Background

Summary of Council decision:

Two issues were investigated, of which one was Upheld and one Not upheld.

Ad description

The website www.servicingstop.co.uk for the car servicing company Servicing Stop:

a. The home page of the website, seen in February 2017, included the claim “up to 60% off” and then listed their servicing discounts: “Full service £114.92” with the price “£287.30” struck out; “Interim service £72.87” with the price “£182.19” struck out; and “Add an MOT £19” with the price “£35” struck out, alongside text which stated “60% February Sale discount on services has already been applied”. Small text above the reference to the offer stated “*Up to 60% off main dealer prices”. A countdown timer was displayed beneath text stating “this week’s promotion ends in …”.

b. The home page of the website, seen over the Easter period 2017 included the claim “70% off” and then listed various services where a discount had been applied alongside text stating “70% Easter Sale discount on services has already been applied”; “Full service £114.92” with the price “£383.06” struck out; “Interim service £72.87” with the price “£242.92” struck out; and “Add an MOT £19” with the price “£35” struck out. A countdown time was displayed beneath text stating “Sale ends in …”. Smaller text beneath the “NEXT” button included “Specialist Oil may be required for your vehicle this is a set cost of £24.00 + VAT”.

Issue

The ASA received two complaints:

1. One complainant, who believed that Servicing Stop continuously charged the ‘sale’ price for their services and that the savings were therefore not genuine, challenged whether the savings claims quoted within the ads were misleading and could be substantiated.

2. One complainant, who believed that the make and model of an owned Honda CRV car always required the use of the specialist oil which cost an additional amount, challenged whether the price quoted in ad (b) was misleading because it omitted that cost.

Response

1. Servicing Stop Ltd stated that at certain points throughout the year they ran sales during quiet periods. They provided dated and undated invoices showing the price history of the Kia Sedona vehicle servicing. They said that the period of time for which the new lower discounted price was available was not longer than the period of time that the item was listed for at the previous higher price.

They provided a spreadsheet of the sale dates for the servicing of the Kia Sedona and Honda CRV vehicle models over a six-month period from April 2017 to October 2017. There were variations between the “previous” prices stated over this period. Their data showed that the Honda CRV services were on sale for a total of 37 days over a six-month period and the Kia Sedona had a sale period of 41 days over the same six-month period. They explained that there were fluctuations between the previous prices due to the many variants in price between the number of makes multiplied by the number of postcodes; however, the prices were genuine and accurate.

2. Servicing Stop Ltd stated it would be misleading to suggest that the make and model of the complainant’s Honda CRV always required the use of specialist oil and because they had not been provided with the vehicles specific details it would be difficult for them to comment on that particular vehicle. They provided a report that indicated that 20% of Honda CRV’s they had serviced had been charged for specialist oil, which they believed refuted the suggestion that all Honda CRVs required specialist oil.

They said they had informed their clients there might be a charge for specialist oil by providing information relating to oil costs and by highlighting in their terms and conditions that there might be an additional charge for specialist oil, whereby they would be informed of that cost on the day of their service. They also said that, in their booking calls with customers, they stated long-life and specialist oils were charged at an additional fee. They felt, therefore, they had attempted to be clear that there might be additional oil costs for their client’s vehicles.

Assessment

1. Upheld

The ASA considered that consumers would understand the higher price to be the price at which the vehicle servicing was usually sold for over a reasonable period of time. We considered that consumers would understand the claim “60% off” and “70% off” to represent a genuine saving against that usual selling price.

We acknowledged from the information provided by the advertiser that the previous price had varied on a monthly basis. We noted that in ad (b), which promoted the 70% Easter discount, the reduced prices were the same as the February sale prices in ad (a); however, the previous “was” prices had increased.

This indicated that these were not the usual selling prices at which their vehicle servicing was offered at over a sufficient period of time. We therefore concluded that because the advertiser failed to demonstrate that the savings claims represented a genuine saving against the usual selling prices, the ads were in breach of the Code.

On that point, ads (a) and (b) breached the CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.  (Misleading advertising),  3.7 3.7 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. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.  (Substantiation), and  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).

2. Not upheld

The ASA understood that not all makes and models of the Honda CRV would require the use of specialist oil and only 20% of Honda CRV’s serviced by the advertiser had previously incurred a charge for specialist oil. We acknowledged that the advertiser had included a set price cost for specialist oil in ad (b). We considered that by prominently displaying the specialist oil price on the home page of the website above the “buy now” click-through button, it was clear to consumers that the charge might be applicable to their booking, although it would not be applicable for all models of the vehicle. We therefore concluded that the ad was not misleading.

On that point, we investigated ad (b) under CAP Code rules  3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.  (Misleading advertising),  3.7 3.7 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. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.  (Substantiation), and  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), but did not find it in breach.

Action

We told Servicing Stop Ltd to ensure that their savings claims were genuine.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

3.1     3.17     3.7    


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