The leaflet through the use of bullet points indicated why consumers should purchase their home heating oil through Texoil (Galway). One of the reasons indicated was as follows:
“Most importantly, our commitment is to be competitive and to provide you with fuel at the right price, in the right place and at the right time”.
The complainant said that on Monday 25th April he placed an order for home heating oil over the phone and arranged for delivery after 4pm on Wednesday 27th April. On Tuesday 26th April, the complainant received a call from the company’s delivery driver at around 9.15am to tell him his order was ready for delivery. The complainant was in work and informed the driver that his order was not due to be delivered until the following day after 4pm.
On the 27th April the complainant was informed that the company could only deliver to his premises in the morning time as afternoon deliveries were no longer being scheduled. The complainant considered the advertising to be misleading insofar as it had indicated that deliveries would be made ‘at the right time’ and this is not what happened in his case.
The advertisers said that their operating practice was for home heating oil customers to ring their central office to place an order. At that point in time customers were advised that any specific requests they make were noted but that a local delivery driver would call to agree specific delivery details with them. The advertisers said that while they tried their best to accommodate specific requests, delivery arrangements were ultimately a matter for agreement between the delivery driver and the customer. Once a driver received the customer delivery list, it was normally the case that deliveries in the same area were grouped together and if a location for delivery meant that the driver’s route would be disproportionately longer by accommodating specific timing requests, the driver was free to suggest alternatives.
The advertisers said that the mechanism for agreeing delivery details with their customers was in line with standard industry delivery practice and that ‘the right time’ as indicated in their marketing material, related to the timing agreed by the customer with their delivery driver. In the case to hand the advertisers considered that they knew the identity of the complainant and that while his timing request had been noted in relation to his delivery, at no stage had his particular time request been guaranteed.
On the delivery date in question 27th April 2016, the advertisers said that the delivery driver was advised of all delivery locations and any specific customer requests for the deliveries scheduled for that day. The driver had 12 deliveries. Having studied his list of customers, the driver planned his route accordingly and noted that his second delivery of the day was only six minutes away from the complainant’s house, with his last delivery being 45 minutes away, which would have added an extra 90 minute round trip to his route. The driver therefore advised the complainant that a 4pm delivery for the date in question was not possible but offered him two alternatives. The first alternative on offer was to make his delivery before 06.00am prior to his departure for work or alternatively to pay by debit/credit card and the delivery could be made in his absence. The complainant did not agree to either alternative offered and the order was cancelled. The advertisers subsequently tried to make contact with the complainant by phone to try to agree to another suitable delivery date but failed to make contact with him.
In conclusion, the advertisers reiterated that the commitment contained within their advertising was to deliver fuel at “the right time” i.e. once a delivery time had been agreed between the customer and themselves. In this case the advertisers said that a delivery time had not been agreed, and therefore they had not failed to fulfill this promise.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted the wording of the advertisement and the reference to deliveries “at the right time”. They considered that most consumers would consider the reference to “the right time” to be the most suitable delivery time for them to have their order delivered and not the most suitable time for the driver. The Complaints Committee upheld the complaint under Sections 4.1, 4.4 and 4.9 of the Code.
The advertising should not be used in the same format again.