Advertising Standards Authority Upheld Advertising Complaint Against Belron UK
February 11, 2011

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld one consumer complaint of misleading advertisements against Belron UK and dismissed two others this week in the United Kingdom. Autoglass parent company Belron UK underwent adjudication this week by the ASA regarding a radio and television advertising campaign that generated multiple complaints.

According to the website, the ASA is the United Kingdom’s independent organization that monitors advertising and ensures that consumers can trust what they see in advertisements. The group accepts complaints and makes judgments about advertising code violations within the United Kingdom.

Belron UK has been under investigation by the ASA because of three complaints filed against a media campaign. The complaints alleged that certain television and radio advertisements were “misleading.” The ads featured the following language.

"There are lots of reasons why a chipped windscreen could ruin your day ... a customer last week had left a little chip because he thought nothing of it, but when he put his car in for his MOT; fail. That little chip stopped the car passing ... He called Autoglass directly and I went out and repaired the chip ... He still had to waste more time and money retesting his car but at least he now knows to call the experts at Autoglass the moment he sees a chip ... Don't let a chip cost you your MOT.”

“If there's a chip on your windscreen, it could be the difference between your car passing its MOT and failing. Why risk that hassle and expense? Call the experts at Autoglass directly and we’ll normally repair the chip without replacing the screen ... Don't risk failing your MOT. Call Autoglass".

The ad depicted a car, which had a chip on the windscreen on the driver's side, failing an MOT. [Editor’s note: An MOT, or Ministry of Transport test, is a test that determines that a car is safe and ready to be driven on public roads.] Later an Autoglass repairer fixed a similar chip for a different customer. The repair demonstration showed the chip being covered in a gel-like substance and then appearing to disappear.

According to the ASA report, the complaints challenged the advertising saying it “was misleading because it implied Autoglass fixed windscreen [windshield] chips in vehicles that had failed an MOT.”

In addition, the complaint alleged that the ad was misleading by not stating that neither the size of chips nor the position on the windshield would determine whether it was repairable. The complaints also questioned whether the ads would mislead a consumer into thinking that “any windshield chip would result in MOT failure.”

In the report, Autoglass’ responded by saying that it was only trying to “draw motorists attention to the potential hazards in ignoring windscreen damage” and that it only had limited time to get its message across and could not include an explanation of chip sizes.

In reference to the response from Autoglass, the report stated, “Autoglass acknowledged that the scenario described in ad (a) of a windscreen being repaired after the car had failed its MOT, did not accurately reflect the action they took in those circumstances. They said they withdrew the ad after three days due to this concern and had no intention of using that particular language again. Notwithstanding this, they [Belron UK] considered the message of ad (a), when taken in its entirety, was not materially misleading or detrimental to motorists, because it was better to have damage checked before risking failing an MOT.”

The ASA ultimately upheld one of the points made in the complaint saying, “The ASA noted Autoglass complied with the British Standard and, as a consequence, if a chip was large enough to result in MOT failure, they would not repair it. Notwithstanding their argument that it might be in motorists own best interest to have damage inspected prior to an MOT test, we considered that listeners would infer from the ad that Autoglass repaired chips that had caused MOT failure. Because we understood this was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”

Neither of the other two complaints were upheld and the ASA determined that the ad should not air in its current form again, but that no further action was necessary. The complaints were filed by consumers and representatives of Belron UK competitor Glass Doctors.

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