It’s a familiar scenario. A car is advertised as available ‘from only £7,999 on the road’ but the model actually pictured costs £1,000 more. Does describing it as a “Sport” version stop it from misleading?
Who: Mitsubishi and the Advertising Standards Authority
When: December 2004
The Advertising Standards Authority, in its new capacity as the processor of complaints in respect of broadcast advertising, dealt with a complaint in respect of an ad for Mitsubishi Colt cars.
The ad showed a woman driving a silver car under water. On-screen text at the start of the ad stated, "Model featured Colt 1.5 Sport." The voiceover said "Colt, the new small car from Mitsubishi from only £7,999 on the road" and text at the end stated "Colt. The new Mitsubishi from £7,999."
The complaint was that the ad was misleading because the only model in the range available for £7,999 was the Colt Black. Other colours, including the silver model pictured, were only available from £8,999.
BACC defends its position
The Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre, who had cleared the ad for broadcast in the first place, stated that in their view, the use of the word "from" in relation to the £7,999 price and the inclusion of the on-screen text stating that the car shown was the Sports model, made clear to viewers that the featured model retailed at a higher price than £7,999.
The Advertising Standards Authority took a different view. It accepted that the use of the word "from" in relation to the £7,999 price and the inclusion of the on-screen text would alert viewers to the fact that Colt cars were available in a range of models and at a range of prices. It did not believe, however, that viewers would automatically think that the Sports model retailed at a price higher than £7,999. On the contrary, it felt viewers were likely to infer that the silver Sports model featured was available from the starting price of £7,999. As this was not the case, the complaint was upheld and the advertiser required not to show the ad again in its current form.
Why this matters:
Once again, discrepancies between the prices of vehicles featured in advertisements and the price quoted have given rise to problems. Mitsubishi might have avoided difficulties by simply indicating the price of the Sports version in the on-screen text. As it was, there has to be some substance in the ASA's feeling that viewers would not automatically expect the "Sport" designation of a particular model to be available at a price higher than the entry level needed.