A website for commercial driving school Trailer Training UK, www.trailertraininguk.co.uk, seen on 19 January 2018. The home page featured a banner which included a roundel with text that stated "90%+ First Time Pass Rate DVSA national average pass rate is 57.9%". Text below the roundel stated "*Data provided by DVSA (April 16 - March 17) + In-house data*". A list of different vehicle types were also included: Initial/Periodic CPC; PCV D1 Minibus; Artic HGV 1; B+E Car & Trailer; HIAB Crane Lorry; Rigid HGV 2; LGV C1 Ambulance; and Caravan Courses.
By-Pass Driver Training Ltd challenged whether the claim "90%+ First Time Pass Rate" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Trailer Training UK Ltd stated that the claim “90+% First Time Pass Rate” was not made in relation to different categories of vehicles, because the data reference the claim was comparing against was not broken down into various categories. They said the claim was intended to convey that as a company, the overall first-time pass rate for the vehicles tests was 90% or more. They stated that the “in-house data” referred to in the ad was information that they kept of tests conducted with their candidates. Every time an instructor informed their office that a candidate had passed their vocational licence test first time, the results would be noted. They stated that they recorded the number of vocational licence tests taken by the candidates and the number of those who had passed the tests first time.
Trailer Training UK also provided a spreadsheet which covered the period from April 2016 to March 2017 and contained data indicating the number of first-time passes against the total number of tests taken each month for the different licence types. The different licence types recorded included: BE for car with trailer; C1/C1E for vehicles between 3,500 and 7,500 kg/vehicles between 3,500 and 7,500 kg with trailer; C for rigid lorry over 3,500kg; CE for artic lorry or rigid lorry with trailer; and D1/D1E for minibus/minibus trailer. They stated that data indicated the overall percentage for first time pass rate was 90% or over. The data did not include other details such as dates, time, locations or vehicle licence types.
The ASA noted that a list of vehicle types for which Trailer Training UK provided courses were included below the headline claim “90%+ First Time Pass Rate” and accompanying qualification. The ad did not contain further information to indicate whether the percentage quoted was based on an average or otherwise. We noted that the claim was presented as a comparison against the national average pass rate, and considered that some consumers were likely to understand that the claim “90%+ First Time Pass Rate” was based on the average of first-time pass rates for tests taken between April 2016 and March 2017 across all vehicle licence types for which Trailer Training UK provided courses. However, because of the ambiguity as to the basis of the claim and the approximation in the figure quoted “90%+”, we also considered that some consumers were likely to understand from the claim that over 90% of the tests taken during the period in question in each vehicle licence category for which Trailer Training UK provided courses were first-time passes. We considered that other references in the ad, such as the following superiority claims “The South No.1 Commercial Driving School” and “Trailer Training uk Ltd are industry leaders in Driver training …”, were likely to support that impression.
Although we noted Trailer Training’s comments that the data indicated that the overall percentage for first-time pass rate was 90% or over, it was unclear from the data provided how that figure had been calculated. We noted from the data provided by Trailer Trainer UK that the total number of tests taken, taking into account all vehicle licence types, from April 2016 to March 2017 were 956 and of those, 841 candidates had passed first time. Therefore, the average percentage of first-time pass rate across all categories, taking into account the proportion of first-time passes compared to the total number of tests taken, was 88%. In relation to first-time pass rates for individual vehicle licence categories, we noted that only two categories had above 90% first-time pass rates: the BE category with 91.4% and LGV/PCV with 100%. The categories of C1/C1E, C/CE and D1/D1E had first-time pass rates of 89.5%, 80.6% and 87.7% respectively. We also noted that we had not received any other evidence, for example from external sources, to verify the data.
Because we considered that consumers were likely to understand from the claim that the average first-time pass rate was over 90%, or that over 90% of tests taken for each licence category were first-time passes, and the evidence provided indicated that neither was the case, we considered that the claim “90+% First Time Pass Rate” had not been adequately substantiated. We therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 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).
The ad must not appear in its current form again. We told Trailer Training UK Ltd to ensure that future ads did not make similar claims that quoted first-time pass rates unless they held adequate evidence to substantiate those claims. We also told them to ensure that their ads made clear the basis of those claims, for example, whether it was based on average first-time pass rate or that the quoted pass rate was only applicable to certain vehicle licence categories.