Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A paid-for ad on the Google app and a product listing for an “Ebike” on the G-force website, www.uk.g-forcebike.com, seen on 10 April 2023:
a. The paid-for ad on the Google app featured an image of a man sitting next to a bike. Text below stated “Puncture Resistant Tires Ebike. 750W powerful motor, 48V 20Ah Long range battery”. The ad linked through to ad (b).
b. A product listing on the G-force website featured an image of a folding bike accompanied by text “GFORCE T42 Folding Fat Tire Electric Bike”, below a section titled “750W Brushless Gear Hub Motor” along with detail “750w brushless geared hub motor with 80 Nm torque”. The page also featured an embedded video that showed a man riding the bike on roads through different locations.
The complainant, who understood that the advertised bike did not meet the requirements for legal use in public places, challenged whether the ads were:
1. misleading; and
1. G-force said that their product page never emphasised that their products met the regulations of ordinary bicycles. They said that when a bike was built it was capable of speeds of over 15.5 miles per hour. They said their product page explained that the bike could be power restricted with a speed and motor power of 15.5 mph and 250 W.
2. G-force said the video was only for a demonstration of the functionality of the bike and did not direct consumers to ride the bike as depicted.
The Department for Transport’s Guidance (the DfT Guidance) on electrically assisted pedal cycles (EAPCs) set out the requirements that EAPCs must satisfy if they were not to be treated as motor vehicles, and the use of which was therefore not subject to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and Road Traffic Act 1988 (the Acts 1984 and 1988). In relation to compliant EAPCs, the DfT Guidance stated “the maximum continuous rated power of the electric motor must not exceed 250 Watts” and “electrical assistance must cut off when the vehicle reaches 15.5 mph”. The Guidance also stated that bikes providing electrical assistance without the use of pedals, which were commonly referred to as “twist and goes”, were required to meet a range of additional technical requirements under EU Regulation 168/2013 (the Regulation). Their compliance with that Regulation was normally established by means of “type approval”, which involved an authorised body assessing the bike’s compliance. The Regulation was retained in EU law in the UK.
We understood that the DfT Guidance meant that bikes sold in a power-restricting set up, but the maximum motor power of which exceeded 250 W or the powered maximum speed exceeded 15.5 mph in another mode of use, were not compliant EAPCs and would therefore be treated as motor vehicles. The DfT Guidance also stated that any electric bike that did not meet EAPC rules was classed as a motorcycle or moped and needed to be registered and taxed. The rider would also require a driving licence and would be required to wear a crash helmet.
Ad (a) depicted an individual sitting on a bench next to a bike with text stating “Puncture Resistant Tires EBike”. We therefore considered that consumers would understand that the bike featured in the ad was an EAPC that could be used in the same way as a traditional pedal cycle. We noted that the bike did not have a number plate, nor was there evidence that the rider had a safety helmet. We considered that this further added to the impression that the bike could be used in the same way as a traditional pedal cycle.
Ad (b) contained further imagery of the bike along with an embedded video that showed the bike used on public roads. The bike did not have a number plate. Again, we considered that consumers would understand that the bike could be used in the same way as a traditional pedal bike.
We understood that although the bike power and speed could be limited to 250 W and 15.5 mph the advertised bike’s maximum power was 750 W and was capable of maximum speeds that exceeded 15.5 mph. Therefore, it was likely that the bike did not meet the requirement for classification as a compliant EAPC and would be classified as a motor vehicle that was subject to the requirements of the Acts 1984 and 1988. That meant that its use on public roads was illegal unless they were licensed, registered, taxed and insured. The rider would also need an appropriate driving licence and would have to wear an approved motorcycle safety helmet. We also understood that the vehicle could not be used on cycle paths, pedestrian walkways or in public parks.
We acknowledged that both ads contained details related to the power of the bike. However, we considered that, despite the increasing prevalence of electric bikes, consumers were unlikely to be aware that if an electric bike did not comply with the requirements of the DfT’s EAPC guidance they were classified as motor vehicles and would have been subject to different legal and regulatory requirements than compliant EAPCs. Because of that, we considered that in relation to ads for non-compliant EAPCs, information about their legal classification and the subsequent applicability of all relevant laws and regulations was material information that consumers required in order to make an informed decision.
Because the ads omitted material information regarding conditions of the advertised bike’s legal use, and gave the impression that they were equivalent to compliant EAPCs when that was not the case, we concluded that they were misleading.
Ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising), and 3.9 (Qualification).
Ad (a) contained an image of an individual sitting on a bench wearing a hat in what appeared to be a park. Ad (b) contained an image of an individual sitting on the bike in the middle of what appeared to be a public road with text “750watt powerful motor dual”. An embedded YouTube video featured within ad (b) contained shots of the advertised bike being ridden at speed on what appeared to be public roads. Neither the images in ads (a) or (b), nor the embedded video showed that the bikes were registered, or showed any individuals wearing protective helmets.
As set out in point 1, regardless of their set-up, the bikes were likely to be classed as motor vehicles that were subject to a range of legal requirements, including that they could not be used on cycle paths, pedestrian walkways or in public parks and could not be used on public roads unless they were licensed, registered, taxed and insured. The rider would also be required to wear an approved motorcycle safety helmet. As such, we considered the ads depicted the illegal use of the advertised bikes, and that their inclusion implicitly condoned such behaviour.
We therefore concluded the ad was irresponsible.Ads (a) and(b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 (Social responsibility).
The ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We told G-force to ensure ads in the future were socially responsible and did not misleadingly imply that the advertised bikes could be used as electrically assisted pedal cycles and were not subject to the same legal requirements as motor vehicles. We told them to ensure that their future ads clearly and prominently presented information regarding those legal requirements.