A radio ad and two TV ads for webuyanycar.com:
a. The radio ad, heard in August 2018, stated “Hey Phillip Schofield here. webuyanycar.com reckon you could find out what your car's worth in under 60 seconds. I know, I didn't believe it myself so I timed it. And it's true, it actually took me only 53 seconds, not that it's a race. So if you want to find out how much your car's worth or just want to beat my time enter your reg number now at webuyanycar.com. I think I might give it another go, 49 get in. Admin fee may apply. For more information see webuyanycar.com/info.”
b. The first TV ad, seen in July 2018, stated “Phillip Schofield, here. I'm a firm believer that every second counts, and with webuyanycar.com you could find out how much your car's worth in under 60 seconds. Then you can get on with the rest of your day, like I'm doing here … To find out how much your car's worth in 60 seconds, enter your reg number now at webuyanycar.com.”
c. The second TV ad, seen in February 2019, featured Philip Schofield attempting a motorcycle stunt at a village fair. The voice-over stated, “At webuyanycar.com, you could find out how much your car’s worth in under 60 seconds.”
Sixty six complainants, who understood that We Buy Any Car generally offered lower than market value, challenged whether the claims "... find out what your car’s worth" and “… find out how much your car’s worth” misleadingly implied that the price offered by webuyanycar.com via its online quotation system would be the car’s true market value.
We Buy Any Car Ltd said that market value in the used car market reflected what buyers in that market would pay a seller. They said there were numerous variables that made the precise valuation of a vehicle more complex and a less certain process and one by which different buyers might reach different views as to its value. Those variables included the vehicle’s age, the extent of any damage, the number and type of any Original Equipment Manufacturer extras or aftermarket accessories and the buyer’s perception of the likely resale value.
We Buy Any Car said that there were, in fact, many markets for used cars. Private buyers or motor dealers who were taking the vehicle in part exchange might have different considerations from car buying services. Insurers or brokers valuing a vehicle for insurance purposes would also apply different metrics. They said the claim did not imply there was a fixed and constant value for a vehicle and all car buying services had a strong commercial incentive to make offers for vehicles that were likely to be competitive. While price was an important consideration, convenience, ease of use, speed of service and reputation were among other factors which consumers would take into account when considering a buyer.
We Buy Any Car said that in order to have an accurate idea as to whether one car buying service had actually offered to pay more for a vehicle than a competitor, the same vehicle would have to have been physically inspected by both services and the post-inspection offer used as the basis for the comparison. And, even in such circumstances, it might have been the case that the higher valuation was above ‘market value’ rather than the lower being beneath it. They provided a number of examples of other car valuation services which used very similar language and said that members of the public would therefore understand that the valuation is a reflection of what that service would offer for their vehicle. They also said that they received advice from their Primary Authority, Westminster City Council, who agreed the ad did not mislead as to the service offered.
Clearcast said that the ad did not concentrate on ‘a true market value’ as it would not be practical or even possible to establish what ‘true value’ of a car might be. They said it was common knowledge that sellers were able to obtain much better value for their cars if they opted to sell privately without involving a car dealer. They said that even within the same garage or dealership, the value of an old car would vary hugely depending on whether the seller was seeking to part exchange the vehicle or purely sell it. Clearcast said the purpose of the ad was to inform viewers that We Buy Any Car could provide them a quote if they wanted to sell their car to the advertiser without any commitments or strings attached.
Radiocentre agreed with the comments provided by We Buy Any Car.
The ASA noted the focus of all three ads was on the simplicity and speed by which a valuation could be determined on We Buy Any Car’s website. In ad (a), Philip Schofield explained how it took him under a minute to find out the value of his car and in ads (b) and (c) he referred to a 60-second timeframe, explaining also that he was “a firm believer that every second counts” and that consumers could “get on with the rest of your day” and “get back to doing what you love”. We considered, in the context of that simplicity and speed, which might not have been received elsewhere, that consumers would understand from the claims “find out what your car’s worth” and “find out how much your car’s worth” that the value of the vehicle related specifically to the valuation that We Buy Any Car offered and that it might not necessarily have been the same valuation they would have received through a different service or through different sales mechanisms. None of the three ads indicated that the valuation of a car was based on anything other than We Buy Any Car’s own criteria, or that it was based on the car’s ‘market value’.
All three ads included a call to action that directed the audience to We Buy Any Car’s own website to find out how much their car would be valued, which we considered made it clear to consumers that the valuation was We Buy Any Car’s own, with ad (b) stating specifically from the outset that “with webuyanycar.com you could find out how much your car’s worth”. We noted the complainants’ concerns that the valuation of their vehicle was lower through We Buy Any Car than they would have received if they had sold it elsewhere, such as in a private sale. However, we considered that it was generally understood that services such as We Buy Any Car might offer a different price than what might have been received if a car were to be sold privately, where valuations might have been received from a wider audience in what might be a more competitive environment.
In light of the above and because a used car’s worth was not an objective measure, we concluded that the claims “find out what your car’s worth” and “find out how much your car’s worth” were not misleading. We investigated the ads under BCAP Code rules 3.1, 3.2 and 3.5 (Misleading advertising), but did not find them in breach.
No further action necessary.