Advertisements for car makes are under the continued scrutiny from the Dutch Advertising Code Committee (Reclame Code Commissie or RCC). This is important news for communication, consultancy and advertising agencies. Like the car makes, they too have to take advertising law into account continuously.
In 2015, the Dutch Advertising Code Committee communicated that some car commercials regularly suggest things that may not be entirely true. Those cases mainly concerned financial promises that are slightly different in reality. By virtue of the Unfair Commercial Practices Act and the Dutch Advertising Code, several measures have already been taken against this.
One example is an all-in offer for a monthly amount for the private lease of a Renault Captur. In that case, it was insufficiently clear that the consumer had to pay a considerable amount in cash on top of the amount mentioned. The commercial does mention it, in letters that are too small and it is not displayed long enough.
According to the Dutch Advertising Code Committee, it is important to clearly state the terms and conditions of sale and to be careful with over-promising. In essence, this applies to all car advertising.
In 2016, the Dutch Advertising Code Committee passed judgment on a newspaper advertisement for Mazda dealership, which gave readers the unjustified impression that the advertiser was going to take over the Mazda dealership. What is the judgment on this advertisement?
With an advert text such as “We’re taking over the baton from Van Vegten Autobedrijf” it’s easy to understand why readers would, wrongfully, think that Van Vegten seizes to exist, according to the Dutch Advertising Code Committee. The fact that underneath the advert it says “Mulder-Mazda-’t Groene Hart The Mazda dealer for Gouda and surrounding areas” does not alter the opinion of the Dutch Advertising Code Committee. It is not, or at least insufficiently clear that the takeover only concerns the Mazda dealership. The Dutch Advertising Code Committee is, therefore, of the opinion that the contested manifestation makes it insufficiently clear that the takeover only relates to the Mazda dealership.
The spoken text in a recent advert (a TV commercial) within the scope of Renault’s ‘Festive Special Offers’ says, among other things: “Discover our new crossovers and benefit from our temporary Festive special offers. Such as a free upgrade to an automatic.” When these words are spoken, the following text appears: “Benefit from Festive special offers, such as a free upgrade to an automatic*”. The asterisk refers to the following text, which is displayed at the bottom of the screen nearly throughout the commercial: “Applies to selected models. This special offer is valid from 15 to 25 June 2017 and the registration period ends on 31 December 2017. The upgrade to an automatic applies only to the CAPTUR TCe 120 petrol engine, the KADJAR Energy TCe 130 petrol engine and the KADJAR Energy dCI 110 diesel engine. For the terms and conditions of this offer, please visit www.renault.nl/actievoorwaarden.”
The Dutch Advertising Code Committee is of the opinion that the font of this text may be smaller than the font of the other texts, but “that it is still legible at a viewing distance that is considered to be normal and on a TV screen of a size that is considered to be normal”. The terms and conditions provide the necessary text but as this is shown for a relatively long time, the Dutch Advertising Code Committee assumes the average consumer is able to read it, or to see that the offer of a “free upgrade to an automatic” applies to (specific versions of) the Captur and Kadjar. These are mentioned and reference is made to the website for more information about the terms and conditions of the offer.
How transparent and clear do you have to be?
Whether or not an advertisement is misleading depends on, among other things, the information given and the way in which it is presented. The advice is to be as clear and complete as possible, within the frameworks of the medium used. Over-promising, leaving out essential purchasing information or providing the public with wrong or insufficient information is misleading, whereas providing sufficient information – correctly – is not. Where’s the limit? This is something advertisers have to find out in consultation with a consultancy agency, with or without prior legal advice.
By Joost Becker