by falsely claiming a price advantage. Comparisons with recommended retail prices (RRPs) are likely to mislead if the RRP differs significantly from the price at which the product or service is generally sold.  (Price comparisons).

Action

The ads must not appear or be broadcast again in their current form. We told Carwow Ltd to ensure that future references to RRPs reflected the price at which the products concerned were generally sold and that future average savings claims against RRPs used the price at which the relevant vehicles were generally sold across the market.

BCAP Code

3.1     3.40     3.9    

CAP Code (Edition 12)

3.1     3.40     3.7    


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