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Advertiser: Ford Ireland
Medium: Online - Company Website
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10, 4.22
The website featured an image of a Ford Kuga and indicated that the price was “from €29,858.40†”. Under the heading “Important information” the following information was provided:
† This is the recommended retail price for the model shown excludes; Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT), optional extras, promotions, delivery and related charges. VRT is applied to both entity options in total price and summary.
The complainant raised two issues with the advertisement:
The complainant said that while the Ford Kuga model was advertised as starting from €29,858.40, the delivery charges were not included in the cost.
The complainant said that while the Ford Kuga model had been advertised as starting from €29,858.40, the VRT charges had not been included in the cost. They said that by clicking on the icon on the price displayed page, it became apparent that the VRT had not been included in the starting price. The complainant said that as the VRT had to be paid on all new cars in Ireland, the cost should have been included for the model depicted.
The advertisers said their website was an important part of their method of advertising in the Irish market. They explained that customers were invited to log onto their website to see the Promotions on offer and “Build and Shop” their vehicle. This exercise took them through the various Ford models and provided them with information regarding which features came as standard and what additional extras were available. They said that the starting point was selecting a particular car model, at which point the customer was led to the price page referenced by the complainant.
The advertisers said that they were not allowed under Competition Law to insist on a particular price for a Ford dealer to charge for delivery charges; they could only recommend a price, but a dealer was free to add additional charges.
The advertisers said that the complainant was correct in stating that the VRT had to be paid on all new cars in Ireland.
They pointed out, however, that there was a symbol on the top right side of the price indicated on the price page and when a customer ran their computer mouse over it, it opened a box which highlighted the fact that the price was exclusive of VRT, optional extras, promotions, delivery and dealer related charges. They said that this information further provided that VRT would be payable on both the vehicle and options selected.
The advertisers said they considered a car to be a major purchase in a person’s life, and they were trying to make the process of purchasing as accurate as possible. As a customer worked their way through the “Build and Shop” process, they explained that the initial terms and conditions highlighted the additional charges, including VRT. When a customer selected a particular model and engine size, wheel size, additional extras etc. they were provided with a running cost total and as the customer progressed, they said, they were clearly shown the running cost including VRT. They said they felt this was a very accurate way of explaining the vehicle pricing system to their customers.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
Issue 1 – Not Upheld.
The Complaints Committee noted the stated position in relation to competition law and that dealers were free to add additional charges. They considered that consumers should be made aware that delivery and related charges were additional charges as they were in this case. They noted that as these charges varied and as manufacturers could not dictate them, a cost could not be included in the advertising. In the circumstances, the Committee did not consider that a breach of the Code had occurred in relation to complaint issue 1.
Issue 2 – Upheld.
The Complaints Committee noted that VRT charges on new cars were an inescapable cost to consumers. They considered, therefore, that when a price of a new vehicle was used in a marketing communication, the VRT should be included in the overall cost of the model depicted. As the VRT charges had not been included in the overall cost in this instance, the Committee considered the advertisement to be in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4 and 4.22 of the Code.
The advertising should not be used in the same format again.