A paid-for Meta ad for Renault seen on 1 May. The ad contained an image of the Renault Austral car. It contained the text “RETHINK HYBRID WE DID. Up to 80% electric driving in the city. all new Renault Austral E-Tech full hybrid. WLTP test data. actual real world driving results may vary”.
The ASA challenged whether the ad was misleading, because the basis of the claim “Up to 80% electric driving in the city” was unclear.
Renault UK Ltd (Renault) explained that they have a rigorous approval process whereby ads are reviewed by numerous departments, including the legal department, before they are published. However, this ad was posted in error. While qualifying text stated “WLTP test data. Actual real world driving results may vary”, it should have stated “Actual real world driving results may vary. Internal Renault source 2022”.
They discussed the complaint with their marketing team and emphasised the importance of following the CAP and BCAP Code when preparing future ads. They removed the ad and assured us that the same claim would not appear in future marketing communications.
Renault explained that the headline claim was based on an internal test completed by Renault’s engineering team which aimed to replicate the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) testing. WLTP testing was the global standard for determining the levels of pollutants, CO2 emissions and fuel consumption of traditional and hybrid cars, as well as determining the mileage range for fully electric cars. Renault repeated the test four times in 23°C external temperature on road conditions. In the four iterations of the test, the engine driving ranged between 8% and 22%, and pure EV driving ranged between 78% and 92%.
The CAP Code stated that before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. It also stated that ads must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner and that the basis of environmental claims must be clear.
The ASA acknowledged that the ad had been posted in error, and that Renault had intended it to clarify that the testing was Renault’s own and not the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). We agreed that the test used was material information that needed to be included in the ad and we also acknowledged that the internal test completed by Renault aimed to replicate WLTP testing. However, in using specific reference to “WLTP test data” consumers would be likely to understand that the testing had been carried out by an independent body, which was not the case.
Irrespective of the qualifying text error, the ad was headlined “RETHINK HYBRID … Up to 80% electric driving in the city”. However, other than to know the claim was based on test data, it was unclear on what the 80% was based. For example, there were numerous possible interpretations of the claim, including that it reflected the proportion of an individual journey, regardless of distance, that the vehicle was able to cover without having recourse to using petrol or diesel. Another possible interpretation of the claim was that up to 80% of the total number of journeys was covered by the electric source, even if some individual journeys used more than 20% petrol or diesel.
Without additional information to explain the context of the headline claim, consumers were unable to make an informed decision about whether to follow up on the ad and pursue an enquiry or purchase. The ad, therefore, omitted material information and was likely to mislead.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), and 11.1 (Environmental claims).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Renault UK Ltd to ensure that ads included all material information needed for consumers to understand their message and reminded them that the basis of environmental claims must be clear.