A website, a YouTube video, an Instagram post and two Facebook posts for Furosystems, an electric scooter manufacturer:
a. The website www.furosystems.com seen on 13 October 2020. Under the “BUY NOW” tab an image of the Fuze electric scooter was accompanied by a video of a young woman riding the scooter during both the day and night along main roads in front of cars and on the pavement. Text underneath the image stated, “the FUZE We designed the FUZE to take you away whenever you want, wherever you want, in absolute comfort”.
b. The YouTube video on the Furosystems channel, also seen on 13 October 2020, featured a man getting onto a scooter on the pavement and riding it before riding on to a main road and in a park. Text underneath the video stated, “Electric Scooters are not to be used on public roads or pavements in the UK”.
c. The Instagram post on the Furosystems page seen on 24 November 2020 stated, “We’ve got some tips to increase the range on your #FuroSystemsFuze!” and featured the same video of the woman riding a scooter as in ad (a).
d. The Facebook post on the Furosystems page dated 13 November 2020 featured an image of the same woman in ad (a) riding a scooter down a road with cars parked on both sides. Text above the image stated, “Top tips for riding for Fuze as long as possible!”
e. A paid-for Facebook post seen on 24 November 2020 featured an image of two women riding on a scooter on a road in North West London alongside parked cars. Beneath that, text stated, “Electric Scooters are not to be used on public roads or pavements in the UK”.
Two complainants, who understood it was illegal to ride electric scooters on UK roads and in public places, challenged whether ads (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) were:
1. misleading; and
1. & 2. Furosystems Ltd said they mainly sold their electric scooters in Europe where they were road legal and the videos were not shown in the UK. They said they included a message which said “electric scooters are not to be used on public roads or pavements in the UK”.
Furosystems said that they had removed some of the content from their social media and website and the only ones which remained were either not shot in the UK or specifically shown to people from the rest of the world where electric scooters were legal. They said the YouTube videos were simply hosted for other countries and they could not have them listed for specific countries.
The ASA noted the Department for Transport’s guidance on powered transporters (an umbrella term that included electric scooters, last updated in July 2020), stated that electric scooters could only be used on private land, to which the general public did not have access, with the permission of the landowner or occupier. Although we understood there were currently some very limited exceptions of use in public areas that related to rental scooters only, we understood that the use of electric scooters on public roads or pavements outside of those circumstances was illegal.
We considered, however, that despite the increasing prevalence of electric scooters, consumers would not necessarily be aware of the legality regarding the use of electric scooters. We noted that the ads showed users riding the scooter down main roads and in residential areas alongside parked vehicles, on pavements and in parks, where other pedestrians were present. The ads were set in places that would be identified as in the UK; some showed signs of road names with London postcodes and the vehicles had UK license plates. In addition some of the ads stated “We designed the FUZE to take you away whenever you want, wherever you want”, “We’ve got some tips to increase the range on your #FuroSystemsFuze” and “Top tips for riding for Fuze as long as possible!”. We therefore considered that consumers were likely to understand that electric scooters could be used in public areas as depicted in the ads and that consumers who purchased an electric scooter could focus on maximising its use and their riding experience, without any further consideration as to the legality of using the scooter in the UK.
While ads (b) and (e) included a qualification in text around the video and image that electric scooters were not to be used on public roads and pavements in the UK, we considered because the ads clearly showed the scooter being used in public spaces which were in the UK, the overall impression they created was that it was legitimate for them to be used in that way, and the qualification was insufficient to override that impression. Because the overall impression of the ads was that it was legal to use the electric scooters in places other than on private land when that was not the case, we concluded the ads were likely to mislead.
Ads (a), (b),(c), (d) and (e) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), and 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification).
We noted that the Department for Transport’s guidance stated that electric scooters fell within the legal definition of a “motor vehicle” and the laws that applied to motor vehicles applied to powered transporters. The guidance added that it would be very difficult for users to comply with all those requirements meaning it would be a criminal offence to use them on public roads. We considered that the manner in which the ads depicted the scooters being used suggested that they could be used on public roads in the UK and that consumers would understand it was legal to use them in those ways. We therefore concluded that the ads were socially irresponsible.
Ads (a), (b),(c), (d) and (e) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility).
The ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Furosystems Ltd to ensure their future marketing communications did not mislead and were not socially irresponsible by suggesting electric scooters could be used on public roads or pavements in the UK. We told them to ensure their ads made clear that the use of electric scooters was currently permitted only on private land.