Green Flag's website www.greenflag.com/breakdown-cover, seen in November 2017, stated "50% OFF YOUR AA OR RAC RENEWAL QUOTE. HOW TO CLAIM YOUR DISCOUNT: If your vehicle is 10 years old or under, we will give you 50% off your renewal quote from the AA or RAC for our closest equivalent UK Vehicle Cover ...".
The AA, who considered that their service included additional benefits not provided by Green Flag, challenged whether the claim to offer 50% off was misleading.
Green Flag Ltd did not believe the comparison was misleading. They believed their breakdown cover was a comparable product to those offered by the AA or the RAC.. They pointed out that breakdown services differed between providers. However, the need and purpose of the product – breakdown cover – was the same and was therefore comparable.
They explained that the ad stated that they would offer their closest equivalent vehicle cover to customers at half the cost of the renewal price that they had been offered by either the AA or the RAC. They said that whilst the ad mentioned two identifiable competitors, it was clear that their offer referred to the closest equivalent vehicle cover. They said the ad did not make any product or benefit comparisons or suggest that their cover was better than that of their competitors or offered more benefits. They believed it was clear that their offer was based on their vehicle cover and the limitations regarding the age of the vehicle.
They explained that their website showed several levels of cover within their product range ranging from basic breakdown to a more complex recovery plus product. That meant that, depending on what was important to them, customers could review and select which level of cover was suitable for their needs and was closest to their current breakdown renewal quote from their existing provider. On receiving a quote, a customer would have details of the cover provided by their existing provider and the renewal terms. A customer was therefore able to compare the products and features to determine the cover which best suited their needs.
The ASA noted that the Code permitted comparisons when the product or service met the same needs or were intended for the same purpose. The Code also required that comparisons with identifiable competitors must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product.
We understood from the AA that their breakdown cover included features that were not offered by Green Flag's cover, including recovery and repair following a road traffic accident, and they therefore believed the comparison was misleading. They also referred to other benefits offered in their renewal cover but not in Green Flag's cover, in particular; 'Junior Associate cover' which provided free breakdown assistance for up to three nominated people under the age of 17 living at the customer's home; legal assistance and vehicle helplines; an enhanced breakdown and traffic app which provided information on fuel prices, parking and warning light information; up to £5 free parts and fuel, if needed at the roadside; free access to a multi-fit wheel; recovery to a local garage of their choice; and access to assistance provided by a mechanic employed by the AA rather than a sub-contracted mechanic. Notwithstanding those differences we considered that both products offered vehicle recovery after a breakdown and were therefore intended for the same needs or purpose.
We understood that breakdown cover did not typically include recovery following a road traffic accident and considered that consumers were therefore unlikely to expect breakdown cover to include that. We also considered consumers were likely to view that and the other features listed above offered by the AA as being additional benefits to the core product. We noted the ad referred to the closest equivalent cover offered by Green Flag and considered that also indicated to consumers that the two products were not exactly the same. Because consumers were unlikely to expect that vehicle breakdown recovery would include recovery following a road traffic accident, or the other additional benefits offered by the AA, and the ad made clear that the breakdown cover in the offer was Green Flag's closest equivalent to the consumer's existing cover with the AA or RAC, we considered it was not misleading to omit that information from the ad.
We concluded that because the products referred to in the comparison met the same needs or were intended for the same purpose – vehicle recovery following a breakdown – and because the comparison had been presented in a way that was unlikely to mislead, the claim to offer 50% off did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. 3.34 3.34 They must compare products meeting the same need or intended for the same purpose. and 3.35 3.35 They must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of those products, which may include price. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.