A website for Buycarparts.co.uk, www.buycarparts.co.uk, seen on 5 February 2022, featured a product listing for a car Bosal rear silencer. Text at the top of web page stated “All auto parts in one place”. The website featured an image of the British flag next to a space for a vehicle registration number and the prices were stated in pound sterling.
IssueThe complainant, who after placing an order received an email which stated that the product would be sent from Berlin, challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that the company was based in the UK.
Partex Global GmbH t/a Autodoc/ Buycarparts.co.uk said their prices were in pound sterling and the website domain was in the UK. They said there were several indications that showed consumers that the company was based in Berlin and was not in the UK.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must not mislead by omitting material information, hiding it, or presenting it in an untimely manner. For ads that quoted prices for advertised products, material information included the geographical address of the marketer.
The ASA noted that the advertiser’s website URL had a .co.uk domain, there was an image of the British flag with the letters “GB” on the homepage, as well as on the product page, and prices were presented in pounds sterling. We considered that consumers were therefore likely to understand from those elements that the advertiser was based in the UK. However, we understood that was not the case and they were based in Germany.
There was no information on the homepage or the product page regarding the geographical address from which they operated. The mechanism whereby consumers could change the website into another language was located in a corner at the bottom of homepage. We considered it could easily have been missed by consumers, and in any event changing the language did not result in the address of the business being displayed or give any indication of which country they were based in. We therefore considered that it was insufficient to counter the impression that the company was based in the UK.
We understood that the image of the British flag indicated the details which should be entered in the license plate field to find the correct car part. However, the flag and the letters “GB” appeared prominently on both the homepage and product page, which we considered further added to the impression that the company was UK based.
We therefore concluded that the ad omitted material information about the advertiser’s geographical location and misleadingly implied that the advertiser was based in the UK, when that was not the case.
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. and 3.4.2 3.4.2 the identity (for example, a trading name) and geographical address of the marketer and any other trader on whose behalf the marketer is acting (Misleading advertising).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Partex Global GmbH t/a Autodoc/Buycarparts.co.uk to ensure their advertising did not misleadingly imply that they were based in the UK and to make sufficiently clear the geographical address from which they operated.