An email for John Mulholland Skoda, dated 20 April 2017, showed a photograph of a Skoda Superb 1.6 without a number plate. Text stated "FOR 2 WEEKS ONLY, SAVE £9,500!! 2016 SKODA Superb 1.6 TDI S 120PS - EXCLUSIVE TO JOHN MULHOLLAND MOTORS - PRICE WHEN NEW: £22,000 - NOW ONLY: £13,995 - 40 IN STOCK, CHOICE OF COLOURS".
The complainant, who understood the ad compared the price of a used car against its list price when new, and who believed such a comparison was not a fair one, challenged whether the claimed saving was misleading.
John Mulholland Motors Ltd t/a John Mulholland Skoda believed the ad explained clearly the saving when buying a 2016 Skoda Superb against the price of an equivalent car when brand new. They said the total saving of £9,505 was made up of £8,005 for a 2016 model against brand new, plus a further reduction of £1,500 when the customer took finance. They believed it was common to compare discount on used cars against the new retail price. John Mulholland Motors said the ad was no longer running and that they were willing to improve the clarity of how total savings were achieved.
The ASA welcomed John Mulholland Motors' willingness to make changes to their ad. We noted that text described the vehicle being sold as "2016 SKODA Superb 1.6 TDI S 120PS ... PRICE WHEN NEW: £22,000 - NOW ONLY: £13,995". However, other text that was more prominent, and higher up on the page, stated "FOR 2 WEEKS ONLY, SAVE £9,500!!" while other prominent text, further down the page, stated "+£1,500 FINANCE DEPOSIT CONTRIBUTION AVAILABLE UNTIL APRIL 29TH - SO YOU PAY: £12,495" and "£188 DEPOSIT - £188 PER MONTH - WITH 2 SERVICES INCLUDED".
We acknowledged that text stated that the model for sale was a 2016 model, and we considered that the text "PRICE WHEN NEW" suggested that the vehicle for sale was itself not new. However, the ad contained other elements which we considered made the communication less clear. We considered that the more prominent text "FOR 2 WEEKS ONLY, SAVE £9,500!!" suggested that the basis of the saving was that it was time-limited, rather than it being only the £1,500 finance deposit contribution that was time-limited. We also considered that the description "NOW ONLY" before the offer price, could be interpreted as suggesting that the saving was due to the usual selling price being reduced, rather than the lower price being due to the vehicle for sale not being brand new. While we acknowledged that the ad contained elements which explained that the savings claim was based on the vehicle for sale not being new, we nevertheless considered that the ad was ambiguous and that a significant proportion of recipients would consider the overall impression of the ad to be that the full £9,500 saving was the result of a time limited reduction in the price for which John Mulholland Skoda usually sold that particular model (a 2016 Skoda Superb 1.6 TDI S 120PS), rather than a comparison with its price when brand new. We concluded, therefore, that the savings claim was likely to mislead.
The ad breached 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), 3.17 3.17 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product featured in the marketing communication. (Prices) and 3.39 3.39 Marketing communications that include a price comparison must make the basis of the comparison clear.
CAP has published a Help Note on Retailers' Price Comparisons and a Help Note on Lowest Price Claims and Price Promises. (Price comparisons).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told John Mulholland Motors Ltd to ensure that the basis of savings claims was clear in future.