Does ‘Huge savings on manufacturers’ prices’ mean every car maker from Lada to Lamborghini? The ASA thinks so.
Who: Direct Line Insurance and the Advertising Standards Authority
When: October 2001
A magazine ad promoted Direct Line’s “jamjar.com” car sales with the claim “Huge savings on manufacturers’ list prices.” At the foot of the ad readers were encouraged to “buy online now” at the jamjar website. On enquiry one punter found that the price offered by jamjar.com for a Seat Arosa 1.4 Tdi was actually more than the manufacturer’s UK list price. A complaint was made to the Advertising Standards Authority. Direct Line said there was actually a mistake on the website and at most the list price should have been quoted. However, they asserted that they did indeed offer huge savings on cars listed on the site and provided examples. The ASA was not assuaged. They felt the likely inference drawn by consumers from the “Huge savings on manufacturers’ list prices” would be that jamjar would invariably offer huge savings on the list price of every single car manufacturer. The complaint was upheld.
Why this matters:
Clearly sweeping price savings claims must be made with great care at all times, but one cannot help feeling that the ASA has once again adopted a too literal and legalistic approach. Take Chancery Judges. In comparative advertising cases they have consistently refused to analyse ad claims word for word, taking the firm view that UK consumers are sufficiently streetwise not to be taken in by ad puffery and expect ads to exaggerate. Is a reasonable, sensible reader really going to understand the “Huge Savings” wording in the way suggested by the ASA? We have severe doubts and continue to be concerned that fear of judicial review and human rights legislation is driving the ASA off course.