Point of sale promotional material at Maxol stations stated:
“Fuel For Less
Up to 15c off Per Litre Of Fuel
5c off when you spend €6 or more in store*
5c off when you purchase 30 litres or more of fuel
5c off when you purchase a Maxwash
Terms and conditions apply. Offer available for a limited time only. See vouchers for details. The maximum 15c per litre discount applies to a maximum of 50 litres in any one transaction. *Excluding tobacco, lottery and mobile top-ups.”
The complainant saw the advertising, filled his car with 30 litres of fuel and also purchased €6 worth of food in-store. When he paid for his goods he was advised that the discount would be off his next purchase of fuel and not the fuel he had just purchased. He was shown signage in-store and was given a voucher for the discount. The complainant considered that the information should have been provided at the point of purchase, the petrol pump and while he noted that the signage at the pump did refer to terms and conditions, he considered the advertisement to be misleading.
The advertisers stated that the promotional offer was intended to give customers the opportunity to genuinely reduce their fuel cost by up to 15 cent per litre. They said that the material was designed to firstly inform their customers of the opportunity to make savings and secondly to succinctly explain what they had to do to qualify. They said that their experience directed them to keep their messages simple on outdoor advertising material and that customers typically paid little attention to detailed terms and conditions when provided on such outdoor media. Instead they advised their customers that terms and conditions applied and in some of their retail stores, they said it was usual for customers to enquire of the store staff how they could avail of a particular offer. They said that all their retailers were provided with the full terms and conditions of the promotional offer.
They also stated that the offer proved popular with customers and they would have welcomed the opportunity to resolve the matter to the customer’s satisfaction. They noted that the customer purchased €6 on food in-store and this would have provided the customer with the opportunity to immediately save on fuel, however, he would have first have had to pay for his food to receive the 5c per litre saving voucher then subsequently fill his car and pay for the fuel.
They stated that the terms and conditions of the promotion were published on their website and information leaflets had been provided in-store. They also said that for future promotional campaigns, the initial email notification to their retailers would include a separate sheet outlining the applying terms and conditions, which could be viewed by the customer at the till. For national campaigns, they would continue to also detail all terms and conditions on their website and they felt that this approach met the provisions of the ASAI Code.
They finished by stating that they regretted the unfortunate and once off customer complaint.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee considered that the point of sale material at the petrol pumps and forecourt of the stations had given the impression that customers would receive the discount offer on filling their car with 30 litres of fuel. While they noted that the material had referred to terms and conditions they considered that the fact that the discount was off the next purchase of fuel should have been referenced on the forecourt material as they considered that most motorists filled their car with fuel before entering the store to purchase any additional items and this was a condition that could influence a consumer’s decision on whether or not to participate. In the circumstances the Committee considered that the advertising was in breach of Sections 3.15 and 3.16 of the Code.
The advertising must not reappear in its current form.