A radio ad for Trade Centre UK, a used car dealer, heard on 20 February 2020 which stated, "Cash price three nine nine nine. Deposit ninety nine. Credit amount three thousand nine hundred. Two hundred and sixty weekly payments of twenty pounds. Total payable five two nine nine. Representative APR twelve point two per cent six per cent fixed interest. Cars subject to availability". The ad then featured music and stated, "At Trade Centre UK Sandbrook Park Rochdale you can drive away in just one hour. Right now you can get a 2017 Citroen C1 for just three nine nine nine or ninety nine pounds deposit and just twenty pounds a week. Trade Centre UK. Find us at Sandbrook Park Rochdale. Open ‘til [sic] nine tonight".
IssueThe complainant, who understood that it was common for any terms and conditions to be stated at the end of an ad, challenged whether the ad was misleading because the terms and conditions relating to the car financing options were stated at the beginning of the ad and as such, believed listeners would interpret them to be for the preceding ad rather than being applicable for the ad by The Trade Centre Group.
ResponseThe Trade Centre Group plc t/a Trade Centre UK said the guidance in the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) handbook the Consumer Credit Sourcebook (CONC) rule 3.2.3 G stated that information included in a financial promotion should be prominent. They said that meant a representative example should be clear, intelligible, unambiguous and timely and must be presented in such a way that the attention of the average consumer would be drawn to it. Trade Centre UK said they would not be acting in accordance with their business principle of treating their customers fairly, if they were to present customers with an offer, but hid or delayed the details of the full terms and conditions of that offer until right at the end of the ad. They said the ad was structured to comply with FCA guidance to present the representative example in the timeliest way, which would not be at the end of an ad. Radiocentre said the ad had been cleared with the condition that the FCA was ultimately responsible for interpreting and enforcing those rules. They also said tags which contained important or legally required information were to be read in such a way that they could be easily heard and understood by the listener, for example, by careful consideration of the speed of read, the use of background music and effects and volume. They said they fully endorsed Trade Centre UK’s response and they believed the ad script complied with the relevant consumer credit legislation.
AssessmentUpheld The ASA acknowledged that the commonly used format for ads, and radio ads in particular, was for the terms and conditions (T&Cs) to be stated at the end and we considered listeners would generally expect to hear the T&Cs at that point. However, we accepted that would not prevent advertisers from departing from that norm, as long as T&Cs were sufficiently well presented not only in terms of prominence, but also in context to ensure listeners understood what they were hearing were T&Cs and the product to which they related. While we accepted that the T&Cs in the ad were stated clearly enough to be recognised as such, we took into account the manner in which they were presented. We noted the Trade Centre UK’s reference to the CONC rules and we consulted the FCA on the application of those rules, but we understood they did not specify where in a radio ad the T&Cs should be placed. We therefore assessed whether the placement and presentation of the T&Cs was likely to mislead under the BCAP Code. We noted Trade Centre UK’s explanation that the ad had been structured in an attempt to ensure the prominence of the T&Cs. However, they were stated before any other information, such as the identity of the advertiser or product was heard.The T&Cs contained detailed figures about the credit agreement that was offered, including the price of the car, deposit amount, payment schedule and interest, which we considered was material information listeners would need in order to make an informed decision about the product. However, the manner in which the T&Cs were presented lacked the necessary context as to what they referred, which meant listeners were likely to find them unclear and ambiguous. We also considered that by the time the main content of the ad was heard (even though some of the figures were repeated), listeners were unlikely to have realised that the T&Cs related to the product that followed, or they were likely to have been forgotten. In addition, the T&Cs and the main content were spoken by different voices, with music being added to accompany the main part of the ad, which further added to the ambiguity and likelihood that listeners would not connect the two parts of the ad as being one. Because we considered the manner of presentation of the ad meant the T&Cs were unclear and ambiguous in relation to the rest of the information in the ad, we concluded it was likely to mislead listeners. The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. and 3.2 3.2 Advertisements must not mislead consumers 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 consumers need in context to make informed decisions about whether or how to buy a product or service. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead consumers depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the advertisement is constrained by time or space, the measures that the advertiser takes to make that information available to consumers by other means. (Misleading advertising).
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told the Trade Centre Group plc to ensure that in future, material information in their ads was presented clearly and in context.