Toyota, Tesco, Lidl and Harvey Norman fall foul of advertising watchdog

Several social media influencers also found to be in breach of authority’s code

 

Toyota, Tesco, Lidl and Harvey Norman were among the high-profile companies to fall foul of the advertising watchdog in recent weeks.

The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) also rapped several social media influencers across the knuckles for failing to make it clear they had been paid to post about particular products on various platforms.

In total, 25 of 27 advertisements investigated were found to have been in breach of the authority’s code on grounds including misleading advertising, decency and propriety, and recognisability.

The advertisements subject to complaint related to email, social media, outdoor, online and radio and print advertising.

Misleading

Toyota came under the spotlight multiple times with 11 complaints received in connection with its car advertising, with people complaining its claim a car was “self-charging” was misleading as the car’s battery was being charged by external power.

Another complainant considered the term “self-charging” to be misleading as it indicated to consumers they were buying a car that was constantly producing electricity to propel it through perpetual motion, which the complainant considered impossible.

In response the carmaker said it had not claimed its cars were “self-fuelling but were saying that the electric part of the vehicle was charged without an external source”.

The authority sided with the carmaker and said it was not in breach of its rules when it used the term self-charging.

Other complaints centred around suggestions Toyota’s hybrid cars were more efficient than plug-in hybrids or an electric-only car, while another individual considered the claim in television advertising the Toyota cars would save people money “had not been substantiated and that overall the advertising was making scientifically false and misleading claims”.

The ASAI noted that the ads featured unscripted testimonials from customers who said they had made savings but it pointed out that no indication had been given that savings were variable and dependent on a range of factors and as a result it did not consider that the savings claims had been qualified or substantiated.*

Regulations

A Tesco ad for home delivery was deemed to have breached regulations because it was not available from a particular store visited by a consumer.

Lidl was found to have misled a shopper who bought a set of furniture only to find the chairs were not included in the offer as stated in the advertisement. Harvey Norman had two complaints against it upheld over price discrepancies.

Bloggers and influencers – including Ellie Kelly, Katie Moran and Gary Pineda – also had complaints against them upheld on the basis they did not make it clear to followers that posts had been paid for by various brands.

“The latest complaints bulletin from the ASAI illustrates our ability to handle complaints across a large number of mediums,” said the ASAI chief executive Orla Twomey.

“The ASAI is committed to protecting consumers in relation to advertising – across all mediums – and our approach is to work with all advertisers to ultimately ensure that all marketing communications are legal, truthful, decent and honest.”

The independent head of the ASAI’s complaints committee, Prof Bairbre Redmond, said it had “spent considerable time highlighting awareness in relation to advertising best practice within the advertising industry”.

*This article was edited on September 16th, 2019