Who: Dutch Advertising Code Committee (ACC) and Opel
Where: The Netherlands
When: 20 February 2020
Law stated as at: 12 March 2020
Opel released a television and radio advertising campaign to promote the electric car Opel Ampera-e. These ads promoted the Opel Ampera-e as follows: “Opel Ampera-e with a range of 423 electric kilometres” and “A 100% electric car with a carefree range of a whopping 423 kilometres. This way you drive from Amsterdam to Maastricht and back.”
A consumer filed a complaint with the ACC stating that the claims by Opel in the television and radio advertisements are misleading. The consumer was not able to drive the full 423 electric kilometres and unable to drive from Amsterdam to Maastricht and back.
Opel defended itself from the consumer’s complaint by stating that it used the norm of the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Procedure Test (WLTP) in the advertisements to indicate the car’s energy usage. All new cars must be certified according to the WLTP, which has the purpose of objectively informing consumers on the car’s energy usage when comparing different cars. Opel refers to the Advertising Code for Passenger Cars in conjunction with the Decree on Labelling Energy Usage of Passenger Cars, which state that advertising for new cars may only contain the WLTP norm as a way to indicate the energy usage. Based on the WLTP norm, Opel stipulates that the claim that the Ampera-e has a range of 423 kilometres and is able to cover the journey back and forth from Amsterdam to Maastricht is accurate. Moreover, Opel considers that a dedicated page on its website explains that there is a discrepancy between the actual range of the Ampera-e and the WLTP norm.
The ruling of the ACC started by endorsing Opel’s view that the WLTP norm has the purpose of objectively informing consumers on the car’s energy usage when comparing different cars. However, the ACC stresses that advertisements must clarify to consumers that the WLTP norm may differ from the actual energy usage of the car, to avoid that the average consumer confuses the WLTP norm with the actual energy usage of the car. The ACC ruled that Opel’s television and radio advertising is insufficiently clear on this point. The reference to Opel’s website, which is only made in the television advertising, does not change the lack of clarity in the ACC’s view, as this reference is only made during the course of the television advertising and not in the beginning. The ACC considers the difference in the WLTP norm and the actual energy usage as essential information, necessary for the consumer to make an informed decision on the buying of a car. Consequently, the ACC found Opel’s advertising misleading.
Why this matters
This ruling shows that all essential information, necessary for the consumer to make an informed decision, must be clearly made available in the advertising to consumers. Placing a part of this essential information on a website, which is referenced in a television advertising, can under circumstances still result in misleading advertising.