Smith & Smith Ceases Running Controversial Ads Involving Long-Crack Repair
June 19, 2009

Smith & Smith, a Belron company based in New Zealand, has ceased running controversial advertising that a competitor said led consumers to believe that no cracks could be repaired. The Advertising Standards Authority's (ASA) Complaints Board recently ruled in favor of D. Hore of Crack Specialists Ltd., who claimed the ads were misleading.

The Smith & Smith ads warned consumers to have their windshields repaired prior to chips becoming cracks, to avoid having to replace the entire windshield. Hore argued that the ads were misleading to consumers, as New Zealand auto glass standards allow cracks up to 350 mm (approximately 14 inches) to be repaired, as long as they're outside the driver's critical viewing area.

"The advertisement claims that if a windscreen chip turns into a crack that it cannot be repaired and the windscreen has to be replaced," says Hore in his initial complaint. "This is incorrect and under the Windscreen Standard AS/NZS 2366.2 1999, we are, in fact, allowed to repair cracks to up to 350 mm outside the critical vision area. This is very misleading and customers believe the only option they have it so replace the whole windscreen."

Smith & Smith argued that though the company does repair windshields, it does not repair any cracks or chips larger than a 50-cent coin.

"We are not alone in taking a more conservative approach than that allowed under the Standard," writes Smith & Smith in their response. "One of our principal competitors in the vehicle glass repair segment, Novus, promotes its windscreen repair service by saying that 'if the damaged area on your windscreen can be covered over by a credit card, the chances are very good that it can be repaired.'"

Smith & Smith goes on to note that the longest side of a credit card is 85 mm (approximately 3 inches), "which is well short of the Standard's 350-mm maximum, where the crack is outside the critical vision area."

The Complaints Board ruled that the ads violated the Truthful Presentation Rule of the Advertising Code of Ethics, which states, "Advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation or create an overall impression which directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim is misleading or deceptive, is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer, makes false and misleading representation, abuses the trust of the consumer or exploits his/her lack of experience or knowledge."

Though Hore also argued that the ads were misleading in that they note that "repairs are free under insurance when they do the repair," and claimed that this made it sound as if only repairs completed by Smith & Smith were covered by insurance, the Complaints Board ruled that the meaning of this statement was clear and not misleading.

"The Complaints Board was of the view that consumers would understand this to mean that, if they were insured, they would not be required to 'open their wallets' again for payment to Smith & Smith for the repair," writes the Board in their final decision.

Jeff Boekstein, group sales and marketing director for Belron, says the company has ceased running the ads, but is disappointed in the decision.

"We are naturally disappointed in the ASA's decision but, in any event, we have stopped running the advertising at issue and have developed new advertising which we have run more recently," he told™/AGRR magazine.

Boekstein notes, however, that the goal of the ads was to increase the company's repair ratio, and this focus will continue.

"The prime objective of our revised advertising, as well as the advertising which was the subject of the complaint, was and is to increase our repair ratio," he says. "Our continued focus on chip repair both in New Zealand and elsewhere has resulted in significant growth in the repair rate over time, thereby generating financial savings for our customers and insurance partners."

CLICK HERE for the full text of the ASA's decision.

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