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Advertiser: Applus - National Car Testing Service (NCT)
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10
Radio advertising for the NCT stated:
“Attention - All vehicles registered in 2010 or before. It is now a requirement to have your vehicle NCT’d annually. The main reason for failure in the NCT is defective tyres. Tyres in poor condition are the main reason for an increase in the number of vehicles receiving a failed dangerous result, which means the vehicles should not be driven on public roads. Driving a vehicle without a valid NCT will result in a fixed charge offence and 3 to 5 penalty points if as a result of court conviction.
For more information, or to make a booking, log on to ncts.ie.
The NCT. For safer, cleaner motoring."
The complainant considered the claim in the advertisement that all vehicles registered in 2010 or before, required an annual NCT to be misleading. They said that vehicles that were registered before 1980 did not require an NCT and vehicles that were over 30 years old only required an NCT every two years and not every year as claimed.
The advertisers stated that the advertisement was similar to one that they run on an annual basis and formed part of their general public information awareness campaign that invites all vehicle owners whose vehicles are due for inspection to consider booking in their NCT. They said it was never their intention to mislead consumers in any way and they had taken all reasonable steps to communicate NCT information accurately.
In response to the complaint, they said that the complainant was correct that since August 2018, vintage vehicles aged between 30 and 39 years old undergo a roadworthiness test every two years instead of annually and that while it was correct that, generally, vehicles registered prior to 1980 were not liable for testing, it was not fully correct as vehicles registered prior to 1980 that were used for commercial purposes were required to be tested annually regardless of their age.
They said that the advertisement in question had been targeted at the 800,000 plus vehicles that undergo an annual NCT each year as opposed to the 0.2% of the vintage vehicle population that fell into the two-year testing category. They also said that it was difficult to fit the exemptions into a thirty second radio advertisement and in view of this they enclosed their information leaflet with all communications they issued to their customers. They said that there was no deliberate attempt to mislead any member of the public and they have put in place necessary steps to rectify this and change the wording of the advertisement as it was their aim to provide information that to their customers that was clear, accurate and not misleading.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted that the intended audience of the advertisement had been listeners whose privately owned vehicles were eligible for the annual NCT rather than listeners who were owners of vintage vehicles.
The Committee believed that the use of absolute language such as ‘all’ had the potential to be misleading when there were exceptions or qualifications. They considered whether in this case the use of the claim “All vehicles registered in 2010 or before. It is now a requirement to have your vehicle NCT’d annually”, which did not apply to vintage cars, was likely to mislead consumers.
The Committee considered that owners of vintage vehicles, a minority of all vehicle owners, were consumers who had an interest in a niche area, and would be more likely than others to have superior knowledge of a particular subject, in this case, vintage cars and their requirements to hold an NCT certificate. On that basis, the Committee considered that this cohort (vintage car owners) would be unlikely to be misled by the advertisement.
Whilst of the view that in the majority of cases, the use of absolute claims in association with exceptions was not appropriate under the Code, in this case the Committee did not consider that the advertisement was likely to mislead the audience to whom the advertisement had been addressed, owners of non-vintage cars. The Committee considered that this case was an appropriate case for a statement.
No further action was required in relation to this advertisement. The Committee noted the advertisers’ intention regarding future advertisements.
The Committee reminded advertisers generally of the need for care when using absolute terms in marketing communications.