Radio advertising for eflow featured a conversation between a man applying for a mortgage and a financial representative:
[F:] Ok sir, we’ve had word back, and I’m afraid your mortgage application has been declined due to your credit rating.
[M:] What.. But that’s ... I’ve never missed a payment, or a bill. What’s it for?
[F:] It doesn’t give me that information sir. All I can see is that your credit history doesn’t meet the requirements.
[Male V/O:] After just six months, an unpaid toll on the M50 toll road can damage your credit rating. Pay the toll, not the price. Pay your toll online at eFlow.ie, or nationwide in any Payzone-branded store.”
A number of complainants considered the advertising to be misleading. Some queried how non-payment of a toll charge could affect a person’s credit rating and result in them being refused a mortgage by a financial institution. Two complainants said that the advertisers were using unfair tactics for their own gain. While others said that the advertisers were not part of the Irish Credit Bureau (ICB) and they could have no impact on a person’s credit rating for a mortgage application.
The advertisers said that they were acting in good faith by informing listeners of the potential pitfalls of not paying their tolls and how this could affect their credit rating. They said that when a toll which was due, remained unpaid, the enforcement Service Provider to eflow issued civil proceedings in accordance with Section 64(4) of the Roads Act 1993 and these proceedings were issued by way of a Claims notice: Debt Claim. If, after these proceedings a Judgement was secured, it could be enforced by lodging a Decree with the Sheriff or registering the Judgement in the Central Office of the High Court. It was this latter option that can affect the credit rating of the vehicle owner where the toll due remained unpaid, because when these Judgements were registered they were picked up by trade magazines including Stubbs Gazette.
The advertisers also said that it was normal practice for financial institutions to establish if any applicants had judgements registered against them – in these cases individual credit ratings would be and have been affected.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’ response. They considered that while there may be penalties involved in the non-payment of a toll, the advertisers were overstating the likelihood of a consumer being refused a mortgage because of such non-payment. They also considered that the advertisers had created the impression that they had a direct ability to process information against a customer who had not paid their toll which could have an impact on their credit rating and this was not the case. Their position appeared to be similar to that of any provider of goods or services who had the option of pursuing unpaid debts through legal means. In the circumstances the Committee upheld the complaints under Section 2.9, 2.22 and 2.24 of the Code.
The advertisement must not run in its current form again.